Muni student’s bachelor’s thesis wins world recognition

Michaela Gregorová is a biology student who has been working in the lab led by Vítězslav Bryja for over a year now. Her focus is on the research of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia – one of the most common types of leukaemia in people over 65.

Her bachelor’s thesis examining the search for possible cures won recognition in the prestigious international competition, The Undergraduate Awards. She was included in the top 10% of young scientists with the best scores. This makes her the third student from the Masaryk University Faculty of Science to be recognised in this prominent award programme. Her competition came from all over the world: this year, the evaluators had to assess almost 6,500 bachelor’s theses.

“In my thesis, I studied an enzyme called CK1, which plays an important role in a number of cell signalling pathways and, therefore, has an impact on many biological processes. I examined whether this enzyme could be key in the search for treatment options for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia,” summarises Michaela Gregorová.

She and her colleagues are testing inhibitors – substances that can partially or fully inhibit the activity of enzyme CK1. Using cell cultures, she observes the impact of each inhibitor on the cells. As she explains, “We are looking to see if it kills the cells or perhaps affects their movement. This is because cancer cells can migrate in the body and penetrate new organs. In this way, we are testing the impact of these substances on cell behaviour under lab conditions.” So far, the results have been promising. The inhibitors, which are provided by chemists, actually kill leukemic cells, and while they also affect healthy cells, the damage done to them is much less.

Vítězslav Bryja’s lab, where she now works, was recommended to her as a place that would place great demands on her time, but achieve excellent scientific results. “I was interested in the research topic they work on and agreed to come and try it out for a month. I liked the lab and they were happy with me, so I stayed,” she says, recalling the early days of her research career.

While her work is already beginning to bear fruit, its demanding nature means she sometimes spends her weekends at the lab. “I also work as the lab manager, which means I have to make sure that we are stocked with all the tools and chemicals and that the equipment is in order. For example, I prepare regularly used solutions in advance for others in the lab,” says Gregorová, adding that this position brings her an extra income, which means that she doesn’t need to look for work elsewhere.

Nevertheless, she does have another job – at the VIDA! science centre: “I’ve been there for three years, guiding visitors and hosting programmes. It’s mostly about popularising science, so you learn to simplify to make things easier to explain. I’ve had to limit the hours I spend at VIDA! but even so, it has helped me learn to communicate and present ideas to people.”

As she says, she now wants to further develop the research that she started during her bachelor’s studies. However, she doesn’t spend all her time in the lab, working, and studying. “I’m trying to stay fit and I enjoy going out with my friends. There’s still time for that, for the time being at least,” she smiles.

Masaryk university