Declan Gray

Newcastle University


Dr. Leendert Hamoen

My research interests lie predominantly with bacteria as they are fantastic organisms which can survive in a wide range of environments and thrive in unique conditions.  My fascination with bacteria developed during my undergraduate degree which covered a wide variety of biological topics in animal and plant biology.  I discovered that I was more interested in individual cells of these multi-cellular organisms than the organisms as a whole.  This pointed me in the direction of bacteria which are a single-celled organisms and I started to realise bacteria can do some really cool stuff and wanted to investigate the mechanisms by which they do such things.

My undergraduate project gave me the opportunity to work with bacteria and investigate the biotin biosynthesis pathway, a system not present in animals. The project allowed me to do very preliminary work, investigating the enzymes involved in this pathway and their importance for growth. This gave me insight into how important research and understanding bacterial survival mechanisms can be.

Project title: How to kill non-growing microbes

My current research is performed on the Gram-positive model organism Bacillus subtilis. It is known that bacteria have mechanisms in place so they can survive periods of unfavourable conditions. There are several strategies which aid in survival, however, not all bacteria can employ every method, for instance, the endospore. B. subtilis can produce a spore however, within a population, only 20% of cells will undergo sporulation. Jan-Willem Veening observed a small portion of cells within a micro-colony did not undergo sporulation or lysis upon nutrient exhaustion. Therefore my research is investigating how long B. subtilis cells can survive starvation without the undergoing sporulation

Where did I get my PIPs

PIPS Internship Organisation Name 

SCM Pharma



When deciding on your internship, what did you want to experience and what did you hope to gain from that experience? 

While looking for an internship I concentrated my search on finding a job within an industrial lab.  I wanted to experience the difference between an industrial lab and an academic lab.  My mind set before the internship was set on staying in academia, however, an academic lab is the only type of lab I have experience in therefore I was glad to have the opportunity to experience a different style of lab.  I wanted to know if I would enjoy working in an industrial lab, to see if I could move into industry after my PhD.

Did you get the experience you were expecting and did you achieve the personal development you had hoped to make?

Over the 3 month period of the internship I did get the experience I was hoping to get, also this experience was more beneficial than I originally expected as I am now considering the move from academia to industry after the my PhD.  I was also surprised by how much I grew as a person during the 3 month period, since you are put into a new lab with a new group of people you realise what you are capable of achieving.  This allowed me to come back to my PhD with an improved attitude towards work.

Did you discover anything about yourself or make any achievements that you were not expecting? 

I was surprised how well I fit into a working lab, considering these people had been working together for years.  I did not expect the ease at which you can assimilate into a new environment.  I did not expect that I would be able to contribute much to an industrial lab however I was more than able to do all the work (once trained) and help streamline their computer data handling spreadsheets.

Has the internship made you feel differently about potential career options and has it helped to put the skills from research into a broader context?

The internship has opened my eyes to a career path I never considered so I greatly appreciate the opportunity to have this experience.  My plan was to stay in academia however now I may consider the industrial route.  It has made me aware that the skills and abilities I have accumulated during my degrees are actually useful in the real world and can be put to good use.  For instance my experience working in an academic lab was great preparation for an industrial lab because the basic skills are transferable and I didn’t feel out of place.  I was more than happy to go off and do a job when requested without hesitation.

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