I am a molecular biologist particularly interested in plant-microbe interactions and synthetic biology. Over the course of my career my aim is to apply knowledge from these fields to help contribute solutions to global issues such as food security, climate change and antibiotic resistance.
I started my studies at the University of East Anglia in 2013 on a Science Foundation year, progressing on to a BSc in Molecular Biology & Genetics and graduating in 2017. My research dissertation focused on MtrA, a transcription factor in Streptomyces linked to antibiotic synthesis and spore development.
Over the summer of 2016 I worked on the UEA’s team for that years International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM). As an interdisciplinary team of 9 undergraduates we explored applications for hydrogenase enzymes in Shewanella oneidensis, hoping to address the intermittency problem associated with renewable energy. In addition, we planned and executed multiple science communication projects, including making a molecular VR experience to showcase the system of proteins we were working with in an immersive way.
‘Understanding the symbiosis between antibiotic-producing Streptomyces bacteria and plant roots’
My research focuses on the endophyte microbiome of plant roots. Specifically, the bacteria Streptomyces, and the role they play within this community. Streptomyces are highly capable producers of a vast array of bioactive compounds and compose a significant proportion of the root endo-microbiome. One question I hope to address is whether they are using this capability to protect the host plants from pestilence or to modulate the microbial communities’ composition.
Using Arabidopsis thaliana as a model system I will explore this question using various molecular techniques including transcriptome analyses and genome editing. Overall, I want to better understand the underlying molecular mechanisms of these interactions, and their biological functions. For example, Streptomyces possess a type seven secretion system (T7SS), a homolog of this system in Staphylococcus aureus functions to kill competing bacteria. Systems such as this are possible mechanisms by which Streptomyces could modulate microbial community organisation, and I intend to explore this hypothesis experimentally.
I am also interested in exploring the extent to which plant-microbe interactions could be harnessed to augment crop productivity. Humanity will need creative innovations to meet the projected increase in global food demand, better understanding the function of endosymbiotic bacteria could yield invaluable insights and technological capabilities.
Silver medal: iGEM 2016
October 2016: iGEM competition in Boston, poster presentation and talk.
Primary: Professor Matt Hutchings (UEA)
Other relevant activities
Presented a molecular VR experience at the 2016 Norwich Science Festival and gave a short talk on synthetic biology and climate change.
Helper during a “painting with fluorescent bacteria” activity for the 2016 Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts Art & Nature Summer School.