Saudi Ph.D. student Abbrar Labban joined the KAUST Red Sea Research Center (RSRC) in 2016 as a member of Professor Xelu Moran's lab after obtaining her B.Sc. in Microbiology from King Abdulaziz University, and her M.Sc. in Biology from Tennessee State University, Nashville, in 2010 and 2015 respectively. Labban's research focus at KAUST is understanding the metabolic and transcriptomic responses of Red Sea marine cyanobacteria Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus strains as a function of experimental warming. She joined KAUST as a member of Prof. Xelu Moran' Integrated Ocean Processes (IOP) laboratory
The Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus strains encounter some of the highest marine ecosystem temperatures found worldwide. At present, there is no systematic information on how these cyanobacteria cope with such high temperatures or their potential adaptation to further warming. Through understanding the physiological and transcriptomic makeup of these cyanobacteria, Labban believes that this bacterium can provide in-Kingdom decision makers with an estimation of how climate change alters the current healthy hydrosphere of the Red Sea.
"I am really interested in studying the microbial ecology in the Red Sea. The bacteria including Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus are important components of the microbial community in oceans in general, not only in the Red Sea. So, it would be interesting to really understand how they are contributing significantly to the biomass and the productivity of the Red Sea," Abbrar said. "I think my research will provide us with a clearer understanding of how we, as a nation, can lessen the problem of warming in the Red Sea," she added.
She states that the overwhelming reason behind her decision to continue her studies at KAUST was because of a confidence that KAUST would provide her with an advanced knowledgeable skill set that will prepare her for the future. Labban also believes that she would not have been able to carry out her current level of research anywhere outside of KAUST.
"KAUST has a lot of facilities and an excellent spread of talented and experienced researchers. For example, we have the KAUST Core Labs on site and it's a place you can receive training if you don't have the specific techniques that you need to carry out your research. It would be hard to find that level of top-class facilities anywhere else; let alone on your university campus."
"Also, every year you get the opportunity to attend conferences where you can meet with your peers and share your experiments and experiences with them," Labban noted.
Abbrar is of the firm belief that, thus far, her time at KAUST, and in the RSRC, has positively benefited her research career. "In the RSRC you meet regularly with other Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows. These meetings afford you the possibility to chat and learn about their techniques, which in turn may improve your own techniques. For example, in the RSRC we have regular seminars where we can share our data to gain some feedback to improve our work and improve our research experience," Labban concluded.