Alex Heyam – Protein Interactions

Name: Alex Heyam

Location: Photo is from Grenoble, France, but normally York, UK

What do you do? I’m a PhD student studying protein interactions – how the different machines in the cell fit together to perform a particular function. The proteins I study have been shown to affect the immune response to RNA viruses, and also to help make microRNAs (which help cells control how much of each protein they make). However, no one has worked out what they actually do. To try and work this out, I’m looking at the molecular structure of the proteins, and measuring how strongly they stick together. Then I’ll try specifically blocking the various interactions, and measure how this affects cellular processes involving microRNAs and viruses.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been working at the Institut de Biologie Structurale in Grenoble to make a batch of protein enriched with heavy isotopes of hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon, which I’ll use for NMR experiments (like MRI scans, but for molecules).

What can I see? The French Alps! It was nice to have something to look at in the occasional awkward gaps during experiments. Further along the mountain range to the right, there’s a cable car up to an old fortress.

When I’m not doing science I… play in a brass band, listen to music and hang out with my amazing husband 🙂