Middle East Connection 

Darren Griffin and PhD student Becky O’Connor visited the University of Sharjah and the Central Veterinary Laboratory in Dubai in both December 2014 and February 2015. The purpose of the visit was to cement growing research links and introduce a novel and inspiring strand to their educational provision.

The Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL) is a Government diagnostic centre for the diagnosis, prevention, control and eradication of animal disease. They provide diagnostic testing for several animal species (e.g. camels, horses, falcons, cattle, small ruminants, avian, fish, bees, zoo and pet animals) to vets and pet owners. They also perform pre-import testing to prevent the introduction of exotic animal diseases and perform basic research on particular species of interest. On this topic the Griffin lab has been very interested in the genetics and evolution of falcons. Becky and Darren came to Dubai to support the work of Kent-registered PhD student Sunitha Joseph. In a short time, several successful experiments were performed on comparative genomics in birds. Becky and Darren presented their work on avian evolution and also spoke of their work on the evolution of dinosaurs. Darren has been visiting CVRL for 8 years and this has led to the successful completion of 2 Kent-registered PhD students Dr Motassem Ismail and Dr Abdullah Al Mutery – now on the academic faculty of the University of Sharjah.

The University of Sharjah has a stated ambition to be among the leading universities in the Arab World. It offers comprehensive academic and professional programs aiming for a distinctive style of learning that engages and prepares students for leadership roles in society. Its mission statement mentions being committed to providing its students with an education and learning experience of the highest quality, offering a comprehensive platform of academic and professional programs; promoting the personal, social, academic, and career growth of all students. They also spire to add to human knowledge; contribute to the cultural, social and economic progress of society while preserving fostering and promoting the Arab and Islamic culture, heritage and history. The University has about 1200 students and 500 faculty members across 13 different colleges. While in Sharjah Darren spoke of his work on preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and gave a lecture on the Chromosomes, disease, gene mapping and evolution. Becky ran a practical class based on the detection of chicken chromosomes (this was using a newly developed product that Darren’s lab has made in conjunction with Cytocell Ltd) and the student cohort went back to CVRL to do the analysis.

All students reported an amazing experience and, while at CVRL, that tackled Darren’s “KaryoLab” programme which teaches them how to analyse chromosomes.

Becky O’Connor (left), Dr Abdullah Al Mutery (front centre) with the Sharjah student cohort outside CVRL. Dubai Emirates Towers in the background.


 Becky displaying her multi-tasking skills in a Sharjah practical class.

Sharjah Uni