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RUBi’s first MSc graduate flies to Belgium

Date Released: Thu, 5 May 2011 08:59 +0200

Anna EJ Yssel, the first MSc graduate of Rhodes University Bioinformatics (RUBi), won the Erasmus Mundus Action 2 South Africa award to do a PhD in Belgium.

Yssel will be doing her PhD in the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium under the supervision of Dr Josef Vanderleyden. She will focus on identifying molecules that compromise the quorum sensing abilities of Salmonella.  “Knowing a little bit about chemotaxis will hopefully help me to understand the quorum sensing pathway,” she added.

She studied spatial evolution of the chemotaxis proteins of a group of plant-associated soil-dwelling bacteria vernacularly referred to as the Bacillus subtilis group. Members of the B. subtilis group exhibit different preferences for certain host plants, and it is therefore feasible that their chemotactic machinery are fine tuned to respond optimally to the conditions of the various niches that the strains inhabit. Yssel, during her MSc, combined her microbiology background with bioinformatics which was a totally new field to her.

She explains, “What I liked most about bioinformatics is that it is an interdisciplinary science so it forced me to learn things that fell outside the scope of my prior education. I also enjoyed using a computer-based approach to investigate a biological phenomenon.”

“With the advent of DNA sequencing bioinformatics is becoming more and more important as a means to make sense of the vast amount of biological data that is available.” She continues, “I think that the RUBi research group is an ideal environment for any student wanting to do structure-based bioinformatics, and I will continue to advertise it to potential candidates.”

Dr Tastan Bishop said, “Anna’s hard working, enthusiastic, highly motivated approach to her studies has started to bear fruits. She has already written a paper and submitted to a journal with a high impact factor. She is now working on the second paper. I am hoping that RUBi will graduate lots of successful young stars like Anna.”

Although Yssel started her degree at the University of Pretoria, she decided to move to Rhodes University with the rest of the group, when the group leader Dr Ozlem Tastan Bishop took up a position in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Biotechnology.