University of Dundee

Rachael Di Santo

I graduated in June 2009 from the University of Glasgow with a degree in Medical Biochemistry before joining the Wellcome Trust Programme at the School of Life Sciences.

For some time I had been set on doing a PhD but still had fairly broad interests. I was particularly interested in the molecular basis of disease processes but I also knew that characterising fully the inner workings of healthy cells could aid understanding of these. This left me with a really wide field and I was aware there was so much more to learn and experience before I set up camp in a particular area. This was highlighted to me in particular by my honours project, where I was allocated a project in the parasitology department and although I approached it nervously at first, I really enjoyed the experience of grasping an area of research completely new to me and it opened up my eyes to all that was out there to discover.

On the basis of this, I made applications to 4 Year Wellcome Trust programmes and was struck by the huge diversity of research going on here at the School. This really facilitates rotations in vastly different areas of life sciences, which has the benefit of exposing you to new techniques and potential new interests.

When coming to interview I found the School to be a friendly and communal place, everyone is really keen to talk to you about science and you immediately feel welcomed into the scientific community here. As well as great communication across labs and divisions, there are also excellent facilities, which makes the School a really exciting place to do science!

I have just begun my first rotation in the lab of Colin Watts, where my project aims to characterise the unique activation of p90 Ribosomal S6 kinase (RSK) by the p38 MAPK pathway in dendritic cells. I am taking a proteomics approach to attempt to characterise potential adapter proteins which allow upstream kinases MK2/3 to dock to RSK, as well as making different RSK truncations/mutations to allow investigation of domains which are important for this activation.