Erum Razvi - Biochemistry
Student's Name: Erum Razvi
Country of Origin: Mississauga, Ontario Canada
Pre-MSc/PhD Education: BSc in Health Science from Wilfrid Laurier University
Recent Research Experience:
Prior to beginning my Master's degree at The University of Toronto, I began pursuing research on Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) the summer after the first year of my undergraduate degree in Dr. Tristan Long's lab at Wilfrid Laurier University. I worked closely with a Master's student to devise techniques on assessing female fruit flies preferences for male sexual dimorphisms. During my third year, I volunteered in Dr. Joel Weadge's bacterial biofilm lab. My role was to assist senior students in the lab, as well as optimizing a protocol to purify a protein involved in bacterial cellulose biosynthesis. This led to becoming my fourth year undergraduate thesis project.
Bacteria typically take on a biofilm mode of life, where they grow as small communities embedded in a self-produced matrix. Bacterial biofilms are more resistant to treatment with antibiotics, and are able to evade host immune responses. An important structural component of the biofilm matrix are exopolysaccharides. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a gram-negative opportunistic and nosocomial pathogen is capable of taking on a biofilm mode of life. P. aeruginosa is notorious for infecting the cystic fibrotic lung, burn wounds, and medical devices. One polysaccharide it is capable of producing is Pel. A protein involved in the biosynthesis and chemical modification of the Pel polysaccharide is PelA, a periplasmic protein with two active catalytic domains; a hydrolase and deacetylase domain. The deacetylase domain has been shown to be required for robust Pel-dependent biofilms. The aim of my PhD project is to structurally characterize the deacetylase domain, understand PelA's role in vivo, and identify PelA deacetylase inhibitors from a high-throughput screen.
Why Faculty of Medicine:
I chose the Faculty of Medicine for its reputability, and to be part of a larger network of scientists. I had a great experience with the modest-sized Faculty of Science at Wilfrid Laurier University, but wanted the experience at a larger school. The thought of all the possible collaborations, scientists I could meet, and new techniques I would learn by being part of the Faculty of Medicine was really exciting to me.
Future Education Plans and/or Career Goals:
Currently, I am planning to pursue a career in the area of Medical Affairs and Scientific Communications once I complete my PhD.