In 2013, from Egypt to China, I began my graduate studies in the laboratory of Prof. Yong Q. Zhang at the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), China, where I studied the mechanisms regulating the expression of glutamate receptors at synapses in Drosophila melanogaster. After receiving my Ph.D. in 2017, I joined the same laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow until 2020, funded by the talented CAS President's International Fellowship Initiative (PIFI) fellowship.
Firstly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my instructor and supervisor, Prof. Zhang, for giving me the opportunity to conduct exciting, cutting-edge scientific studies in his lab. Throughout my whole time, I was encouraged by our dynamic and in-depth discussion, from which I gained a lot of knowledge. His scientific talent, passion, motivation, and enthusiasm impressed me. I've enjoyed every minute of my life, and the Chinese laboratory colleges are all extremely kind and friendly; it's easy to make friends, and the university provides activities outside of the laboratory room, such as societies and sports. There are students from different countries. Now I’ve made friends from Europe, Africa, and Asia.
I would describe China as traditional, busy, old, and noisy before I came. Now I'd say modern, developed, and special. Following my time in China, I have a strong impression that it is pretty green. I see a lot of trees everywhere. The second one is that there are lots of bicycles. Also, the food is really good. I also feel quite welcome in China. My impression of Chinese people was that they speak quickly, that they are numerous, and that they are polite. Now, I'd say they're pretty helpful. I was at a hospital and other places where the Chinese people didn't know English, yet they still helped me. When I try to speak in Chinese, like Xiexie (thank you in English) in a canteen or school, people smile at me. They're also sporty, in my opinion. I have a window that looks out onto the playground. Every time I look out the window, someone is running on the track; these things are incredible.
Now for my own story about Beijing, where I lived and studied. My first impression of Beijing is that it has a lot of large buildings, which I can see both near my workplace and elsewhere. Second impression: China is a safe place for me. Nothing bad happens if I go in the middle of the night. Third impression: there are several great institutions in Beijing and other cities, as I can see. For a number of reasons, international students, including me, believe studying in China to be the best option nowadays. For example, China is often regarded as having the world's most rapid economic growth. Second, international students find studying in China attractive in terms of technology and educational programs.
For my own story, during my Ph.D. training, I focused on uncovering the molecular mechanisms regulating glutamate receptor (GluR) expression at synapses. I found that the calpain proteinase negatively and specifically regulates the synaptic and total protein levels of the glutamate receptor GluRIIA in a calcium-dependent manner (Metwally et al., Journal of Neuroscience, 2019. DOI: 10.1523/jneurosci.2213-17.2019). I then identified from a candidate screen that Ttm50, which is a subunit of the TIM23 complex involving in the transport of proteins across the mitochondrial inner membrane, colocalizes with calpain at the calcium stores Golgi and endoplasmic reticulum (ER), and physically interacts with calpain through its C-terminal FCP1 domain. This interaction increases the sensitivity of calpain to calcium in vivo and in vitro. This work is published in Cell Research (Metwally et al., 2021. DOI: 10.1038/s41422-020-0388-4). In addition, under the guidance of Prof. Zhang, I wrote an invited review describing the role of calpain in neuronal remodeling
and neurodegeneration published in Trends in Neuroscience (Metwally et al., 2021, DOI: 10.1016/j.tins.2021.07.003).
What are my plans after my studies in China are completed? After extensive training in the Zhang Laboratory, I believe that my qualities of independence, creativity, and critical thinking, along with my technical skills, would allow me to be a successful scientist in the future and freely conduct cutting-edge research. Since my early years as a graduate student, I have been very interested in neuronal remodeling and neuronal injury, and I'd like to continue my research in this area. Finally, I want to express my gratitude to my favorite place, the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, as well as my teachers and friends. We may gather again in Beijing.