Researcher Spotlight : Raminta Kazlauskaite
This week, Ellen Hughes puts Raminta Kazlauskaite under the spotlight. Raminta is a first year PhD student working on developing and validating an artificial salmon gut system called SalmoSim.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Last summer I graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a BSc in Cell Biology. During my degree I had a chance to work on a bioengineering project where the aim was to study the bioconversion of bio-oils into value-added products using consortia of different microorganisms, along with a summer internship in a SANGER sequencing department. These experiences guided me towards my current bioengineering/microbiology PhD project in the University of Glasgow.
What can you tell us about your PhD?
I always liked the idea of applying biological concepts to solve real life problems and my PhD project is a great example of this. The salmonid aquaculture industry is trying to move away from traditional fishmeal-based feeds by replacing them with plant-based substitutes due to rising costs and sustainability concerns. Unfortunately, salmon fed with alternative plant-based feeds show poor growth efficiency, mainly due to inefficient feed digestion, linked to the fish’s metabolic rate. It is a well-established fact that intestinal microbiota play a central role in nutritional energy harvest in vertebrates.
My PhD project involves building an artificial salmon gut system, called SalmoSim, made of three linked bioreactors simulating three distinct compartments of the salmon gut. This system will allow us to study how bacteria living in a salmon’s gut contribute towards different dietary material digestion.
What is the focus of your research?
The focus of my research is building a SalmoSim system which accurately mimicks the microbial communities in the salmon gut. I hope that once I establish this system and validate it, it can be used to study microbial population dynamics, evaluate the performance of different feed formulations and additives, as well as evaluate the effects of antibiotic/disinfectant/antiparasitic treatments on microbial gut population composition.
Why did you decide to do your PhD in IBACHM/UofG?
While doing my undergraduate degree in Edinburgh I fell in love with Scotland, especially how European and friendly it felt. However, after four years I knew I needed a change of scenery from Edinburgh. I found Glasgow very similar to my home town of Vilnius and, giving it has a great biology department in the University of Glasgow, looking for PhDs here seemed like an obvious choice.
What do you find most interesting about your work?
I love challenging myself in different areas of both biology and engineering. I know that some PhD students perform the same experiments every day throughout their project, but I don’t think I have had the same day twice! Changing between disciplines helps to keep me on my toes and I have learnt (and hope to learn more) different techniques.
What has been the most positive aspect so far?
The first thing that pops in my mind is my lab mates and supervisors. They support me every day no matter how busy they are. I think your lab mates can drastically change your experience of the PhD, but I think I have been lucky in this aspect. I can be introverted sometimes but working with such a friendly and international community in the IBACHM makes it easy.
What has been the most challenging aspect so far?
The Postdoc I was working together with the last six months just got an amazing opportunity outside the University of Glasgow and unfortunately had to leave us, leading to me advancing the project on my own for the last couple of months. Thankfully, my amazing lab mates and supervisors help me every day, but it is still a challenge to run project on my own.
What advice would you give to anyone doing or considering PhD?
For those who are considering pursuing PhD path, I would suggest selecting a project not only based on the topic you love, but also by meeting the lab members and supervisors beforehand as they are going to be your family for the next three or four years. For those currently doing their PhD I would suggest gathering as many skills as you can, and don’t let hard days get you down.
Tell us about your plans for the future
Currently I am only in my first year of PhD, so the future is still pretty cloudy. Ideally during my PhD I can sample both the industrial and academic life styles and see which path suits me better.
Don’t miss Raminta’s talk “SalmoSim: Exploring the microbial basis of Atlantic Salmon energetics via a synthetic intestinal system” at the PhD Seminar Series on Friday 20th April at 4pm in LT2 of the Graham Kerr Building.
First published: 20 April 2018