Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Congratulations Dr Deepa Varkey

I have a bit of a massive backlog of stuff to blog about, so let me combine 3 posts into one. Congratulations are due to Deepa Varkey for:
1. finishing her PhD on temperature adaptation of marine cyanobacteria
2. getting a postdoc position at the c3 Institute at UTS working with Peter Ralph and Justin Seymour.
3. publishing her first big paper in the ISME journal on the effects of low temperature on tropical and temperate isolates of the marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus. Deepa also won an award for this paper from the Biomolecular Frontiers Research Centre for the best paper by an early career researcher in the Centre in 2015.

Good luck with the new job Deepa, we'll miss you here (and don't forget about writing up the other manuscripts from your PhD for publication!)

Monday, 4 April 2016

Synthetic Biology Cutting Edge Symposium

I succeeded in getting out of bed at 4.40 am this morning (a minor miracle), in order to catch an early morning flight from Sydney to Canberra. Fortunately everything ran smoothly, and I managed to make it in time to the Synthetic Biology Cutting Edge Symposium which was being held at the War Memorial in Canberra. I don't think I've been to the War Memorial since I was five years old, and its clearly changed since there's no longer a Japanese Miniature Submarine out the front. Anyway, I had no time to actually visit any of the exhibits, as I was giving a talk on "Yeast 2.0 and Beyond" at the first session in the Symposium.

I very much enjoyed todays talks. Joel Cherry from Amyris gave a mind blowing talk about their progress on making industrial biochemicals using yeast, the scale of the syn bio capabilities with robotic platforms was very impressive. Jane Calvert from Edinburgh gave a very interesting talk on using social sciences to study synthetic biology. And Siouxsie Wiles gave a cool talk on using animation, movies, social media and a wide variety of other tools for public outreach of her science.

Unfortunately, I had to leave this afternoon to return home for carer duties, so I'll miss the rest of the symposium.

The War Memorial, interesting place for a scientific conference, first time I've ever given a talk with two Australian flags flying behind me. If there were another 7 or so I could have imagined I was Tony Abbott.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

JAMS Turns Five

Yesterday was the JAMS (Joint Academic Microbiology Seminars) Annual Symposium and Dinner at the Australian Museum. This represents the fifth birthday of JAMS, not bad for an idea that originated in a pub discussion with Federico Lauro, Mike Manefield, Andy Holmes and myself. JAMS also had a record turnout with 122 attendees.
Once again there was an excellent array of speakers in the afternoon session. Gene Tyson from the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics gave a fantastic talk on novel methanogens (methane-producing bacteria) in diverse environments including melting permafrost in Scandinavia and Australian coal deposits. John Zehr from the University of California at Santa Cruz gave a fascinating presentation on identifying novel nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria in the ocean that live in symbiosis with eukaryotic plankton. I very much enjoyed Mark Schembri's talk analyzing the reasons for the global success of the urinary tract pathogen E. coli ST131.

I was unable to attend the dinner this year as I had carer duties at home, but congratulations are due to Hasinika Ariyatne in my group who won the prize for Best Poster.

Not those sort of JAMS

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Gavin Thomas visit

We're currently hosting Dr Gavin Thomas from the University of York, who is out here for a sabbatical visit for a few weeks. Gavin and I first crossed paths back in 2000, when I was a new faculty member at TIGR, and he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK. Gavin invited me over to give a seminar and I stayed for a few days and was shown round the local tourist-y spots, I remember visiting swamps and historic houses.

Gavin and I have shared a long term interest in transporters- proteins that move nutrients, ions, toxic compounds, etc into or out of cells; and both of us have been using a mixture of computational and wet lab approaches to characterize novel types of transporters. While he is here we are collaborating on refining computational approaches for identifying the substrates of transporters.

Gavin from his University of York web page

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Happy New Year

Hi all!
No, my blog isn't defunct. I apologise for no postings for three months, but I've been away on leave for most of that time dealing with a family medical emergency. Hopefully, I can now start to catch up with my backlog of blogging (and everything else).
Happy New Year to everyone,


Monday, 19 October 2015

Congratulations Macquarie iGEM team!

Well I'm a couple of weeks behind on this news, so much for the immediacy of blogging. Anyway, great news from the Macquarie iGEM student team, who have been in Boston to compete at the 2015 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Jamboree. This is an international synthetic biology competition with student teams from 280 universities around the world. Last year I went along with our team as an advisor and watched them win a gold medal.

The 2015 Macquarie iGEM team has done even better than last year's team. They won a gold medal for their project "Solar Synthesisers", plus they were runner up for the Best Energy Project and were finalists for the Best Basic New Part and Best Model. Fantastic job! Congratulations to all of the medal and prize winners at the 2015 iGEM Jamboree, full results here. Great to see other Australian teams competing, with UNSW, University of Sydney and ANU also successful at IGEM.

The 2015 Macquarie IGEM team with their poster in Boston

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

On the Channel 7 news

Last week I was interviewed by Dr Andrew Rochford for the Channel 7 nightly news. It was an interesting experience being interviewed for 20-30 minutes and then seeing which ten words they decided to show on the TV. The news piece went to air Monday night on the 6 pm news, and was about NutriKane D, a medical food derived from sugarcane. As part of the ARC-funded Training Centre for Molecular Technology in the Food Industry, we have been undertaking research on the effects of NutriKane D on the human gut microbiome (the collection of microorganisms that live in our digestive tracts).

Turns out the 10 words they did include from me on the 7 News had nothing to do with any of our actual research here, but at least the microbiome work got a mention latter in the news item. There's also film of my PhD student Hasinaka and myself in the lab.

NutriKane D- I've actually been taking myself for the last few weeks, combining half a packet with yoghurt each night. Anecdotally, it seems to be doing good things for my digestive system.