Mina is a 6th year Ph.D. student in Dr. W. Sossin's lab at The Neuro. Her graduate research project involves studying the role of Stalled Polysomes in local mRNA transport and synaptic plasticity.
As I prepare for my PhD Thesis Seminar, which marks the beginning of the end of a remarkable academic journey, it is important for me to look back and appreciate the humble beginnings and the tireless work of those who laid down the foundation for me to stand on. Thus, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the IPN faculty and staff, my supervisor Dr. Wayne Sossin and my father Dr. Yucel Anadolu for carrying me on their shoulders. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the IPN, and I will leave with the promise to continue building on that foundation to reach even further.
I joined the IPN in 2013 after receiving my Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from McGill. I was fascinated by molecular neurobiology and I wanted to learn more about how learning and memory formation occurs on the cellular scale. The IPN was the right place for me to explore my research interests, and it gave me the option to fast-track from the Master’s to the PhD program which was a great opportunity for me to discover my research potential.
I started as a Master’s student in Dr. Wayne Sossin’s lab at The Neuro, studying the effect of Serotonin on the formation of a type of intermediate-term memory in sensory-motor synapses of Aplysia californica. I demonstrated that this type of synaptic plasticity requires fast and local synthesis of proteins near synaptic sites, which occurs independent of translation initiation. The turning point in my research was when I discovered that Aplysia californica neurons possess Stalled Polysomes, which are elongating ribosomes frozen on an mRNA transcript that are packaged into large granules in the soma and shipped down to local sites for translation. I wrote a PhD Research Proposal to work on Stalled Polysomes in the vertebrate model system, with a focus on understanding the role of the translation elongation factor eEF2 in this mechanism. I fast-tracked into the PhD program in 2015.
My research on Stalled Polysomes gained momentum when my lab established the link between Fragile X Syndrome, a severe type of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and the dysregulation of Stalled-Polysome associated mRNAs, such as the one encoding Map1b. The overarching goal was to better understand this mechanism in the normal brain, to establish a foundation for developing therapies for Fragile X. I identified key interactions in the formation and re-activation of Stalled Polysomes, including the phosphorylation of eEF2 which triggers their release and results in the completion of protein synthesis independent of translation initiation. I purified Stalled Polysomes to look more closely at the components and observed them using High Resolution Cryo-Electron Microscopy.
During my studies, I received a number of awards including the Jean Timmins-Costello Fellowship. However, the greatest reward for me is making new connections with people through science, by giving talks at conferences, teaching and mentoring, and collaborating in research. In my free time, I volunteer as a judge for national science fair competitions, which allows me to share the excitement of science with younger generations. The connections I have made through science have allowed me to sit down with individuals such as The Minister of Science, The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, to discuss the future of science in Canada, and Astronaut Chris Hadfield, to discuss the effects of spaceflight on the brain. My overarching goal in life is to become an effective science communicator, and my experiences at the IPN have prepared me for that.
The integrated and collaborative environment at the IPN and McGill as a whole allowed me to acquire new skills and collaborate with world class researchers and push the boundaries of our knowledge. I intend to carry on this spirit of innovation and collaboration to my own lab in the future, as I am hungry to learn, and the thrill of discovery is like none other.
Published on April 8, 2020