Azhar Zhailauova

Specialization: Medicine. Internship: State University of New York Polytechnic Institute (SUNY).

Let’s meet Azhar. Besides being a poetry lover and active practitioner of qigong and karate, she is studying for her medical degree at Nazarbayev University School of Medicine. Also the student is a winner of Shakhmardan Yessenov Foundation’s grant competition. She returned from Signal Transduction Laboratory and we are ready to tell you more about her and her research.

Azhar, when and how did your interest in medicine arise?
I am 23 years old and I have graduated from Economic Lyceum in Aktau. My interest in biology developed at school when we were introduced to DNA in details. At that time, for me it became a molecule deserving only a point mutation to tremendously change the rest of someone’s life for better.  After having been working with DNA in synthetic biology competitions for 4 years during my Bachelor degree study (Major in Biological Sciences with Minor in Chemistry),  I understood the necessity of a foundation for further clinical research. Thus, I applied for a medical school.

How difficult was the competition for you?
The competition was ambiguous. At the beginning we were said to be ourselves, to be sincere. This is the best advice. I am very grateful for that. All applicants showed their best during the interview, and I did not know why exactly I was the one selected. For a logical part of the competition, I would advise to all future candidates of the Foundation’s program to watch “What? When? Where?” TV show. It helps think differently.

Tell us more about the internship itself, please?
Prof. Benoit Boivin, my supervisor, has graduated from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY. He is very talented, demanding and strict.  My task in his laboratory was to launch a machine that mimics heart beating and conduct first experiments with heart cells from rat babies. Due to continuous stretching, a heart cell wears out in time. It activates certain processes that lead to cell aging. However, there is one protein that fights back this process. My purpose was to observe its presence in the cells by extracting this molecule using different assays and analysis. This molecule (aging antagonist) hypothetically can slow down the aging. During the whole period, I became very close to my lab mates and roommates. The atmosphere in the lab was very warm and friendly. We had several barbecue parties and had farewell dinner. I had a chance to travel to Texas and New Jersey with my friends.

And what were the outcomes of your research internship?
The first result is that the stretch bioreactor has been installed and is working well. Since no one had used this machine and conducted such experiments in the laboratory before, this molecule, the antagonist of aging, was experimentally detected in the cells in the conditions of our laboratory for the first time. And now, applying the accumulated knowledge will make it possible to elucidate other molecules working against aging in heart cells, identify them and genetically modify against aging.  We expect a paper to be ready by the end of this winter.

What’s then, Azhar?
The internship gave me a broad outlook on a highly qualified laboratory research with competent professionals. I have assured myself once more that any work could be done with deserving efforts and passion. I realized  that it was difficult for me to work with animal dissection. Now, I am focusing my research interest on cancer immunotherapy and planning to take summer internship in Germany at pharmacological company before starting clinical practice at the medical school next summer.

27.12.18, Success stories

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