Hannah Abdly case study image

Hannah Abdly

What were the highlights of the course? 

One of the highlights of studying Medical Sciences at Leeds is the flexibility. There are many different modules you can choose, and its enabled me to orientate my degree to areas I’m more passionate about – for example, I chose to study many pharmacology-related modules in second year, where I learnt about drug design and development. This flexibility carried through to my final year, where there were a vast range of options for the Capstone Project. There are many opportunities to cater the course to your preferences and to orientate it towards the career path you’re considering. 

What is the name of your research project and what has it involved?

My research project was titled “Development of a multivalent probe for the superselective targeting of glycolipids on cancer cells”. I aimed to develop a probe that would show stronger binding to membranes with a higher expression of a glycolipid known as GM1. GM1 is found on healthy cells but also in higher densities on the membranes of some cancerous cells.

The project involved a lot of learning – having studied medical science, choosing a project in a biophysics field meant I spent a lot of time researching in advance of the laboratory side of the project. I was then confident to independently plan my own experiments, operate the technology and analyse the results afterwards! 

How would you rate the facilities available to you throughout your project? How have these enhanced your experience?

I was lucky enough to do my research in the new Sir William Henry Bragg building! Aside from it being modern, it had all the equipment I needed to undergo this work. My experiments involved using a quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D) to measure changes in frequency and dissipation when samples of the probe were added to model membranes. These readings could then be translated into measurements of how strong the binding was! 

The facilities at Leeds have greatly enhanced my first experience of research, and I’m proud to say I’ve produced the first evidence of superselective binding between these molecules, which could lead to further research and success!

Cancer will affect 1 in 2 people in the UK. My work is the first example of superselective targeting of GM1 with the probe I used, and suggests that cancers with high GM1 expression could be selectively targeted. If successful in further research, targeting GM1 with this probe could be used to deliver chemotherapeutics or diagnostic agents without affecting healthy cells, therefore improving the cancer treatments and increasing chances of survival.

Why did you choose the University of Leeds? 

I was first interested in the University of Leeds after seeing it ranked highly in my course. After attending a prospective student open day, I was set on coming to Leeds for many other reasons! As well as the course content, Leeds is a perfect blend of a campus university on the city’s doorstep. With such an active student union and an array of societies, the social aspect here has also been perfect for me.