Micro Life Zone
Asked by braedon101 to Arti, Dustin on 13 May 2012. This question was also asked by kelsey.
My research is based around a group of enzymes called the cytochromes P450 (P450s or CYPs for short).
‘Enzymes’ are the name given to proteins that are found in living things which help chemical reactions to occur under natural, biological conditions. For us to carry out chemical reactions in the lab, we often have to use conditions that are quite harsh, such as very high temperatures or using dangerous chemicals. You might have learnt about substances called ‘catalysts’ – these are chemicals that we can add to our chemical reactions to help them occur faster without having to use such harsh conditions. ‘Catalysts’ don’t actually get used up themselves in this process and so can be recovered. Enzymes are biological catalysts. You can think of enzymes as being little machines that help chemical reactions to occur inside our bodies (or inside things like plants, bacteria, fungi) under much milder conditions (such as body temperature, which is 37 degrees C for humans) and using only the substances that are already inside our body. Enzymes take a chemical (which is called a ‘substrate’) and carry out a reaction on it to form a different chemical (the ‘product’).
There are many different types of enzymes found in nature which are grouped together (into groups known as families) depending on what they do (like what kind of reactions they carry out or what kind of substrates they work on). P450s are one of the more well-known enzyme families. There are thousands of different P450s known at the moment and more of them are being discovered all the time. P450s are found in all kinds of organisms such as animals (including humans), plants, bacteria, and fungi, and their job is usually to oxidise things. This means that they usually add oxygen atoms to their substrates (but not always!), and they can do this in several different ways (depending on things like the type of substrate). P450s are involved in many different biological processes. You can read more about P450s at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cytochrome_p450 if you are interested.
My PhD research involved several projects which were all about looking at and understanding certain things about particular P450s. Many different scientists study different things about P450s. I am a chemist, so I worked on finding out what sort of chemical reactions the particular P450(s) I was looking at could carry out, and I also tried to understand how they actually carried out these reactions. I have written more of an explanation about the types of experiments that I conduct as part of my research, as well as a little bit more about one of the projects I was working on in my profile. Please let me know if you would like any more information, and I’ll write up some more!
My research is based around attempting to understand communities of different animals at different scales using research techniques that minimize impacts on the animals.
When we research animals at the moment, there is a problem called the observer problem, because we are attempting to catch them or find out about them, we are changing what normally happens in their environment.
So one answer is to use methods such as cameras or sound recorders that minimize the influence on the animals. The issue with doing this is that it changes the sort of data we can gather and also becomes an issue of whether we can still get the required data to answer relevant questions.
So my research is about testing some of these things across different types of animals to see if what we think we are getting is what we are getting and if there are better ways at getting the information. WOW that was a mouthful
By BRIDGE8 under license from Mangorolla CIC 2023