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Inaugural Elman Poole Travelling Fellowship

7 April 2005

Inaugural Elman Poole Travelling Fellowship

University of Otago Biochemistry PhD candidate Peter Mace has been awarded the inaugural Elman Poole Travelling Fellowship, worth up to $25,000, for overseas study on proteins connected to sheep fertility.

Mr Mace, who also has a Bright Future Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarship, will use the Fellowship to travel to laboratories in Finland and the USA for three months to train in new techniques and use technology unavailable in Australasia.

Mr Mace’s research aims to explain at the molecular level how several small signalling proteins involved in sheep fertility interact with their receptors to kick-start cellular responses. Mutations in these proteins can profoundly affect sheep ovulation.

His research is supervised by Dr Sue Cutfield and supported by Ovita Ltd.

“There is certainly a lot of interest from the sheep industry in this type of research but any practical application from my study is some way down the road.

“First of all we need to find out how these signalling proteins interact and how they affect fertility. To do this we need to find out what the proteins look like in 3D because the shape affects how they work. For this I need to use a technique called X-ray crystallography,” Mr Mace says.

“That all might sound quite simple, but I can assure you it is not.”

Mr Mace has spent the past year isolating proteins in the Biochemistry Department and painstakingly processing them into crystals. However, the crystals are too small for their 3D structure to be identified using X-ray crystallographic equipment available in New Zealand.

He leaves tomorrow for the United States to attend a practical course in macromolecular X-Ray diffraction measurement at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) in Brookhaven. While there he will be able to test his crystals under the high intensity X-ray beam produced by the synchrotron.

Following this he will visit the laboratory of Dr Olli Ritvos at the University of Helsinki to utilise alternative techniques in protein production that may allow him to obtain better crystals.

“I was hoping to attend these facilities anyway, but this scholarship allows me to go for longer and be more active over there. It’s an amazing opportunity and I am very grateful for it,” Mr Mace says. He will also visit the benefactor Dr Elman Poole in Oxford.

Note: Dr Elman Poole graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Otago in 1950. Dr Poole was born in Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand in 1925, and currently lives in Oxford, UK, where he is now retired from the Radcliffe Infirmary.


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