Happy Birthday PAN!C


PAN!C-BethBy Beth Lawry

ICaMB’s postgraduate student association (PAN!C) celebrated it’s 2nd birthday in February. Thank you to all 40+ of the ICaMB postgraduate students who came and enjoyed our night of celebrations!

Yep, if you’re an ICaMB postgraduate student, I’m the one who clogs up your inbox with emails about yet another PAN!C activity. The past few years, since Claire Whitworth and Kerrie Brusby began the ICaMB postgraduate association, have been an amazing whirlwind. To celebrate PAN!C’s birthday I thought I’d share my highlights with you.

PAN!C CV Workshop, June 2014

PAN!C CV Workshop, June 2014

In February 2013, PAN!C applied for and won a University Innovation Grant, and were invited to celebrate with the Vice Chancellor. These funds have enabled PAN!C to host numerous events, both academic and social, for ICaMB’s PhD student community. In November 2013 we hosted our careers symposium. Of course, we’ve all been given the usual, generic career options for people with PhDs, but that wasn’t enough for PAN!C. We wanted our students to have the opportunity to hear about careers they perhaps had not thought of, and provide the chance to meet professionals in these areas…. We even had an interesting insight into running a pole dancing business! In 2014, PAN!C hosted a CV workshop, with experts providing information on how to improve and tailor your CV to a variety of sectors. We had 12 speakers, and over 60 students attended the day.

PAN!C Climbing, February 2014

PAN!C Climbing, February 2014

Both the Careers Symposium and CV workshop received extremely positive feedback, from students and speakers alike, with 100% of responders stating they’d recommend the workshops. It’s worth noting that, while organising these events, I made contacts with people from industry, teaching, law, business and recruitment, all of whom I’m still in touch with. PAN!C has provided me with a fantastic opportunity to network with my peers, and gain skills in team work, grant applications, leadership and communication.

PAN!C are crowned FMS quiz champions, May 2014

PAN!C are crowned FMS quiz champions, May 2014

On the social side, PAN!C has always strived to bring together the many groups within ICaMB. Together we’ve conquered our fears and climbed to dizzying heights at the Newcastle Climbing Centre, skated on ice at the Centre for Life in a somewhat Bambi fashion, hit a pin or 2 whilst bowling at MFA Bowl and became Quiz Champions of FMS!

Another highlight was the PAN!C Bake Off, where I almost fell into a sugar induced coma!….. mmmmm cake. And along the way we raised a massive £361.56 for charity (which was split between Macmillan, Doctors without Borders and Age UK).


Fabulous cakes at the PAN!C Bake Off, September 2014

Since forming, the PAN!C committee has had 10 members, and I’d personally like to thank every one of them for contributing and making this association such a fantastic and fun thing to be a part of. I’d also like to thank the ICaMB postgraduate students too. We’re a student led committee for the students and without you we’re nothing!

I’m nearing the end of my stint at Newcastle University, so it’s time to pass the PAN!C reigns over. It’s something that has improved my time management and helped me to focus on my PhD work. I hope you too realise the opportunity that PAN!C offers. You can give as little or as much time as you like, involve yourself with conference organising or just attend the socials. So, get involved and let’s keep the party going!

If you want any further information or just to chat about PAN!C, please don’t hesitate to contact me: b.m.lawry@ncl.ac.uk.

More ICaMB winners! Doctoral Thesis Prize Success.

‘The Faculty of Medical Sciences Doctoral Thesis Prize is a mark of recognition of an outstanding level of achievement by the end of a research doctorate. Prizes are awarded biannually on a very limited basis following nomination by thesis examiners.’ Dr Tim Cheek, Post Graduate Tutor

Doctoral Bling!

Doctoral Bling!

Prizes were first awarded in 2009 and included two ICaMB students, Holly Anderson and Monika Olahova. This was followed in 2011 by David Adams and in 2012 by Graham Scholefield. However, 2013, was an absolute triumph, with three out of only five potential Faculty Prizes being bestowed on theses submitted by ICaMB students. Dr Andrew Foster from Professor Nigel Robinson’s Lab (currently a post-doc in the Robinson lab in Durham), Dr Fiona Cuskin from Professor Harry Gilbert’s lab (currently a post-doc in the Gilbert lab) and Dr Kristoffer Winther from Professor Kenn Gerdes lab (currently a post-doc in Gerdes lab). With their new roles keeping them busy, our 3 winners only just managed to get together recently to be presented with their medals by the Dean of Post Graduate studies. Andrew and Fiona tell us about their past and present research.

Dr Andrew Foster

Dr Andrew Foster

Abstract by Dr Andrew Foster. Achieving metal selectivity is often more difficult than one might first imagine as the inherent chemical properties of metals often mean that a metalloprotein will preferentially select an incorrect metal over a correct one.

