JUSTL participant: Dr Jeffrey Jenkin Kelu

21 May 2020

Dr Jeffrey J. Kelu is a Research Associate in the laboratory of Professor Simon Hughes in the Randall Centre of Cell and Molecular Biophysics, King’s College London (London, UK). He obtained his MPhil and subsequently his PhD from the Division of Life Science, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, under the supervision of Professor Andrew L. Miller. Dr Kelu’s PhD project involved investigating the role of two-pore channel type 2 (TPC2) in calcium signalling during slow muscle cell and primary motor neuron development in zebrafish embryos. During his PhD studies, Dr Kelu spent four weeks in Professor Han Wang’s laboratory in the Center for Circadian Clock, Soochow University (Suzhou, China), where he learned the CRISPR/ Cas9-mediated gene knockout technique. In addition, he had a six-month overseas research attachment in Professor Antony Galione’s laboratory in the Department of Pharmacology, University of Oxford, (Oxford, UK), where he learned biochemical assays for quantification of the calcium-mobilizing agent nicotinic acid adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NAADP).

Current Work

Dr Kelu is currently investigating the molecular mechanisms and genetic regulation of muscle development, and specifically how the circadian clock regulates muscle growth. He discovered that the signalling pathway that regulates protein synthesis is more active during the day than at night, and that the pathway that regulates protein degradation is upregulated more at night than during the day. Dr Kelu is especially interested in determining how the circadian clock regulates the turnover of proteins during muscle growth. He is still using the zebrafish as his model system as the embryos are transparent, which facilitates investigations of muscle development in the intact animal. It is also a particularly useful model for studying the circadian clock as nearly all the cells in the body are directly stimulated by light.

JUSTL Programme

Dr Hershko shared with us his beliefs about being a good scientist.” (Dr Kelu talking about the day he and a friend helped Dr Avram Hershko, 2004 Nobel Prize Winner for Chemistry, with his iPad).

Dr Kelu was a participant in the 2012 JUSTL programme. His mentors were Professor Andrew L Miller and Dr Sarah E Ho (The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) and for his JUSTL project, he conducted experiments to investigate the role of calcium signalling in the development of slow muscle cells. He describes his summer at the MBL as being a fascinating experience, meeting a lot of international researchers and providing an interactive holistic experience for research. He said that you could meet internationally acclaimed scientists walking down the corridor, in the cafeteria or in the dorms and so there were opportunities to talk about science all day and all night if you wanted to. He described the MBL as being very special, and really quite different from what he experienced in Hong Kong. He said that at the MBL, many people share the laboratory facilities, such as the microscopy facility and the zebrafish facility, so you have the opportunity to meet and interact with more people in these different facilities. Dr Kelu found it to be a very good experience to meet people who were doing the same sort of experiments to investigate different research topics.

The research component of the JUSTL programme. Jeffrey Kelu running experiments in the laboratory during the summer of 2012.

Dr Kelu found the open lectures to be really interesting, especially those introducing new research models. However, Dr Kelu’s most memorable event during his time at the MBL was the day he met Dr Avram Hershko, the Hungarian-born Israeli biochemist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2004 for his work on ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation. They met in the MBL cafeteria one day. Dr Kelu and his friend, AJ, saw an older man struggling to get his iPad working and without realising who it was, they offered to help him and then started to chat. Dr Kelu said, “We didn’t talk about hard-core science, but Dr Hershko shared with us his beliefs about being a good scientist. He said that you always have to be curious, you have to be able to ask a good scientific question, and then design good experiments to test your hypothesis.” Dr Kelu told me that Dr Hershko’s advice is especially useful now that he is starting to write his own grant proposals.

Dr Kelu thinks that attending the JUSTL programme helped him to shape his career. Firstly, he learned from the lectures and by talking to other researchers that the zebrafish is one of the best animal models to use for research. Also, the JUSTL programme provided Dr Kelu with the first opportunity to work overseas. Since then he’s had different opportunities to travel with work. He spent a month learning the CRISPR/cas9 technique in Professor Han Wang’s laboratory in Suzhou, then he worked in Professor Antony Galione’s laboratory in Oxford for 6 months, and of course now he is in London conducting post-doctoral research. He suggests that it is very important to gain international exposure and for him it expanded his horizons and emphasised the amount and quality of science being done overseas.