FEMS Journals Oral Presentation Prize: Muhammad Suleman Qasim

FEMS Online Conference on Microbiology 2020
Muhammad Suleman Qasim, PhD student at the University of Helsinki

We send our congratulations to Muhammad Suleman Qasim (@SulemanQasim), who won the Oral Presentation Prize for Early Career Scientists at the FEMS Online Conference on Microbiology 2020, sponsored by the FEMS Journals.

The FEMS Online Conference on Microbiology took place between the 28th and 31st of October 2020 as a virtual conference. His winning presentation was titled “Characterization of novel Shewanella sp. #4 and its stress induced tRNA post-transcriptional modifications”.

Read our interview with Muhammad about his research below:


What is your current position and what was your scientific journey to get there?

My research journey started during my master’s thesis when I was working in Prof. Mikael Skurnik’s phage therapy lab. In my project, I successfully produced pure tail-fiber receptor protein of phage R1-37, cloned into a unique expression system. My aim was to characterize the phage tail-fiber protein and locate the bacterial receptor used in phage integration.

After completing my Master’s degree, I started working in Academy Research Fellow, Doc. Peter Sarin’s RNAcious lab. During that time, I developed experience of working with RNA and was fascinated with RNA biology. After my initial training, I started my Ph.D. studies at the beginning of 2020. As a Doctoral student, I intend on depicting the role of post-transcriptional transfer RNA (tRNA) modifications and their role in stress modulation.”


Could you describe the research your poster covered?

The research work described in my talk focused on the characterization of tRNA modification and its role in cellular growth and survival. Cells can efficiently produce endogenous proteins by maintaining a subtle balance of mRNA and charged tRNA. This equilibrium is disrupted upon sudden changes in the environment, which causes a stress that the cell must overcome. Various modifications on tRNA provides the cells with an elaborate and immediate survival strategy by providing flexibility in translation. Using quantitative mass spectrometry and RNA-seq based approaches, the aim of my study is to determine the changes in tRNA modification upon various physiological stresses and to evaluate the role of tRNA modifications as translation modulators. For this purpose, I decided to study a cold-active Shewanella bacterium that it is quite resilient to diverse environmental stresses, as I expect that such adaptability will be reflected in the dynamics of tRNA modification. Indeed, my findings have uncovered interesting stress-mediated changes in tRNA modification and translation, which will further our understanding of how environmental bacteria can maintain active translation under various harsh conditions.”


What do you hope to focus your research on in the future?

For my current Ph.D. project, I would continue with RNA sequencing and ribosomal profiling analysis and evaluate the impact of stress at transcription and translation level. These studies would further help me understand the role of modified tRNA as stress modulators.

My long-term research focus would be to continue exploring the world of RNA biology, as there is still a lot this molecule has to offer to science.”

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