Interview with LEaDing Fellows postdoc dr. Zhanar Abil.
'My name is Zhanar Abil, I started in September 2018 as a postdoc fellow at the department of Bionanoscience at TU Delft.'
'I originate from Kazakhstan where I left when I was 20 to continue my biology studies in the USA. I did my PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Illinois and after that I went to Texas for a post-doc position. I came to The Netherlands because I am very interested in the origins of life, which brought me into contact with the lab of prof. Christophe Danelon. My current research project here at TU Delft is about engineering a synthetic cell model capable of evolution.'
Studying the behaviour of liposomes
'How life originated is one of the biggest, most fascinating unanswered scientific questions to date. This question goes hand in hand with the question of the nature of life itself, as well as the nature of its basic unit, the cell. With my colleagues I will be exploring these questions by constructing and studying the behaviour of liposomes, tiny lipid vesicles often used as a model of cellular life. Using liposomes that enclose solutions of DNA and all the necessary components for protein synthesis, we will emulate and study one of the essential properties of organisms – their ability to evolve.'
The LEaDing Fellows Postdoctoral Fellowship
'Why did I apply for the LEaDing Fellows Postdoctoral Fellowship? Because it offers many opportunities to learn. For this project in particular and for my future career in engineering, it is crucial for me to learn the analysis of big biological data and mathematical modelling. For this I am seeking help from collaborations with Bertus Beaumont at the TU Delft department of Bionanoscience and Vera van Noort, professor in Computational Biology at Leiden University.'
'Also the Netherlands is a nice place to live, it is easy to feel at home over here, although it was actually pretty hard to find a place when I was still in Kazakhstan with my 8-month-old baby. But now I am settled, I enjoy cycling to work in just 15 minutes and have nice daycare for my child here on the TU Delft campus.'
Team up with computer scientists
'What my next step will be? I am aiming for a tenure position, perhaps in the USA again since my husband just accepted a job at the University of Florida. But for the time being I am getting the most out of my time here and all the great opportunities offered by the LEaDing Fellows programme, such as networking training, tutoring students and writing skills for grant proposals and papers. I am also planning to team up with computer scientists and maybe even learn some programming myself, once I have my data sets ready for analysis.'