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Decoding Atomic Packing In Leeds

“Begin at the beginning”, the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

                                                                                                -Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland



My name is Anchal Malik, an Indian PhD student at University of Leeds. On 13thAugust, 2018 I covered a distance of 6,744km to be a part of the Innovative Training Network ViBrANT (Viral and Bacterial Adhesin Network Training).


Onset of scientific craving…

As a part of my Bachelor’s degree, I was driven towards the study of various biological processes ranging from molecular biology, biochemistry to recombinant technologies. I was specifically intrigued by the way cell manages to execute various cellular processes for survival, growth, proliferation and infection. I therefore pursued a Master’s Degree in biotechnology from Banasthali University of Rajasthan, India. The curriculum of my course drew my attention towards protein-protein, protein-small molecule and protein-macromolecule interactions. My interest in studying proteins led me to CSIR-IGIB (one of India’s premier research institutes) for a dissertation and project research on Type 7 secretion system in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This was an approach focused towards the potential cause and cure of tuberculosis. There I came to know about the applications and importance of structure biology. This prepared me to be a part of this multinational PhD programme.



Step in Leeds…

Contrary to all the daunting thoughts of deracinating my pacific life in India, I met a really supportive and enthusiastic bunch of people at Astbury 6.110, known as “Goldman group.” Yes, this is the group I work with. Though I was welcomed whole-heartedly, there were certain challenges, such as finding an appropriate home, food, home sickness. One of the challenges was to understand all the different accents because of which I sometimes felt alone. But then, what friends are for, a group of Indian people in my department and my flat mates always helped me to overcome my home sickness. Now, after months have passed, to my surprise I must say, I love being here as much as in India.


A little more about me…

“Eat well and travel often”, this is me in a phrase. Although PhD is indeed a fulltime job (ironically, I am still categorised as a student), I try to take out some time for my hobbies of travelling and dining. On the name of food, how can I stop talking about Leeds. Exploring this city is full time fun. I sampled a lot of international cuisines here, which I somehow missed in India. Above all, the most memorable was the cake baking experience for the Monday cake meetings we have.




My project…

The level of mortality and morbidity caused by infectious disease has increased in the last decades due to the rapid emergence of resistant bacteria. The developing multidrug resistance in Gram-negative bacteria is a substantial threat to the mankind. To combat this situation our approach is to exploit the very first step of bacterial infection, that is adherence of bacteria to the host. Bacteria attach to the host by exposing the specialised proteins on its surface. As these proteins are adhesive in nature, they are known trimeric autotransporter adhesins (TAA).

My contribution to the project is to work towards the molecular characterization of these proteins along with their interacting partners. The idea behind this approach is to have an atomic study of these macromolecular interactions.

The knowledge of atomic structure of these interactions will be helpful in the development of compounds that can retard the interaction and hence stop bacteria from attaching to the host cell.

Miles away from my motherland, here, I mark the beginning of my PhD.



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