Sir James Black Award (CLS) for outstanding achievement
Egle Gaurilcikaite, who graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry & Pharmacology, has been awarded the Sir James Black Award for Outstanding Achievements. This is an annual award, presented by the University to a final year undergraduate student from each College making the most outstanding contribution to research and scholarship in their field.
Egle won the award as a College of Life Sciences student, though she worked very closely with the Medical Research Institute, College of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing.
Egle, from Kaunas in Lithuania, worked on her honours project under the supervision of Dr Albena Dinkova-Kostova at the Jacqui Wood Cancer Centre, Dundee Medical School. "I investigated the ability of certainsulfhydryl-reactive compounds to activate a cytoprotective, or cell-protecting,mechanism - known as the heat shock response," explained Egle. "Since the compounds that I tested are already known to activate an antioxidant pathway, dual induction of two cytoprotective mechanisms could boost the protection of the cells in the presence of various stress factors and potentially be therapeutically relevant."
During her time in the lab, Egle worked closely with a PhD student, Sharadha Dayalan Naidu, and it became clear very quickly that Egle is not only a very bright student, but also a very careful experimentalist. "The data that she obtained are clear-cut, of high technical quality, and Egle clearly established that one such compound, called HBB2, is a particularly robust activator of the heat shock response," said Dr Dinkova-Kostova. "Furthermore, Egle also discovered a previously unrecognized biological property of this compound, namely the ability to induce autophagy, a very important cellular process for recycling of damaged organelles which ensures the correct balance among synthesis, degradation and recycling of cellular components."
Egle decided on Dundee for her degree because of the University's reputation for the high quality of education and research, particularly in the fields of life sciences and medicine. The College of Life Sciences is ranked No.1 in the UK in its field (according to the latest QS World University Rankings) while the School of Medicine is ranked No.1 in Scotland by the 2015 Guardian University Guide.
"Attractiveness of Dundee as a student city also helped me to make my final decision," said Egle. "By combining my studies with work, volunteering or active leisure, I was able to explore Scotland and its culture, as well as meeting people from all over the world. This whole experience helped me to become much more independent and grow as a person."
"I particularly enjoyed the practical aspects of my course and appreciated an opportunity to deepen my knowledge both in, and outside of, the two broad subjects of my interest - Biochemistry and Pharmacology - at the same time. This often involved learning about recent discoveries from academics of the University of Dundee who themselves are actively involved in relevant research."
Egle is pursuing her research at the Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases, KIng's College London. Her 4 year PhD project will focus on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of dental pain.