My PhD studies involved understanding metal selectivity among a group of proteins called metal sensors. These metal sensing, transcriptional regulators control the expression of genes of metal homeostasis and therefore influence the metallation of other proteins within the cell. I characterised a novel nickel sensor InrS and showed for the first time how metal selectivity could correlate with relative metal affinity across a class of proteins. The nickel sensor InrS has a tighter nickel affinity than the other sensors within the cell, thus InrS responds to nickel activating



a nickel efflux gene so that the buffered nickel concentration within the cell does not rise high enough to mis-populate the sensors of other metals.

During my PhD studies our lab moved from Newcastle to Durham University but I remained registered at Newcastle. This move was obviously very disruptive but at the same time made me more focussed and determined to make a success of the work in spite of the disruption.

Busy Andrew

Busy Andrew

I am currently working with Professor Nigel Robinson at Durham University. My current work seeks to understand how the affinity of a metal sensor relates to the available concentration of the sensed element within the cell. Our model system involves the nickel sensor I discovered, InrS, and nickel supply to hydrogenase, a nickel enzyme capable of hydrogen production. Metal supply to enzymes will be a key biotechnological challenge as we seek to utilise microbial factories for the production of fuel and other useful products.

Dr Fiona Cuskin.

Dr Fiona Cuskin.

Abstract by Dr Fiona Cuskin. The use of complex carbohydrates in the food industry is wide and varied; a few examples include the use of polysaccharides and oligosaccharides as gelling agents, emulsifiers and fat replacements. Small oligosaccharides are being increasingly used as prebiotics for the vast array of “friendly” bacteria in the gut of both humans and animals. The addition of small fructose oligosaccharides by the food industry into yoghurts, amongst other foods, has been shown to promote a healthy gut flora, which in turn has a positive effect on the host gut health and immune system.

Having been in the lab for just a month my supervisor abandoned me and moved to America. Not to worry I tracked him down and moved there too for a few months. The subject of my PhD was to investigate how bacteria use enzymes called glycoside hydrolases to breakdown complex carbohydrates for utilisation. Part of this was to characterise a glycoside hydrolase that degraded the fructose containing polysaccharide, levan.This glycoside hydrolase contained two

Happy gut!

Happy gut?

modules, the catalytic module and non-catalytic carbohydrate-binding module (CBM). CBMs are usually attached to enzymes that catalyse the breakdown of recalcitrant insoluble substrates to help target the catalytic module to the right carbohydrate. However, the CBM characterised in my PhD bound soluble fructan polysaccharides and potentiated the activity of the catalytic module ~100 fold. This work adds valuable knowledge to how bacteria breakdown complex polysaccharides. This knowledge can be exploited to better inform the use of prebiotics and to also choose enzymes that are efficient for the production of small oligosaccharides from polysaccharides.

We are very proud of our current winners. Who will be in the next batch of Doctoral Thesis Prize winners, adding to a growing list of ICaMB winners?


Why PAN!C?


ICaMB’s PhD and Master students now have their own Network – PAN!C. Here they tell us about the network, its aims and activities so far, as well as plans for the future.

by the PAN!C committee

The idea for a Postgraduate Network in ICaMB – PAN!C – was conceived in Campus Coffee in November 2012 by Claire Whitworth and Kerrie Brusby in the hope of uniting the near 90 postgraduate students within the institute. Since then, the PAN!C committee has gained 5 more committee members: Beth Lawry, Monica Piatek, Jonathon Briggs, Max Temple and Adam Crawshaw. The aim of PAN!C is to strengthen the community of postgraduate students around the institute and, in particular, improve interactions between the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology and Medical School building laboratories, enhancing both the academic and social experiences of students within the institute.

Jeff’s talk for PAN!C

Our first academic event back in March and was a real success, with a strong turnout of over 50 students to a career talk given by Professor Jeff Errington. His talk was based on his journey from being a student through to becoming an academic at the very top of his field and balancing his thriving business ventures with the stresses of academia.

We are currently planning our next academic event, again about careers but from a new perspective, which we’ll have more information about soon. We are hoping over the next few months to invite more speakers and if you have any suggestions of whom you might like to hear from or a subject that you would like to see covered, please email us!

Over the past 4 months we’ve also had a number of social events ranging from pub quizzes to laser questing, events which have had a good turnout and positive feedback from students. We have plenty of more events up our sleeve so keep an eye out for emails and posters advertising them soon!


PAN!C are currently applying for support from the University so that we can have more great events in the future, particularly for academic events, such as talks, workshops and more. To help us obtain this support we would really appreciate it if you could complete our very short survey, it takes less than 2 minutes.

For any questions about PAN!C or to suggest an idea for an event, be it academic or social please get in touch  with the PAN!C committee. We want PAN!C to be all about the postgraduate students in the Institute so we want students to have influence on what we do, get involved with our events and have fun! We are really grateful for the support shown by students, academics and the institute as a whole and hope that this continues so that an even bigger PAN!C ensues.



PAN!C: https://www.facebook.com/pages/PANIC/522401521125495?fref=ts
Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biosciences: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/camb/
Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology : http://www.ncl.ac.uk/cbcb/
PAN!C survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PLHLBHC