Graduate Research Prize Winners 2008
I was born in the Ukraine and finished school in the Netherlands before being awarded a Scholarship for overseas students to study the Master of Biochemistry degree Oxford. Although many students are encouraged to move for their graduate studies, I liked the research environment of the Nuffield Department of Medicine and the University gave me with further funding to study in Professor Richard Cornall's laboratory.
My DPhil project was a part of a mouse ENU mutagenesis programme aimed at analysing the genetic basis of mammalian immunity, and involved working in close collaboration with teams at Australian National University and the University of Sussex in the UK. I identified a mutation in the DNA Ligase IV gene in one of the mouse strains and made unexpected observations, which suggested that in addition to the immunological phenotype, the mouse strain also had severely impaired stem cell function. This led to a project demonstrating the essential role of DNA repair in preventing stem cell degeneration during ageing. Our further work on the immunological abnormalities in the mouse mutant have implications for the molecular mechanisms of antibody class-switching, and also for the understanding and management of the human genetic disorder Ligase IV syndrome.
As well as my research I enjoyed being a member of Keble College, and for one year I was President of the Middle Common Room, which is the college's graduate student society. I was also a College Lecturer in Biochemistry at another college, giving tutorials and helping with undergraduate admissions.
I am now a postdoc at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, continuing to work on the genetics and genomics of the mammalian immune and haematopoietic systems. I continue to visit England often and miss the many friends I made during my time at Oxford. I would encourage all the potential graduate students to join this stimulating and challenging but also friendly and supportive environment.
- Nijnik A, Woodbine L, Marchetti C, Dawson S, Lambe T, Liu C, Rodriques NP, Crockford T, Cabuy E, Vindigni A, Enver T, Bell JI, Slijepcevic P, Goodnow CC, Jeggo PA, and Cornall RJ. (2007). DNA repair maintains haematopoietic stem cells during ageing. Nature 447: 686-90
Figure showing the progressive loss of KLS Haematopoietic Stem cells in ageing DNA Ligase IV deficient Lig4Y288C mice compared to wild-type (WT) controls (left panel). This leads to age-related bone marrow failure (middle panel) and anaemia due to loss of erythroid cells (right panel).