Tell us about your field of research
My area of research focuses on small molecule production in microorganisms. I am using biosensors in massive mutant libraries combined in concert with FACS and Nextgen sequencing techniques to drive holistic design of metabolic pathways. This methodology will capture non-canonical pathways that affect the overproduction of valuable chemicals, usually derived from fossil fuels. In plain English, that means making useful chemicals in bacteria rather than extracting them from fossil fuels
What attracted you to synthetic biology?
One of the most amazing things I still grapple with is the central dogma of molecular biology. Four types of nucleotides, organised in codons, are translated into twenty proteinogenic amino acids that are responsible for all life on this planet. What a mind bender! Peeling back the layers of complexity involved in cellular life is absolutely fascinating. Then you let me design my own constructs to make useful products! It’s LEGO for life!
What’s the most inspiring aspect of the team you work in?
The Newcastle node is quite small yet very diverse. While we work closely together, we have the freedom to explore our own interests while engaging with a broad spectrum of topics. On top of this there is an air of giddy excitement at the journey we are on.
Surprising fact about you
In a previous life I was in a band that toured the east coast of Australia. At one of the gigs where we were supporting Rose Tattoo at the Bridge Hotel Rozelle, the drummer and the bass player got into a proper up and down blue with broken drums and guitars everywhere. Angry Anderson didn’t seem too fussed about it.
How do you describe the promise of synbio to family and friends.
I love talking to family and friends about SynBio. The first hurdle is always to level the perceived knowledge inequality. I usually tell the story of how insulin is manufactured, from there big picture concepts don’t appear so inaccessible.