26 November 2015

Five biotech students receive Novo Scholarships


It can be a lot of pressure and a bit stressful writing a master thesis if you also have to work in your spare time. But for five master students at Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the University of Copenhagen it just got a lot less stressful after they received Novo Scholarships 2016.

Novo Nordisk and Novozymes are behind the scholarships for master students studying within natural science, health science and biotechnology at Danish and Swedish universities.  

This year a total of 26 master students got the Novo Scholarships 2016 and five of them are from Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. The scholarships are worth a total of 1.5 million DKR.

Since the distribution of the Novo Scholarships began in 1996 around 640 students have received one which helps them to focus on writing their master thesis. The master students can receive scholarships with a value of up to 84,000 DKR for one year. After this period the students can reply for economic help to present their results on international conferences and they get the opportunity to use their knowledge in natural science as Novo Science Ambassadors. 

Here are the list of the five master students from Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences and their own description of what their thesis is all about.

Victor Forman
As a part of my Biology–Biotechnology master thesis I was assigned a scholarship for 70,000 DKR, which I am very proud of and thankful for.

Plants are world champions in chemistry and produce a lot of chemical compounds from sunlight, CO2 and nutrients. Many of these are particularly useful for humans in medicine, cosmetics and food. My project is to investigate a group of plant enzymes that is involved in the production of many plant compounds. My focus is on their role in the production of a medical used plant compound called forskolin from the plant Coleus forskohlii, and I will in my project try to change their production patterns to a more efficient production of forskolin. This could be exploited in a more sustainable biotechnological production of forskolin in for example yeast or other green production organisms such as green algae or moss.

Niels Christian Sanden
I am so proud and thankful for my scholarship of 66,500 DKR. My project will be conducted at the PUMPKIN research center.

In plants, the proton pumps are the most important enzymes in the maintenance of the vital electrochemical gradient across the cell membrane. In my thesis I look at an enzyme, a so called receptor kinase, which after having bound a peptide hormone on the outside of the cell can regulate the activity of one of these proton pumps. I am interested in investigating the activated receptor's fate after it has performed its function. Can the plant recycle the receptors and save precious resources? From humans and animals, we know that similar receptors are often introduced into the cell, after the peptide hormone is removed and the receptor is returned to the membrane again.

My goal is to use various advanced microscopy methods to find out whether this also applies to this plant receptor. My goal is to use various advanced microscopy methods to find out whether this also applies to this plant receptor. In many diseases peptide hormones play crucial roles, for example insulin in diabetes. The project can contribute with new knowledge to the general understanding of peptide hormone signaling, which is an important tool in the design of future drugs.

Ida Lauritsen
I am a master student at Biology-Biotechnology. I have been so lucky to receive a scholarship to finance my studies with 7,000 DKR per month during my project period, which I am honored and thankful for.

Today live bacterial “cell factories” are used for production of numerous substances such as chemicals, fuels or proteins that may be of medical or environmental value. In order to use these cell factories it is necessary to develop molecular tools and techniques that can control the biosynthesis of the substances by regulating a few or more enzymes. My project is about the use of such technology that controlled and specific can down regulate protein levels of enzymes in the bacterium E. coli, which otherwise would not be possible to "knockout" in the traditional manner. The aim is to exploit this technique to develop an E. coli strain which can contain high levels of L-Serine that is used in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.

I am doing my project in collaboration with a research group at Center for Biosustainability at the Technical University of Denmark.

Emil Christian Fischer
Surface display in Escherichia coli is the main theme of my thesis at Biology-Biotechnology. It is a biotechnological technique where you make Escherichia coli bacteria produce proteins on the outside surface of the cell. Surface display is often useful as a screening technique, if you want to change a protein's properties, but do not know exactly what changes in the DNA cause the desired change in the protein. A popular approach is to form a very large number of random combinations of changes in the DNA and then use a screening technique as surface display to find the right combination.

My project is to solve some of the problems which make surface display in E. coli bacteria difficult. We will try to adapt the machinery that bacteria have to move their own proteins on the surface of the cell so that it is better to move new/other proteins. For this purpose, we have designed a series of experiments, where we are trying to create evolution in the laboratory so that the bacteria themselves evolve to become better at surface display.

I am very pleased and proud that my thesis project was included in Novo Scholarship 2016.

Simon Matthé Erstad
I am a master student at Biology-Biotechnology and I have been assigned 7,000 DKR, an amount which means that I can focus on my thesis – without having a job on the side.

My thesis project is done in collaboration with the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at University of Copenhagen. My thesis is about the modulation of photosynthetic cyanobacteria in order to produce drugs and biofuels in a sustainable and profitable manner. Since these photosynthetic microorganisms uses sunlight, water and CO2 to grow it is possible to avoid many of the negative effects of today’s production methods and ensure a clean, green, innovative and sustainable production for the benefit of people and society. These cyanobacteria can potentially be used as microbial "cell factories" for the production of bioactive substances in the future.