The Potato Beetle: Past Meets Present
We all have childhood memories of special moments that we carry through our lives. We often remember events such as summer vacations at the family cottage or skating with friends on the local pond in January. For Kristina Jurcic, her childhood memories are unique: they include potato beetles. She remembers picking these pests off her grandparents’ crops in Croatia at a time when physical labour was cheaper than insecticides. Many years later, the potato beetle has entered her life once more. Kristina says, “I would never have guessed that I’d be working with these insects again.” Yet, here she is doing just that.
Kristina is the Manager for the MALDI Mass Spectrometry Facility (MMF) in the Dept. of Biochemistry at Western. She also participates in operations of the neighbouring Functional Proteomics Facility (FPF). Both facilities are part of the London Regional Proteomics Centre that offers service and instrumentation to researchers at Western and beyond. Kristina has quite the list of things to do: scheduling of client times on facility instruments, answering client questions, instrument upkeep and repairs, and sample analysis on the MALDI-MS (mass spectrometer) and Waters MassPREP Station for Automated In-gel Digestion.
Kristina’s scientific background includes a Chemical Engineering degree from Croatia and a MSc degree in Chemistry from Western. Such expertise allows her to run facility equipment effectively; for example, a client would need a month to learn how to use the MALDI-MS correctly. In addition, Kristina possesses skills in time management, multi-tasking, organization, and of course, listening to client needs. Her expertise for fixing things even comes in handy at home: her current project involves repairing her TV. “It’s just like making repairs for the facility instruments,” she says.
So, what about potato beetles? In addition to her facility duties, Kristina also works on two research projects with Dr. Ken Yeung in the Depts. of Biochemistry and Chemistry. The first project, in collaboration with Dr. Ian Scott from Agriculture Canada, involves identification of intrinsic proteins that provide insecticide resistance for the Colorado potato beetle. Kristina takes tissue samples from the beetles (who are, thankfully, already dead) and does MS analyses. Comparison of results with those obtained from potato beetles that are sensitive to insecticides reveals key proteins linked to insecticide resistance. The challenge is to determine the role of such proteins. The second project, in collaboration with Dr. Walter Siquiera in the Depts. of Biochemistry and Dentistry, involves analyzing the phosphoprotein content of saliva samples. Yes, those spit samples are about the weirdest Kristina has ever processed during her time in the MMF.
When asked about her typical day, Kristina replies, “There is no such thing. There is always something new.” And she especially likes this feature of her job. For Kristina, each day differs, depending on client needs and sample types. Although she finds time to balance her facility duties with tasks for the research projects, Kristina says most days are very busy and sometimes, even frantic. Even though she can run 192 samples in 20 minutes with the MALDI-MS, Kristina says much time is needed to find the optimal conditions for sample analysis and to troubleshoot any problems that arise. For her, each sample differs and is, in fact, a mini-research project within itself.
If you want to find out more about the MMF and FPF (and of course, potato beetles), drop by the Biochemistry Dept. to ask Kristina. She certainly has journeyed a long way in time and distance since her childhood in Croatia. Perhaps Kristina’s children will remember her in the MMF lab with samples of potato beetles. If so, the tradition of this insect playing a role in Kristina’s family will continue.
© Lynn Weir, 2010
Facility Manager of MALDI MS Facility (MMF)
Dept. of Biochemistry - MSB 370
London, ON N6A 5C1
519-661-2111, ext 82806
1. Jurcic K, Yeung KK. Sphingomyelins as semi-permanent capillary coatings for protein separations in CE and off-line analysis with MALDI-MS. Electrophoresis. 2009 May;30(10):1817-27.
2. Nesbitt CA, Jurcic K, Yeung KK. Nanoliter-volume protein enrichment, tryptic digestion, and partial separation based on isoelectric points by CE for MALDI mass spectral analysis. Electrophoresis. 2008 Jan;29(2):466-74.
3. Jurcic K, Nesbitt CA, Yeung KK. Characterization of discontinuous buffer junctions using pH indicators in capillary electrophoresis for protein preconcentration. J Chromatogr A. 2006 Nov 17;1134(1-2):317-25.
4. Biljan T, Roncević S, Meić Z, Jurcić K, Mestrović E. Yb3+ as an origin of the strong anti-Stokes luminescence in NIR FT-Raman spectra of some lanthanide sesquioxides. Spectrochim Acta A Mol Biomol Spectrosc. 2006 Feb;63(2):501-5.
5. Biljan T, Roncevic S, Meic Z, Kovac K. Non-vibrational features in NIR FT-Raman spectra of lanthanide sesquioxides. Chemical Physics Letters. 2004;395: 246-52.
Updated by L. Weir, June 2012