Synthesis of 5α-andrstan-3,16-dione and its biocatalysis by the fungus Mucor circinelloides

By Przemyslaw Jerzy Stepien //

PJS PictureIn my first year, I wanted to take part in UROS but I had no research knowledge and no supervisor to speak of, just big dreams without any meaningful experience to be able to support my work in a laboratory on ideas no one has yet executed.

One year on, I have gained experience in antibiotic synthesis and have sought a supervisor to support me with this new adventure.

A new step in the area of corticosteroids, in our research we synthesis the molecule, fungus biocatalysis it, we extract and characterise the metabolites. A simple idea takes weeks to exercise, with further characterisation of product formed by each step. Waiting patiently to let the fungus fully grow, then to combine the molecule with the fungus and allow time for biocatalysis, to then extract the newly formed metabolites by separating them from the fungus to further analysed them.

The main challenges faced is the worldwide pandemic, still an ongoing issue for everyone. The lockdown measures had meant that the research was postponed from spring to the summer months, and even when we were given the green light to start our research there was additional restrictions placed on laboratory access including Joseph Banks Laboratories. With this in mind, Dr Hunter and I had the option to either defer the research project to 2021 or continue our research with potentially limited resources whilst under what feels like ‘ever changing’ restriction rules. However, Dr Hunter and I were determined, and we have chosen to continue none the less.

Lesson learned that no matter how painful and isolating the experience is, if you keep to what you believe in, eventually, with time, it might work your way.

I could not ask for a better supervisor, ready at any moment to share his vast knowledge of the subject which, at times, was overwhelming. Dr Hunter is understanding and patient not only with the sharing of knowledge but also by helping me to understand and absorb the new information; it’s origin, meaning and application; which in turn further developed my own skills and knowledge. Dr Hunter’s knowledge, experience and supervision skills are exceptional and one that would be hard to match by others in my future to come.

Future of any science students can be diverse from already well-defined modules with a range of embedded practical skills used in all laboratories around the world. Then to have the opportunity to work with a supervisor that possess decades of experience, taking on a specialised project further defines already gained skills, and it makes you ready to tackle the unknown. Working in industry or during study will require a certain level of knowledge of analytical equipment and the ability to utilise these tools efficiently. UROS gives the opportunity to any student to be ready for the future by working in a professional setting on a project with an end goal, that is no longer a grade to pass a module but work jointly with a supervisor on an idea previously not executed in a laboratory.

*To view Przemyslaw’s research poster and presentation recording, please click on the thumbnail:  Poster