Benjamin Bishop

Graduate Research Prize Winners 2009

I’ve taken an unconventional route to get here. I completed my bachelor’s degree in Oceanography with Marine Biology at the University of Southampton in 1999, where my research was concerned with the effect of environmental stress on the digestive diverticula of oysters. I then changed course, moving on to a master’s degree in Immunology at King’s College, London which I completed in 2000. It was at King’s that I first discovered a love of Molecular Biology. I then moved into Asthma research at Imperial. The project at Imperial looked at the role of the chemokine receptor CCR8 in Th2 cell trafficking in murine models of airway hyperreactivity. After two years at Imperial, I took a break from research, studying for my PGCE in science. I taught Biology for four years, but missed the laboratory environment. When I saw that the Division of Structural Biology (STRUBI) was advertising for a position, I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do. I hadn’t worked in a structural laboratory before, but when I visited the Division of Structural Biology, I felt a real buzz from the other researchers. There was so much exciting work taking place that I desperately wanted to be a part of it.

From Bishop et al., Nat. Struct. Mol. Biol. 2009

I am supervised by Dr. Christian Siebold, a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellow, in the Division of Structural Biology at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics. Dr. Siebold works on the hedgehog family of genes (fruitfly embryos with mutations in one of these genes develops spikes all over; the hedgehog phenotype), which produce proteins that diffuse through the embryo, directing the patterning of developing tissues and organs. Hedgehog homologues have been found in species from insects to higher vertebrates including humans. My research interests focus on the structural and functional characterization of the interaction between secreted hedgehog (Hh) ligands and their receptors. Recent successes have included the determination of the interaction between two different mammalian hedgehogs and the Hedgehog Interacting Protein (HHIP). Having never worked in a crystallographic laboratory before I was incredibly lucky to get a position with Dr. Siebold, who taught me the techniques involved in protein expression, purification and crystallization. I have also had the opportunity to learn many new techniques including transient mammalian expression, cell culture robotics, measuring protein-protein interactions using Surface Plasmon Resonance and confocal microscopy.

As well as being a student in STRUBI, I am also a member of Wolfson College. This is a fantastic graduate college with excellent opportunities for socializing and meeting people from other disciplines. Wolfson College is also responsible for my love of rowing. I learnt to row as a member of Wolfson College Boat Club last year and am now Captain of the men’s side of the club.

See list of potential projects