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Capturing Bacteria in Braga
What it is I do!
I am Maria Sande, hailing from Bangalore in the south of India. A city known for it’s tech industry, gardens, pubs and mild climate. I am also one of a group of 15 doctoral students as part of ViBrANT and we have the formidable task of preventing an infection apocalypse. Well sort of. You see, bacteria tend to be clingy. In more formal terms, bacteria possess protuberances called “adhesins” which make them “stick” to human cells. By sticking to our cells, they are able to establish infection, causing everything from mild discomfort to utter devastation depending on the pathogen. Thus, the theme of our work is to exploit adhesins to help solve the problem of infectious disease.
Within this context, my research objective is to create an inexpensive tool to aid in diagnosis of bacterial infections. This cost-effective tool will mobilize ligands on it’s surface to capture specific bacteria. The ligands are selected such that they complement the adhesins of the bacteria to be captured. More on that later..
I carry out my PhD work at the University of Minho in the city of Braga situated in the hilly north of Portugal. Braga is famed for its churches with a very impressive main church, the Sé de Braga. You will see some buildings covered in Azulejos , which are traditional Portuguese tiles. I often stop to admire them whenever walking through the city. Porto is a short drive away and is picturesquely located along the river Douro.
My experience so far ..
A significant part of my work till now has been achieved at the Centre of Nanotechnology and Smart Materials (CeNTI) where I am tackling the first part of my research. Here, I have been treating flexible pieces of plastic to improve their properties. The treated surfaces will facilitate binding/grafting of various chemical compounds, ligands etc. to them. This process is termed functionalization. Ultimately, the aim is to create a well functionalized surface which will capture the bacteria of choice effectively.
My work environment has also been a source of joy and companionship because of warm colleagues always willing to help and have some fun along the way. Tugce, my fellow ViBrANT colleague in Portugal is a good friend by now and we mutually support each other at work and in life!