Nour-el-Hana Abbassi PhD defence

On the 4th December 2023 took place the public defence of our PhD student, Nour-el-Hana Abbassi. Norhane came to Poland for this event and it was very nice to see her and support her in person in this important moment!

Norhane joined our team in 2018, after working at the Center of Molecular Biophysics (CBM, CNRS) in Orléans, France, to work with Ting-Yu Lin on Molecular insights into Elongator’s tRNA modification reaction. The first results of her work were published in Nat. Commun. in a paper entitled “The Elongator subunit Elp3 is a non-canonical tRNA acetyltransferase”. Then she continued her work on human Elongator complex including research in collaboration with Australian group. She was working on Elp1 mutations found in patients suffering from intellectual disability and global developmental delay.

The defence started with a short introduction of a PhD student by Dr hab. Sebastian Glatt. He started by saying that Norhane’s doctoral project was the first long-term project in his group’s scientific career and he is very proud that this project finishes with such a style. He admitted, that the project was tough, but on the same time he announced that the main manuscript from this work is currently under revision in Nature Communication, and received very positive reviews. Apart from doing her PhD, Norhane was involved in other side projects, as well as supervising Master students. He emphasized that Norhane used her PhD time very well, learned not only various techniques but also how to make a good science and all this due to her persistence and natural curiosity to dig deeper into the subject.

In the next part, Norhane presented within 20 minutes the work she has done for her PhD. She started by acknowledging her promotor, her advisory committee and  she expressed her gratitude to the team members, especially to Ting, Marcin, Konrad and Dominika for helping her with her project. Afterwards, she gave a brief introduction to protein translation, tRNA modifications and Elongator complex itself. In following parts of the talk, Norhane showed many structural and biochemical data and very comprehensively presented results of her work. Namely, the mode of interaction between Elongator complex and tRNA and a possible mechanism of acetyl coenzyme A (ACO) hydrolysis triggered by tRNA in Elp3. The results she presented confirmed that the role of Elp3 is conserved between species, despite that the catalytic activity of Elp3 is more finely tuned in Eukaryotes than in Procayoptes or Archaea. The reviewers Dr hab. Agata Starosta, Dr hab. Magdalena Wołoszyńska and Dr hab. Michał Szymański gave very positive opinions on her work and appreciated the quantity and the quality of her research. The committee unanimously voted for granting her a PhD degree as well as to award the dissertation to be distinguished.

After the official part, the participants celebrated Norhane’s success accompanied by delicious home-made sweets prepared by Norhane and her Mum.

Norhane does not have much time to rest and recharge, as in January 2024 she starts her postdoctoral fellowship in Prof. Ann Ehrenhofer-Murray’s lab in Humboldt University in Berlin. Congratulations once again and good luck with your scientific career!

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