Huge day today… Liam Shaw passed his PhD viva and became a Dr!
His thesis “Determining the role of laminin polymerization on cell behaviour using CRISPR-Cas9 genome edited models.” is a really beautiful and he should be rightfully proud of this momentous achievement. I know that myself and the rest of his supervisory team, Prof Rachel Williams at the University of Liverpool and Prof Roy Quinlan and the University Durham, are all super proud of him and this body of work.
Often PhD theses are written so densely that they are inaccessible. It can be like wading through mud to get to the meat of the story. Liam’s is super smooth. We always tell our students to tell a compelling “story” and write for the reader. I will use Liam’s thesis as the exemplar for how to do that effectively while simultaneously delivering complex, multi-faceted data sets precisely and accurately. You can get a feeling for that style in this post about his concluding remarks.
And when it comes to the results there was a lot of data to analyse and discuss!
The resulting thesis is almost a catalogue of cell and molecular biology techniques. Liam used the CRISPR genome-editing technique to generate a new cellular model to study laminin polymerisation. To do so, he used cell culture, gRNA design, transfection, cell cloning, PCR, restriction digests, heteroduplex analysis, DNA sequencing. He then characterised the phenotypic consequences of the changes using western blots, cell adhesion, spreading and detachment assays, cell migration and scratch wound closure assays and cell cycle analyses. He also used a bunch of cool imaging approaches including characterising cell-matrix interactions using traction force microscopy and indirect immunofluorescence microscopy, he looked at matrix structure via electron microscopy and even used TIRF and photoconvertible probes.
As if that wasn’t enough, Liam also analysed ECM composition by mass spectrometry, transcript level changes by RNAsequencing and signalling pathway changes by array. Big data means big analysis.
I’ll also be using Liam’s thesis as a methods resource!
This genuinely is an impressive list and speaks to Liam’s hard working attitude throughout his studies. Doubly so when you remember that the lab was totally shut during lockdown and only came back in a sort of piecemeal rota system thereafter.
It has been an adventure. The science in the an thesis doesn’t capture nearly enough to give appreciation of the size of the gap in our team that has been left when Liam finished. Liam is a big character and great fun to be around. Some of the social, conference and public outreach pics are below. I also really encourage you to read some of Liam’s contributions to the blog over the years, they provide quite the insight into the mind of
a typical PhD student Liam.
I rubbed suncream into a door…It was, quite possibly, the highlight of my career
A late introduction into the mind of a new PhD student
Liam also had two papers published where he was the primary contributor and a third where he is in the middle of the list. (The big paper on the rest of his work will follow).
Laminin polymerization and inherited disease: lessons from genetics
Liam also gained valuable ninja training during his PhD. It may be hard to believe but he makes in a cameo in this video. see if you can spot him!
Liam was also a frequent contributor of material for our early cartoons… you can see some of the inspiration above!