Meet Esra Sengul, DPhil student in the Mommersteeg Group, who joined the University of Oxford following obtaining her BSc degree at Istanbul University and her MSc degree from Sabanci University. The Mommersteeg Lab uses the Mexican cavefish as a unique model to understand the molecular and cellular pathways underlying heart regeneration.
What is your research focus?
I work on Astyanax mexicanus as a model to understand the underlying mechanisms of regenerative ability. The fish living in rivers can repair their hearts after damage, whereas the cavefish have lost this ability (see Stockdale et al. 2018). I specifically look at their immune response, and we are trying to find out what is so unique about fish that they can repair their hearts. By exploring that, we can understand the key differences between these two fish and help facilitate new advances to heal the human heart.
What has been your highlight this past year?
Moving to Oxford was the highlight of last year for sure! I was awarded The Clarendon Fund in partnership with the Oxford Medical Research Council Doctoral Training Program scholarship to start my DPhil and joined the group led by Mathilda Mommersteeg. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by other people who are passionate about similar aims.
What do you look forward to achieving this year at the IDRM?
Using single-cell RNA sequencing and validation, our lab has identified key differences in the immune response to cardiac injury between cavefish and surface fish. I am working on the continuation of this project, and we are currently writing up the first part of it for publication. I hope to get these results published this year.
What do you do outside the lab?
There are a diverse range of activities during the academic year organised by colleges, departments, Clarendon, and Oxford MRC DTP. I use the opportunities that fit my interests to engage in social events and networking. Next to my degree, I have been an active reader for visually impaired students and taught Chemistry to year 12 students. I practise the piano and go to concerts in my leisure time.