In this ambitious project, I as part of the Gibson Group in collaboration with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine set out to explore the use of new chemical tools alongside powerful modelling techniques to develop a method that would allow for discrimination of artemisinin-resistant strains of the deadliest species Plasmodium falciparum.
The project success depended on many multidisciplinary skills that I was lucky to develop. In first instance my time in the Chemistry laboratories allowed me to learn new skills in chemical conjugation, analysis and handling. The biological part entailed the mastering of cell cultures and imaging techniques, what is especially more challenging when treating with parasite field strains. Finally the statistical analyses of such complex datasets needed some basic programming skills accompanied by stochastic modelling.
Challenges span across disciplines too. For example, facing with the impossibility of obtaining perfectly homogeneous parasites cultures that would be comparable across batches and strains, we introduced different controls to account for natural variance. Some of these challenges have opened the door to completely new ventures. In the process of improving detection methods in biofluids we started a parallel project, which objective was to bind carbohydrates to gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) and exploit the well-known shift on absorbance that AuNPs present when they aggregate, in this case due to carbohydrate-protein interactions.
The second part of the project yielded very interesting results. We have established a new method to enable the use of plasmonic nanosensors in biofluids. Now Gibson Group has developed more specific and robust carbohydrate surface immobilisation techniques that will serve to take this project forward towards the complete discrimination.
This project, spanning so may disciplines, has also served me to realise that my real passion is data analysis and I have decided to pursue my career in this area. For me this is a bittersweet moment. I am very excited moving towards a new role as data scientist at the University of Liverpool but I will miss very much working at the University of Warwick under Professor Gibson supervision. I have had the pleasure of doing research in a state of the art facility within a top-notch research group and it has been a great experience.
In my opinion, tackling antimicrobial resistance is our responsibility as scientists and biomedical researchers in particular. It is an incredible challenging research topic but only by joining strengths in multidisciplinary projects we will be able to succeed and bring our next generations a safe future.
"As a biotechnology graduate, my interests lie in application-based and translational biology. In particular I have always been passionate about biomedical research. Being part of pioneer research to tackle one of the current main health problems is a dream come true. Ultimately I am looking forward to develop methods that will be useful not only in the bench but also at the point of care"