Student Spotlight

Aisha Shamas-Din
McMaster University
Andrews and Fradin Labs




Q: What initially attracted you to biophysics?

In my undergraduate studies, I greatly enjoyed the field of molecular biology and the techniques used in the experimental design to elucidate the unknown. My interest was further piqued when I was introduced to the use of fluorescence in solving biological problems.

Q: What specific areas are you studying?

My research encompasses the fields of membrane biology, membrane proteins and fluorescence spectroscopy. My focus is on the Bcl-2 family proteins that play a vital role at the mitochondria in the regulation of apoptosis.

Q: What is your current research project?

I employ cell-free systems of liposomes and isolated mitochondria with purified Bcl-2 proteins. Currently, I am investigating the interactions between the different members of Bcl-2 proteins and their conformations at the membrane.

Q: What do you hope to do after graduation?

I plan to continue as a postdoctoral fellow with an ambition to make a difference in cancer research.

Q: Tell us about a great experience or opportunity you’ve had in the past year?

While attending the Keystone Symposia on Cell Death Pathways, and Cold Spring Harbor meeting on Cell Death, we formed a fruitful collaboration with Atan Gross from the Weizmann Institute of Science, and the exchange of knowledge and materials has produced very exciting results that will be submitted for publication very soon.

Q: Why did you join the Biophysical Society?

BPS is an excellent avenue for researchers to present their work to a vast audience and get feedback from others in the field. I really enjoyed the first session on ‘Apoptosis’ in the last meeting, and hope that it will continue in future meetings. Also, I really appreciate the workshops organized by the career center and find them inspiring and helpful.

David Andrews, Shamas-Din’s PI says:

Aisha trained in our biochemistry program where she began using biophysical techniques during her fourth year undergraduate thesis project. She has since embraced modern biophysics as her preferred approach to solving interesting and important biological problems. Aisha frequently adds to the excitement of doing research by suggesting new ideas and by being the first to volunteer to help carry out collaborative experiments. As a result she has provided key data necessary to both fuel further debate and to help distinguish models hotly contested within the group. I greatly appreciate the rigor she brings to her quest for new knowledge.

Cecile Fradin, Shamas-Din’s PI says:

Aisha is a great example of a successful multidisciplinary student. She has a biochemistry background, but for her PhD project she has had to learn to think as a biophysicist and to teach herself to use advanced fluorescence tools to study her proteins. Not all students can do that, being comfortable with the biochemistry side and the physical science side of their biophysics projects. But Aisha approaches both biochemistry and fluorescence problems in the same way, that is methodically and critically, and it has worked really well for her. She is also an exceptional mentor, who has passed on her high scientific standards to countless other students in our group.


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September 2012 Table of Contents