Callum Nicoll

Callum Nicoll

Tell us something about your background.

I am 22 years old and was born in Bedford, Bedfordshire on May 20th 1995 and moved to a town called Bicester in Oxfordshire when I was one year of age and spent my childhood there. I have three siblings, an older and younger sister, alongside a younger brother, all of which I am very close to. I went to the Marlborough School, Woodstock where I studied GCSE’s and A-levels and discovered my passion and enthusiasm for science. It was September 2013 when I started studying a four year integrated Masters course in Chemistry, Biological and Medicinal Chemistry at the University of York where I received first class honors.


Tell us a bit about your PhD project in OXYTRAIN and your research interests.

My project in OXYTRAIN: A structure-based approach to biocatalysis

There are several urgent issues that need to be resolved to integrate flavin-dependent monooxygenases in an industrial setting. The project focusses on improving the rate of catalysis, understanding the molecular basis for formation and stabilization of the oxidizing enzyme intermediate in Flavin Monooxygenases (FMOs) and boosting enzyme robustness by: firstly, establishing expression systems for soluble and membrane-bound eukaryotic FMOs; secondly, creating protocols for protein purification, to provide the material for structural and biochemical studies; finally, providing structure determination of enzymes and enzyme-ligand complexes including analysis of valuable mutants.

My scientific interests

From an early age, I have always been curious as to why certain things happen in the way that they do. It fascinates me. Curiosity is what inevitably brought me to a Scientific fueled career. Organisms are complicated and have developed over time to perform a myriad of different metabolic activities with exquisite regioselectivity, chemoselectivity and stereoselectivity. How they function and carry out the plethora of actions seen is something I find remarkable and exciting and very much look forward to exploring. Understanding these enzymes was once a formidable challenge and even though deciphering their structure and mechanistic action is still difficult, the development of new techniques has made these issues more accessible. My main scientific interests are understanding how enzymes function: mechanistically, how does the enzyme precisely control its mode of action; in addition, why has an enzyme opted to use a co-factor that could be either an organic molecule, such as flavin, or a metal cofactor like Copper or Iron which is readily employed in a cohort of different enzymes; moreover, the overall structure of the enzyme and how it is designed to incorporate substrates, and how the structure is useful for communication too.


What do you expect from OXYTRAIN?

To put it simply, I am expecting to become a better scientist. However, this entails a lot of different skills: I am hoping to improve my writing skills whereby I will be able to convey scientific data and illustrate my ideas effectively but present the data in a general context that captivates the reader. I am expecting OXYTRAIN to improve my presentation skills where I can not only become more confident in myself, but create a presentation that enthralls the audience and clearly describes the research carried out. Communication is paramount for a researcher and I am expecting OXYTRAIN to teach me and deliver the techniques necessary to fulfill that skill.

On another note, I am expecting OXYTRAIN to provide me with the tools and the equipment necessary to tackle a range of challenges that will arise during my project so I can get my ‘teeth into’ some groundbreaking research. The work that I do in the project will hopefully develop and improve my understanding of enzymes in general, notwithstanding a thorough understanding in Flavin-dependent monooxygenases, so that I can employ this knowledge to other systems I may come across throughout my career. I’m expecting the project will also help improve my organization, a skill required in all disciplines. I am hoping the experience with OXYTRAIN will make me a standout individual that will make a very competitive candidate when it comes to taking my next step in my career, whether it is in an industrial setting or a lectureship role at a university.


What do you like to do in your free time, your hobbies, interests, what motivates you.

From an early age, I have loved playing Rugby and have been fortunate enough to play at Twickenham Stadium, the home of Rugby, when I was 12 years old for school. I also enjoy watching movies at the cinema and have recently gained interest in cooking. I am motivated by a good challenge, no matter what sort, but also relish competition.