Please welcome Maren Oftebro (NTNU) and Laura Kind (UiB), our two new BioCat student ambassadors! Read a little about each below, and feel free to take contact if you need something.

Maren Oftebro (NTNU)

Hello! I am from Stavanger, and have spent five years studying at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) in Ås. I found my field of interest in Biochemistry, and specifically seaweed polysaccharides and enzymes. I started working with alginate lyases as a technician on the project Foods of Norway, and was fascinated by the prospect of degrading brown seaweed enzymatically as a way of better utilizing this resource. The work on alginate lyases lead to what would become my master thesis: enzymatic degradation of seaweed polysaccharides. I completed my thesis in the Bioprocess Technology and Biorefinery group at NMBU, with Professor Svein Jarle Horn as my supervisor.

The Norwegian Seaweed Biorefinery Platform project was started a little while before I finished my master’s degree, and I was lucky to get a PhD position on this project at NTNU in Trondheim. I am now part of the Biopolymer group lead by Professor Finn L. Aachmann. After having spent a considerable amount of time on alginate lyases, alginate and whole brown seaweed, the prospect of researching a new seaweed compound was intriguing. In my PhD, I get to do just that – finding out how to better understand the sulfated polysaccharide fucoidan and, in time, discover fucoidan active enzymes.

My research is mainly focused on the structure-function relationship in fucoidan, as this is a highly bioactive molecule. I aim to use a dualistic approach to characterize both the complicated structure of fucoidan and the activity of fucoidan modifying enzymes, by using NMR to create fingerprints, doing linkage and monosaccharide analysis, and estimating molecular weights with SEC-MALS. I am excited to obtain more knowledge on enzymes and biocatalysis through the varied courses BioCat offers, and to recruit more members to the group.

Laura Kind (UiB)

My name is Laura, and I obtained both my BSc. and MSc. degree in Biophysics at the Humboldt University Berlin (Germany) and graduated from there in April 2018.

During my MSc. studies, I visited different countries and research labs, which allowed me to explore new research fields and to experience foreign cultures. I took a research internship at the University of Canterbury (New Zealand) and went to Bergen (Norway) as an ERASMUS student for my final MSc. project in the Petri Kursula lab. Following the graduation from Humboldt University Berlin, I returned to Bergen to work as a research engineer in the Thomas Arnesen lab for 1.5 years.

Since September 2019, I am a PhD candidate in a joint project between the Arnesen lab, the Kursula lab, and the Njølstad lab at UiB.

My PhD project is centered around the transcription factor HNF-1A, which plays essential roles for insulin production and release upon blood glucose increase. Misfunction of HNF-1A, caused by mutations or mis-regulation of related pathways, is associated with diabetes. The goal of my PhD project is to study the molecular mechanisms of HNF-1A in health and diabetes.

My scientific interest and expertise from several research projects lie in the field of biophysics and structural biology. I also gained experience in enzyme biochemistry, molecular biology, and the use of proteomic approaches. I am excited to meet fellow BioCat members and to expand my network at scientific and social events in the future 🙂