Success Stories

I would like to run my own laboratory one day, but I know it will cost a lot of effort, work and time

Mgr. Hana Sedláčková

Ph.D. student in the laboratory of Professor Jiří Lukáš, NNF Centre for Protein Research, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Graduate of PřF MU, former lecturer at Bioskop PřF MU

Hana Sedláčková has been very successfully involved in biomolecular research as a high school student. For completely new knowledge in the field of characterization of the RECQ4 protein, she received, for example, the Czech Header award in the GENUS category (2011) or the prestigious international award The Undergraduate Awards (2015), which is also referred to as the Nobel Prize for Young Scientists. For seven years she worked as a student researcher at the Laboratory of Recombination and DNA Repair (LORD). Her research has focused on mechanisms for repairing damaged DNA that protect against genomic instability and associated cancer growth. He is currently studying the process of DNA replication and its regulation in human cancer cells at the University of Copenhagen as part of his doctoral studies.

Photo: Oliver Staša

When you were young, what did you think your profession would be?

I enjoyed biology at elementary school, thanks to the teacher who led the science class. I also attended various ecological and biological competitions, such as the ‘Biological Olympiad’, ‘the Golden Leaf’ or ‘Five Times from Our Nature’, organised by the Brontosaurus movement. I left elementary school with the idea that I would like to become an ecologist. I enjoyed spending time in my home laboratory, finding out how the energy industry and transport (e.g. exhaust fumes) affect the environment.

As a high school student, how did you get into research projects aimed at investigating a very rare gene mutation?

I discovered the possibility of a university research internship for high school students, and thanks to this I was able to spend all my free time at the National Centre for Molecular Research at the Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, with Associate Professor Lumír Krejčí. As part of this internship, along with the Secondary School Professional Activities (SOČ) coordinated by the South Moravian Centre for International Mobility (JCMM), I began to focus on the RECQ4 protein, the function of which is not well known.

What is the goal of research into this protein as regards human health?

If mutations occur in this RECQ4 gene, a serious disease can develop in humans, the more severe forms of which lead to premature aging and a higher susceptibility to cancer. It is an inherited disease that has been described in about three hundred cases (diagnosis of RECQ4-related diseases is very difficult). We were mainly interested in the way this protein works in the human cell and the role it could play in repairing damaged DNA. I processed the first results of my research in my SOČ, then continued in my Bachelor’s and Master’s studies in Genomics and Proteomics.

What do you count amongst your greatest professional achievements?

Scientific articles, of course. During my Master’s studies in the laboratory of Associate Professor Lumír Krejčí at the Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, we managed to publish several articles describing the role of helicases (a group of proteins that have the ability to untap the DNA double helix into DNA strands). During my Doctoral studies in the laboratory of Professor Jiří Lukáš at the University of Copenhagen, I had the opportunity to participate in excellent projects dealing with the management of human DNA replication and chromatin organisation in the repair of damaged DNA, both successfully published in the world’s leading science journals, Science and Nature. Thanks to cooperation with more experienced colleagues, I managed to penetrate the world of cell biology, and then used the acquired knowledge in my Doctoral thesis, which was focused on the regulation of MCM2-7 helicase during DNA replication and its transfer to subsequent cell generations. The results of my work will soon be published in one of the leading international scientific journals.

How do you see your professional career in the future?

One day, I would like to run my own laboratory, but I know it will cost a lot of effort, work and time.

You worked as a lecturer at the Bioskop Science and Research Centre at MU. Do you find the popularisation of science interesting?

I felt fulfilled working at the Centre. I was able to pass on my experience, motivate students to work in the laboratory and devised new courses on DNA and the basic methods used in laboratories to study genetic information. I enjoyed bringing science closer to high school and elementary school students, in such a way that they could understand it. I devised different models of replication, transcription and translation in the cell and I showed them how the processes work in the test tube. While working at Bioskop, I found that demonstrations in the form of experiments are the most important for understanding basic theoretical knowledge.

For your Doctoral studies you went to Denmark, where you now study cell biology. What did the change in the environment bring you?

A change in environment is extremely important in science. During my four years in Copenhagen, I broadened my horizons, mainly from a scientific point of view. I gained a lot of new experience, not only in the field of state-of-the-art cell biology and microscopy methods but also in gaining a new approach to science itself, such as leading and presenting scientific projects, constantly developing scientific thinking and looking at cellular processes from a different angle. This is important as, though an idea may deviate from the original hypothesis and seem crazy at first glance, it could lead to a fundamental new discovery.

Thank you for the interview.
Zuzana Jayasundera

Translated by Kevin F. Roche