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04 Feb 2019

A day in the life of a Doherty Institute PhD student: Sebastian Matias Cruz Gomez

With a new round of PhD students soon joining us, we asked current students to provide us with an insight into what studying at the Doherty Institute is like. Here, Sebastian Matias Cruz Gomez explains how flexibility is key.

One of the most fundamentals aspects of science is the capacity to consider how different (and sometimes surprising) aspects can affect the directions of your PhD project.

In my case I’m discovering how cells are able to capture vitamin-B2-like molecules, produced from pathogenic bacteria, to inform our immune system that an infection is threatening our body.

At first, it was a challenge to find the right address, but the constant discussions and meetings with experienced investigators from our group had help me to go the proper path.

Even though trying to answer questions by doing experiments is quite fun, you must always be prepared to consider different possible outcomes and confront them. And that exactly what happen to our research.

In the beginning we thought that the cells natural process of taking up large volumes from the inmidiate cell environment was in charge of taking up vitamin-like molecules that could alert the immune system about bacterial infection. But now we are discovering that cells actually use specific proteins in order to capture such vitamin-like compounds. Such change from the consideration of a general process to a specific mechanism has completely modified our view in the understanding of how this cell response happens and what could imply for our immune response.

Based on the identification of this process, now with known targets, there is a great opportunity for scientist to develop inhibitors or enhancers for such processes, helping to fight bacterial infections!

Usually this new ideas come from a mix of your thoughts together with exciting and not so exciting investigations founded on scientific databases, this allows us to find in which point of the mesh you are and understand how to look towards a proper purpose.

This expectation is one of the reasons that turns science in an exciting, and puzzling, career.

While you are student, supervisors will help you to manage your way out for a proper story to tell, but at the end it is you who will transform the project into something interesting for people and other scientists to see and discuss about.