The Geneticist

Anoushka Davé uses yeast to learn about cancer.

I am trying to understand how DNA – genetic information – mends itself in yeast. Problems in DNA repair can be a cause or result of cancer. Yeast is a single-celled organism which has many biochemical processes that are similar to those of mammals. It also grows fast.

This is my first job after gaining my PhD. My family background is Indian and my parents took me back to India when I was six. I returned after finishing my undergraduate degree to pursue a career in science.

My job is based in a molecular biology lab. I spend most of my time doing experiments and analysing them. I also need to write papers for publication in journals and prepare posters or talks for conferences. We also attend regular group meetings and seminars by visiting scientists.

I discuss my results regularly with my group leader. I also interact quite closely with other members of the group and the institute, which include postdoctoral researchers, PhD students and research assistants – we discuss learning or teaching new methods and equipment.

‘Sometimes an unexpected result gives us a new understanding.’

It’s very satisfying when experiments work out as planned. However, things are never straightforward in molecular biology. Sometimes, repeating an experiment may give you different results from the first time or may not work at all. Research can be very frustrating. It is quite common that an experiment designed to give an answer to a particular question comes back with more questions rather than an answer for the initial question.

On the other hand, research is also very rewarding. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, of having contributed to furthering our knowledge. Besides, sometimes the unexpected results give us a better insight into biological pathways. And it is the frustrations during the journey of discovery that make the results sweeter.

Anoushka Davé, career development fellow, Radiation and Genome Stability Unit, Harwell, Oxon

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