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Dr Shajahan Anver
Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment
Darwin Building, Gower Street
Tel: +44(0)20 3108 1605
  • Research Associate
  • Genetics, Evolution & Environment
  • Div of Biosciences
  • Faculty of Life Sciences

During my BSc I developed a greater interest in genetics and microbiology along with biotechnology. This drove me to pursue MS and PhD in molecular biology. My PhD training exposed me to the wonderful world of omics and bioinformatics. I learnt to appreciate the power of omics approches to answer some basic questions that the living systems put forward. Now, I strongly believe omics approcahes could be wisely used to decode the complex language of life along with the associated data analyses tools.

During my PhD at UC Davis, I used both Arabidopsis thaliana and Schizosaccharomyces pombe model systems to functionally characterize a functionally unknown protein initially identified in a screen designed to capture mutants with defects in the plant circadian rythms. We took genome-wide genetic, transcriptomic and proteomic approaches along with other basic physiological experiments in both model systems to show that X-chromosome associates protein 5 (Xap5) binds chromatin and repress cryptic transcripts including transposable elements and long terminal repeats.

Soon after my PhD, I joined Max Plank Institute for Plant Breeding Research as a MaxPlank Research Fellow. There, I explored conservation and diversification of innert immune system in Brassicaceae using comics approaches. We took transcriptomics, hormonomics, and biochemical approaches along with other basic physiology to answer the question. Comparative genomics analysis of available genome sequences of different Brassicacea species reveals interesting phylogenetic relationships among prominent defence-associated genes. Some are highly conserved at sequence level, some are conserved but sequences have changed considerably to include new motifs(?). Some paralogous partners of some genes of Arabidopsis are no longer there in some other species and in other cases new paralogs in some species due to whole genome duplications. These are all interesting changes at the sequence level. However, are these orthologs transcriptionally regulated upon pathogen challenge??? Our time-course RNAseq at different times after challenging with pathogens/PAMPS suggest: some modules are conserved and yet some are not at transcriptional level. The transcriptional landscapes during PTI is interestingly very different in different Brassicacea species tested.

Going back to roots! Use omics in S. Pome to answer interesting biological questions! Joined Jürg Bähler group at UCL as research associate. Yet another question to be answered with comics approaches! More than 80% of the genomes of many organisms are transcribed whereas only 2% comprise of protein coding transcripts. Many of these are long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs). Many lncRNAs are differentially expressed especially during ageing and cancers. What is their biological significance? We tried to answer some of these questions as stated in Research summary.

Research Groups
Research Themes
Research Summary

More than 80% of the genomes of many organisms are transcribed whereas only 2% comprise of protein coding transcripts. Some of the transcribed non-coding RNA may be mere biological noise whereas some have shown to be clear biological importance. Since many basic biological pathways are well conserved from yeast to human it is convenient to use a simple unicellular model system such as Schizosaccharomyces pombe to answer complex biological questions. We take omics based approaches to identify intergenic long non-coding RNA (lincRNA) candiates with potential biological significance. Many lncRNAs are differentially expressed under special conditions, especially during chronologial ageing in S. pombe. I am particularly interested in the Influence of lincRNA on cellular ageing. I identified couple of lincRNA with potential biological significance during ageing and currently functionally characterizing them.

On the side, I am also interested in the eco-bio question:
How do yeasts/ single celled organisms live so long in the wild? Do nutrient deficiencies affect complete communities or some members sacrifice (to generate "the" signal) for the survival of the community? How do the microorganisms like it? Shaken vigorously like we do in laboratories? Is this a good system to assess cellular longevity? Is it advantageous to grow and divide so fast? May be! If you are a pathogen, then you would like to infect, find the nutrient source and colonise, divide and grow faster. If you are a saprophyte isn't that the same? Then you settle/survive and wait for the next wave, at least few cells of the colony at the expense of others. We hope to find "the" signal if there is one?

Teaching Summary
Teaching in life sciences at the university level comes in different flavours! It  involves both lecturing, laboratory demonstrations (lectures and practicals) and research mentoring in the laboratory. It also may involve working with general public and young school age children. I enjoyed and gained valuable experience in all forms of these teaching in different renown Instituttions. Although, my journey as a teacher started as a young kid with my peers, I choose to start the story after my graduation with a BSc degree in 2002.

Soon after graduation I joined the staff of the Department of Biology of the University of Peradeniya (UoP) as a temporary assistant lecturer April (2002-October 2003) and in October 2003 appointed as a lecturer (probationary). There I taught and coordinated courses in Plant physiology. Environmental Physiology, Post-harvest Biology and Scientific Writing. The responsibilities involved designing (or upgrading and restructuring) the course, planning and delivering lectures and practical sessions, and evaluating students.   The mandatory certificate course in Teaching Methodologies  by the UoP was very instrumental in gaining the required knowledge, confidence, and hand-on experience to accomplish these tasks successfully along with valuable mentoring from  Profs. D.C. Bandara and J.M.R.S. Bandara. During this time, I was fortunate enought to be part of the a major curriculum revision in undergraduate education funded by World Bank (IRQUE). The aim was to restructure the BSc Agriculture curriculum of the UoP to suit the changing needs of the century. I played an active role in evaluating courses, designing new courses or restructuring the existing ones for the Department of Biology under this project. During my MS and PhD at UC Davis (2007-2013) I worked as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for Profs. J.J. Harada and S.L. Harmer to teach Molecular Biology courses for senior undergraduates (3rd year undergraduates and graduate [MS/PhD] students). The responsibilities involeved preparing and leading discussion classes, holding office hours to help students and assess student evaluations.

MENTORING in research
At UoP I also supervised final year undergraduate students’ theses research. In the Harmer laboratory at UC Davis, I mentored several senior undergraduates and a highschool student. During my time as a postdoctoral researcher at Max Plant Institute I mentored a PhD student and two Erasmus senior undergraduate students from Poland. I mentored a couple of undergraduate students at UCL at Bahler lab as well.

Other Mentoring and Public Engagement
During my time as a PhD student at UC Davis and later I served as a mentor and a mentor liaison in the Planting Science Program, an online mentoring program works with teachers and students to mentor and encourage school students in to science in selected schools in USA.

Academic Background
2013 PhD Doctorat – Molecular Biology University of California, Davis
2009 MS Master of Science – Molecular Biology University of California, Davis
2005 MSc Master of Science – Agricultural Biology University of Peradeniya
2002 BSc Bachelor of Science – Agriculture University of Peradeniya
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