NU doctoral student received the Daryn Prize in the Science nomination

Our guest today is Assem Ashimova, a doctoral student at the School of Sciences and Humanities studying in the Science, Engineering and Technology program. Assem became a laureate of the Daryn State Youth Prize in the Science nomination, which has been annually awarded since 1992 as state support to talented youth for fruitful scientific, creative, social activities, as well as for high sports achievements. The award includes 10 nominations in various fields: literature, science, design and visual arts, journalism, classical music, social activities, sports, theater and cinema, stage, and folk art.

 “I am from Almaty,” says Assem, “I entered the NU doctoral program in 2016. Prior to that, I graduated from the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University with a degree in Biotechnology. Starting from the 3rd year of my bachelor’s degree, I began to work at the Research Institute of Problems of Biology and Biotechnology as a laboratory assistant. Then, during the master’s studies, I worked for 2 years as a laboratory assistant at the Institute of Biology and Biotechnology of Plants, where I began to work on my own research and to conduct experiments. The topic of my master’s thesis was devoted to the study of the genetic diversity of the global oat collection. In the second year, I took a scientific internship in Japan at the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences.”

What topic is your doctoral dissertation devoted to?

The topic of my doctoral dissertation is “Delivery of monoclonal antibodies from microencapsulated stem cells”. My scientific supervisor is Dr. Gonzalo Hortelano, professor at NU’s School of Sciences and Humanities and Principal Investigator of the Molecular Therapy Laboratory. My research interests include such areas as gene therapy, immunobiology, biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, and cell encapsulation.

 Which of your projects was presented for the Daryn Prize?

I applied for the Daryn Prize in August 2020. The application included all my scientific achievements and works. But the most important accomplishment was the project of my doctoral work. It focuses on the use of cell encapsulation in the treatment of cancer and other autoimmune diseases. To achieve my research goals, I used various molecular techniques on cell lines and model organisms. Last year, my colleagues and I published an article entitled “Encapsulation of Cells Inside Alginate Microcapsules: Immunological Barriers and Perspectives” in the international scientific journal “Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology”. By now, some of the results of the experiments are already available, and now I have begun the process of analyzing the data obtained.

What led you to pursue a career in science? Tell us about your plans and goals.

Since childhood, I liked to observe the environment around me, it was interesting to study biology. Therefore, when the time came to choose a profession, I did not hesitate long. I really wanted my work to be able to benefit people and help protect the environment. It is important that my choice of profession and the direction of my future activities were supported by my parents, who from childhood taught me to be hardworking and responsible. Their faith in me and support has always been an important factor in motivating me to move forward, work hard and strive for new heights. One of my life principles is to strive for “lifelong education”. And this is exactly what scientific activity gives because when you are engaged in science, you are constantly learning something new and it is always interesting and informative. Therefore, in the future, I want to continue my path in science, engage in new projects, make new discoveries.

 What did NU give you? Was the training easy for you?

For me, Nazarbayev University is a unique place. I learned a lot here. I believe that NU provides the main things any scientist needs such as a highly competitive scientific and academic environment, contact with highly qualified scientists and professors, and modern laboratories that are fully equipped. All this provides great opportunities for the continued development of students, teaching staff and research workers.  Additionally, studying at NU requires constant concentration and for students to develop responsibility by completing assignments on time with high quality.

Your wishes/recommendations for future doctoral students.

I would recommend that future doctoral students pick their research focus based on own interests – what they “have a passion for” –  and where they will constantly yearn to learn something new and continue to study. Because in moments when they will want to give up everything, it is a great desire and love for the topic that will help them to continue. In addition, one of the main motivators is the scientific supervisor. I am very grateful to my supervisor for his constant support and advice. I wish all future doctoral students great success in their endeavors!


We would like to congratulate Assem on the fact that she became the winner of the Daryn Prize! The NU community wishes her success in her hard work, successful completion of her doctoral dissertation and new achievements!