Elana Kysil takes up her project to study environmental impact of advanced materials
In her project, Elana will examine the effects of some of the materials that were developed and characterized in other case studies on marine organisms as well as aquatic and terrestrial plants. In this short interview, she introduces herself and tells us what a well-sized backpack has to do with it.
Dear Elana, please tell us about your professional background.
I am a biologist by training. However, during the last several years my focus shifted significantly to mass spectrometry and its application to natural products research and biochemistry. My Bachelor’s and Master’s theses were to some extent related to neuroscience (genetic engineering of serotonin transporters in zebrafish and modelling of Alzheimer’s disease in cell cultures), but after getting my degree I spent more than two years in the mass spectrometry facility of Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry and gained some experience in plant metabolomics.
What will be your job in the project?
Here my aim will be to investigate the impact of advanced materials on aquatic and terrestrial plants and marine organisms including corals and foraminifera in controlled experiments. Such an impact might be seen on a level of biochemistry as well as on physiological, or sometimes even per se morphological, level (such as the incorporation of the nanoparticles into the skeleton of corals or foraminifera). Therefore, my task will be to address the changes in the metabolome [the metabolome comprises all characteristic metabolic properties of a cell, tissue or organism] of the affected organisms, but also other physiological reactions, such as uptake and excretion of the particles.
What made you decide to contribute to this particular project?
The rapid development of our society puts an enormous burden on ecosystems. Even though we, as humanity, start to invest substantial resources in applied ecology, yet the effects of water pollution remain understudied and surely underestimated. Even less prominent are real actions. Surely, we will not change the world with one, two, or even a hundred projects. But we might shed a couple of photons on the matter and hope that humanity still has enough time to make a difference.
Among the more grounded goals I also plan to broaden my knowledge in the field of metabolomics and further develop soft skills that a person needs to bring any project, disregard of the topic, to a successful “Conclusion” section: effective communication, planning, and exploitation of resources.
Where do you see the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge for me is to develop such kind of healthy self-confidence that I know my limits and that the other people in the project group can rely on me and trust me. Letting people down by ignorance or incompetence is the worst, everything else just needs time and practice to accomplish. I hope that I can also rely on the people around me because mutual trust and responsible attitude make great achievements. Growing such bonds with colleagues takes time and it is one of the most challenging and important things in life.
The other thing is to dive back to old-school biology again and work with whole organisms, not just molecules. It is like putting on the old winter shoes that you used to wear a lot in the past, but a very long time ago. I feel a vibe of Ruppert’s “Invertebrate zoology” and biological drawings on a seashore again.
How do you deal with the fact that you will be working at several institutes and that several research institutes are involved in your project?
Well, I had to move from country to country several times, to work in very different places, and finally, I have a comfortable middle-size backpack for traveling. So, I hope that I can handle it again.
Thank you Elana and welcome to the research alliance! We look forward to working with you.