Backdated…so I guess this should really a “they grew up so fast”… A retrospective and long-overdue “Big shout-out” to Olivia Smith who completed a Masters of Science in Advanced Biological Sciences project with the Hamill lab in 2020-21.
Olivia had a year-long project and really got to embed in the lab fully (or at least as fully as COVID allowed). During this year, she wrote a literature review and a grant proposal before starting in the lab and then a manuscript-style write up, poster and talk about her work + viva. she really got a chance to sink her teeth into the project and got to know everyone in the group and most aspects of life as a scientist.
Olivia was trained and supervised in the lab by Danielle O’Loughlin, but, because she had longer to get in and settled into the lab, Olivia was able work almost entirely independently throughout the later stages.
Her worked focused on our cancer-associated splicing switch work. This is a project that has been building over several years where our data suggest that for one of our favourite laminin genes, LAMA3, it is not necessarily the absolute abundance of gene activity that determines patient outcome but rather the relative abundance of the different subtypes (splice isoforms) that are made from that one gene. These data have meant that we now want to look at ratios of abundance and the distributions of these different splice isoforms in cells and tissues. Olivia’s project was focused at establishing new approaches to do this.
What you don’t see in publications is all the steps it take to go from an idea of a new protocol to actually verifying that everything “works”. Olivia’s task was quite complicated, yet made some huge strides in getting protocols to work to map RNA-localisation in cells.
Often when we start something new, we lean on published works. Here Olivia therefore had far less information to lean on. She had many different variables available to modify: different probes and antibodies concentrations, buffers compositions, incubation temperatures and times. As those different conditions could be combined in different ways there were literally hundreds of things available. Working methodically through those took patience and dedication and I was really impressed how thorough and comprehensive she was.
It is a real testament to her dedication that she made some really large strides in what is quite a complex area.