Visitor of the Week: Patrick Capel


Meet Patrick Capel of the University of Warwick. The SynBio CDT PhD student, co-supervised by Emzo de los Santos and Christophe Corre, is currently about halfway through his training at our annual course on Synthetic Biology.

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I am interested in natural products – compounds that are derived from nature and are often very complex. More specifically I want to be able to use cell-free transcription-translation systems to investigate their biosynthesis and create new pathways in a way that is more similar to chemistry than it is biology!

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
I love organic synthesis, but I was drawn towards biosynthesis because biology allows us to do what we would need a myriad of reagents and conditions to do at physiological pH and with greater control. For me, cell-free transcription-translation is very similar to chemistry where you mix reagents together and let it go to get your protein of interest so it seemed like a good fit for me.

How did your scientific journey begin?
I was always encouraged to ask questions, and often taken to places like planetariums and the Natural History Museum in London (mainly to look at the dinosaurs) when I was young which made me fall in love with all things science.

Was there something specific about the Synthetic Biology course that drew you to apply?
I was drawn to the course as two of the main topics (DNA assembly and cell free transcription-translation) are things that I directly use in my PhD work. Also, microfluidics is something I can see myself using in the not-too-distant future.

What and/or how will you apply what you’ve learned from the course to your work?
I have learnt a lot about optimizing protocols for DNA synthesis, which I will be getting the lab to tinker with as soon as I get home. I have also explored some modeling whilst here which I am trying to apply to my own work too. 

What is your key takeaway from the course?
Give everything a go and talk to other people about what you are up too! Your idea about a potential experiment might sound a bit too crazy to you but it might be logically sound to someone else.

If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
I’d tell them to come if they can. You learn a lot about everything covered during the course and also get to talk about everything that surrounds science in the canteen, along with making connections with other people in a way that is very different from a conference or a short meeting. There is a real community feeling here and I already can’t wait to bump into my course mates and instructors at conferences later in my academic life. 

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
S wimming in the harbor with my newfound friends and staying up late chatting about everything from local adventures to life philosophies.

Patrick received financial support from Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and the Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology Center to cover a portion of his course tuition. On behalf of Patrick, thank you to HHMI and the Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology Center for supporting and enabling our young scientists to participate in training courses where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network.

Thank you to Patrick for being this week's featured visitor. To meet other featured scientists - and discover the wide range of science that takes part in a CSHL meeting or course - go here.