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Student Spotlight: Perle Deaibes

21 April 2023

Perle Deaibes is completing a research internship at Plymouth Marine Laboratory under supervisor Dr Mahasweta Saha.

Perle Deaibes is in the final year of her undergraduate degree at Plymouth University, where she is studying Marine Biology and Oceanography. To complement her studies, she joined Plymouth Marine Laboratory as a research intern last September, working with supervisor Dr Mahasweta Saha in the Marine Ecology and Biodiversity group

We first asked Perle the inspiration behind her degree. 

“As a student and early-career marine researcher, my goal is to find solutions to environmental problems and to support the protection of nature’s precious resources. I want future generations to enjoy the same natural resources as we have in the past, and marine research can make a real difference in shaping policy and social change to support this. That is why I enrolled in Marine Biology and Oceanography at the University of Plymouth.” 

Above: Perle collecting samples

We then asked Perle if there were any topics that she especially enjoyed learning about, or if she had begun to develop a particular interest or specialism in any areas. 

“Even before starting my degree, I was convinced and inspired by the multiple properties of macroalgae (seaweed) and hoped to specialise in this growing field of research. My time at university has deepened my understanding of macroalgae, and I’ve also gained insight into the often-overlooked microorganisms and microalgae that also play a crucial role in the oceans.” 

“As I specialised in molecular biology, ecotoxicology, and marine pollution, I became particularly aware of the growing threats to the marine environment, from the cellular systems of marine organisms to the wider marine ecosystems. Specifically, I am interested in exploring how macro and microalgae can mitigate marine pollutions and their interactions with microorganisms.” 

Above: Perle in Plymouth 

We next asked Perle what inspired her to join PML as a Research Intern, and how this placement supported her studies. 

“After a discussion with one of my university Professors, I became highly interested in Dr. Saha’s research on chemically mediated communication between microbes and their algal hosts. Her work was the perfect fit for my academic interests, and a placement at PML offered practical experience in studying the relationship between micro and macroalgae and microbes.”  

“I contacted Dr. Saha and was accepted for a one-year undergraduate internship under her supervision, starting in October 2021. During the internship, I learned a variety of techniques, including how to extract metabolites from macro and microalgae, culture microalgae, maintain macroalgae in the lab, and study the metabolites of macro and microalgae in response to microbial stimulants, using flow cytometry and other methods.” 

“As I strengthened my analytical skills and knowledge of micro and macroalgae, I discussed the possibility of undertaking a research project with Dr. Saha. Thanks to funding from the British Phycology Society, we were able to conduct a project investigating the human bacterial pathogen load on macroalgae.” 

We then asked Perle what it was like working with Dr Mahasweta Saha as a supervisor. 

“Learning from Dr. Saha has been an absolute pleasure. Her immense knowledge and passion for her research truly inspired me to delve deeper into the study of chemically mediated relationships between algae and microbes. Her enthusiastic approach motivated me to pursue this subject with zeal, and her willingness to take time out of her busy schedule to teach me new techniques highlighted the importance of intellectual exchange and mutual support between scientists.” 

“As my supervisor, Dr. Saha has given me countless opportunities for growth and development. She helped me participate in a conference and encouraged my participation in a seaweed course organised by the British Phycological Society, providing me with platforms to expand my knowledge and expertise.” 

“What sets Dr. Saha apart as a truly exceptional supervisor is her unwavering commitment to my success. Even after my internship was over, she continued to keep in touch and offer her support and guidance whenever I needed it. This speaks volume of her genuine investment in her students’ future, and her willingness to go above and beyond to help them achieve their goals. Moreover, Dr. Saha’s approach to teaching was always inclusive, promoting knowledge, diversity and recognising the different learning backgrounds and stages. She made her explanations easy to comprehend, encouraged me to ask questions, and provided just enough background information about research experiments to allow me to independently develop my own research and literature search. Her approach of “not spoon-feeding” instilled confidence in my abilities and motivated me to take ownership of my work and learning, making me more independent and self-sufficient in my work. Dr. Saha’s guidance and mentorship has been invaluable in my journey towards personal and professional success.” 


Pictured above, from left to right: Perle with Dr Mahasweta Saha and fellow students supervised by Dr Saha

We then asked Perle whether there had been any particularly special moments or highlights from her placement at PML. 

"Having the opportunity to engage with highly experienced research professionals has been extremely motivating and enlightening - and has really expanded my horizons.” 

“After witnessing the significance of chemically mediated algae-microbe interactions, this ignited a greater interest in learning new techniques to study algae, and this curiosity led me to contact Dr. Shubha Sathyendranath - Merit Remote Sensing Scientist at PML - to gain insights on how to map diatoms from space, using remote sensing.” 

“My meeting with her was an eye-opening experience that inspired me to participate in the training course organised by NERC Earth Observation Data Acquisition and Analysis Service (NEODAAS) and the Field Spectroscopy Facility (FSF), on the practical use of Earth observation data in research, last October. Through her guidance, I am also participating in the training course and symposium: “Satellite-based Tools for Investigating Aquatic Ecosystems”, organised by the Trevor Platt Science Foundation.” 

To finish, we asked Perle whether there was anything else she wanted to add or mention about PML, Plymouth University, Marine Research Plymouth, or more generally about living and working in Plymouth. 

“As a Belgian student of Marine Biology and Oceanography at Plymouth University, I was fortunate to immerse myself in a new culture, language, and way of thinking. The environment at PML encouraged me to challenge my assumptions and broaden my perspectives, leading to personal growth and intellectual expansion.”  

“PML’s embrace of diverse cultures and its emphasis on exploration and research aligned perfectly with my passion for both scientific discovery and personal development. Through this experience, I became more aware of the environmental challenges that affect all nations, and the importance of collaboration and communication in finding solutions. Overall, my time at Plymouth has reinforced my commitment to make science more inclusive, accessible, and global in scope. I believe that by breaking down barriers and promoting cross-cultural dialogue, we can work together to tackle the most pressing environmental issues facing our planet.” 


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