Scientific Biography

Ana Clark

I first became interested in Genetics during GCSEs whilst studying Mendel; the ability to logically deduce, based purely on phenotype, the underlying mechanisms of inheritance inspired me. This prompted me to further study an Open University Course, Human Genetics and Health Issues, before commencing A-levels, and ultimately pursue a BSc in Genetics (University of Nottingham, First Class: awarded Course Prize). Throughout my studies, the simple concepts of manipulating the genome to observe the resulting phenotype, and predicting genetic relationships based on phenotype have continued to drive my interest.

During my second year, I was awarded an SGM scholarship to spend six weeks in the Lab of Liz Sockett. I used reverse genetics to investigate a putative cell wall modifying enzyme, both by transforming in an inhibitor, which worked quickly, and by separately attempting to knockout the gene; this took longer than the length of my project. This highlighted to me the importance of approaching a problem from more than one angle; if I had focussed only on the knockout I would have produced no results. I presented this work as a poster at the SGM conference in 2014.

During my final undergraduate year, I worked in the lab of David Archer, investigating sorbic acid resistance in spoilage fungi. In a model species, with high sorbic acid resistance, three genes were known to produce resistance. I tested resistance of other spoilage fungi, and designed degenerative primers to test for putative resistance genes. This project used more traditional forward genetics; we used phenotypes to predict genotypes, and then tested these predictions.

I am not only inspired by the genetic approach to solving problems, I also enjoy learning about the complexities of genetic control. During my A-levels I independently wrote an essay on the epigenetic control involved in two genetic diseases, which won a National Competition. During my degree I chose to write my dissertation on MeCP2, which recognises DNA methylation. I therefore wanted to pursue a PhD in the area of control of genetic material.

In 2014 I started a PhD in the Lab of Eva Petermann (University of Birmingham), investigating the effects of the BET protein inhibitor JQ1 on DNA replication and transcription. Unfortunately, the PhD did not suit me, as it focussed on a molecular biology approach, not using genetics. However, this was a positive experience as I learnt new techniques such as DNA fibre and EU transcription assays, and it made me consider broader approaches to investigating DNA control.

From January to September this year I worked in Anne Straube's lab (University of Warwick) as a Research Assistant. I developed new ways to culture human cancer cells in 3D and analyse their migration. I extended these approaches to investigate the effect of a microtubule-binding protein on cancer cell migration, using siRNA. This project challenged me to solve problems and try different techniques, programmes and protocols. I enjoy the problem solving aspect of science, and hope to apply genetic approaches to challenging questions involving DNA control during my DPhil.