I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of York, graduating with an integrated masters in Biology. During these four years, it was demonstrated to me that good multi-disciplinary science can result in clear social benefits. This concept was reinforced during an internship as a remediation technician for heavily polluted land in London, and also during a conservation research assistant role to evaluate the influence of human activity on animal populations in the Amazon rainforest.
During my final year of study, my general interest in how life works changed to become focused on the translation of fundamental biology into solutions for real world issues. It was work with the extremophillic alga Galdieria sulphuraria in the lab of Professor Seth Davis that sparked my interest in enzyme discovery from interesting corners of nature and that led me to my current PhD project.
As dependence on unsustainable petroleum reserves declines and the effect that burning them has on the environment becomes more widely accepted, a global movement away from unsustainable fossil fuels is growing. Previously, first-generation biofuels took advantage of the easily accessible carbon in edible components of staple food crops to produce fuel. However the increasing demand for food for the growing population raises serious ethical concerns about the use of water, energy and land for fuel instead of food production. The answer could instead lie with lignocellulosic biomass from the waste components of staple food crops that are available in vast amounts at relatively low cost and do not face the ethical issues of first-generation biofuels.
My project aims to mine the genome of the wood degrading ascomyscete Parascedosporium putredinis NO1 for novel lignocellulose degrading enzymes while elucidating the mechanisms of lignocellulose breakdown. These enzymes have the potential to improve the conversion efficiencies of the conventional enzyme cocktails used in biofuel production and other industrial processes. A better understanding of biological lignocellulose breakdown and identification of the enzymes involved has the potential to aid the development of a renewable and sustainable process for the production of liquid fuel.