Polish edition of the French 3-minute thesis contest

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We have the pleasure to announce that one of our PhD students, Nour-el-hana Abbassi is competing in the French “Ma thèse en 180s” contest. The aim is to explain to the general public what is being done in any field of research from sociology to hard core mathematics in under 3 minutes.
You can find Norhane’s presentation HERE (YouTube) and HERE. The video is in French but the English subtitles are available. If you like the video, please support our student by voting for her – https://okf.uw.edu.pl/fr/2224-2/. Indeed, because of the pandemic, the rules were altered this year and the grading will be on one part be done by the number of people that will vote for her.
Thank you for your support and good luck to our contestant!


Nour-el-hana Abbassi, fot. by Ela Wątor

If you prefer reading instead of watching or you are not too fluent in French here we provide an English transcript of the presentation:

Let me tell you the story of a letter. You see, letters are magic! When put end to end, they can form words, and it is thanks to these combinations of signs that we can express ourselves, exchange, read and transmit messages…

Speaking of signs, who didn’t ever wonder if accents were really necessary in French? Especially on dictation days! Unfortunately for us, the answer is yes! We can see two different meanings in these two expressions “Augmentation des retraites” and “Augmentation des retraités”. The appearance of the accent changes the meaning of the sentence. The first expression predicts more money for retired people, while the second expresses that there will be less money because there are more retirees. But did you know that in our cells, accentuation rules are also important? They help us prevent neurodegenerative diseases or cancers! In the cell, we have a writer, the genome, who will provide information in a four-letter language. Before being read, the text needs to be checked and corrected by editors and proofreaders. The interpreters will then be responsible for translating the book into a 21-letter language. It is therefore imperative that the original text has the correct syntax. My work involves one of these editors. Its name is Elongator Complex and its purpose is to add an accent on the letters that need it. In my case, this is the letter U, and the accent is more of a modification called cm5.

To understand why we need this change, please look at my transfer RNA on the image. They are the ones who support and transport the letters. Only the three letters colored in blue and red are read at the same time by the reader. Kind of like the whole-word reading method in school. The U which will be modified is the last letter to be recognized and read by the reader. It is also slightly behind which does not facilitate reading! Fortunately, the emphasis given by my editor will facilitate recognition when necessary. This allows the interpreter to translate the right text and deliver the right message to the cell at a speed of 17 letters per second! I dare you to be as quick! The number of changes is crucial because if there are too many, the cell rushes to cancer, and if there are not enough, cases of neurodegenerative diseases emerge. My job is to establish which parts of my complex recognize the tRNA and place the modification. I also want to know if these parts are preserved across the species. Well after a lot of cut and paste, I discovered that it is the moving parts close to the heart of the complex that allows the recognition of transfer RNA.

Yes, I have the written proof in my references below. I also discovered that the activity of the complex is not exactly the same across the species studied. It is here, in my humble opinion, that magic and science come together. The same word-game gives us twin complexes that work differently, similar sentences that do not mean the same thing, and above all a tiny hope for our young retirees.

Thank you for listening