Thomas Hamer

Molecular localisation of Staphylococus aureus surface proteins

About me

I left school before starting my A-levels to work full time as a bereavement counsellor. I worked as a counsellor for four years before deciding to go to university to study biology. Without A-levels, I studied a year-long foundaton course in science at the University of South Wales that, upon passing, allowed me to enrol on any science course within USW. I chose the Bsc. Biology, where my final year research project was spent investigating the prevalence of antibiotic resistance in waste water influent and effluent.
After graduating, I studied an Msc. Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham, under the Institute of Microbiology and Infection, where I graduated with Distinction. My research at UoB involved using murine marophages, murine dendritic cells, and human gastric epithelial cell lines as models of infetion with Helicobacter pylori and Actinomyces oris

My project

My PhD project involves genetic engineering, molecular microbiology, biotechnology, and biophysics to elucidate the molecular localisation of a group of surface proteins on Staphylococcus aureus’ cell wall. S. aureus is a bacterium that is capable of causing serious diseases, such as pneumonia, meningitis, and bacteraemia. Recent work using Atomic force Microscopy has shown that the Gram-positive cell wall of S. aureus is more intricate and complicated that previously thought: the mature cell wall is a mesh-like porous material, while nascent cell wall assembled at the division septum is formed in a ring-like structure.
This new information raises many questions: where are the surface proteins? Are they secreted at the division septum and subsequently dispersed across the cell wall? Alternatively, do they have discrete secretion sites in the mature cell wall? Understanding the molecular localisation of S. aureus’ surface proteins is crucial in understanding the mechanisms that underpin infection.
I am using a mutated human DNA repair enzyme fused to my proteins of interest (clfA, isdA, isdB and protein A) as a molecular reporter. This will allow me to visualise my proteins of interest on the cell’s surface through both fluorescence and physical super resolution techniques – Stochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscopy and Atomic force Microscopy, respectively.


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