Nicola Oates

Mining composting communities for new lignocellulose mobilising enzymes

I graduated from the University of York in 2012 with a First class degree in Biology.

I am now in the second year of my PhD based in the Centre of Novel Agricultural products (CNAP), studying compost communities for the discovery of novel lignocellulolytic enzymes for biofuel production in Neil Bruce’s group, jointly supervised by Simon Mcqueen-Mason.

Project Summary:

Oil supplies are under increasing pressure as demand for them rises, so development of a clean and renewable alternative fuel is of high importance. Biofuels, produced from plant material would be a good solution. However, before these fuels can become a credible alternative to petroleum a switch must be made away from easily accessible sugars which would otherwise be used for food or feed, to an alternative second generation feedstock – like lignocellulose rich agricultural waste. This switch is currently not economically feasible due to the high costs involved in chemical and physical pre-treatments required by the inedible biomass. The study of compost communities, by classical microbiology and next generation sequencing, aims to identify novel enzymes involved in the deconstruction of lignocellulose in the natural world that can be applied in conditions amenable to industry to reduce these costs.