Life is based on water: my research interests relate to the structure and function of cellular systems, biological macromolecules and ecosystems in relation to their dependence on the availability and behaviour of water:
Applied / Industrial
Cellular life is based on water, and any dissolved substance or change in environmental conditions can potentially affect the behaviour of water molecules and thereby impact on water:biological macromolecule interactions. My research focuses on microbial responses and adaptations to stress and toxic solutes, in both environmental microbes and those used in biotechnologies. Recently, we studied the stress effects of low molecular weight solutes that decrease water:water and water:macromolecule interactions, but readily penetrate lipid bilayers and do not affect cell turgor. We found that chaotropic compounds, including common environmental pollutants and agrochemicals, induce a novel class of cellular stress: non-osmotic water stress, and destabilization of cellular macromolecules. Characterization of genomic responses to such compounds revealed the up-regulation of diverse macromolecule protection systems. These results challenge the idea that cellular water stress necessarily involves osmotic (turgor) changes. This work has been applied to a number of microbial studies, including bioremediation of soil pollutants (MIFRIEND and LINDANE), salt stress and ecology of microbes in hypersaline deep-sea basins (BIODEEP), solvent stress during biocatalysis (Kluyver Centre), and (PSYSMO)." We use various techniques to study in vivo responses including DNA microarrays, proteomics, analytical methods (e.g. HPLC, GC, GC-MS, NMR), analysis of growth kinetics, and macromolecule model systems.
Vacancies and opportunities to join Environmental Microbiology at Queen's
We welcome any enquiries from research students or staff who are interested in working in the area of environmental microbiology. Possible areas for future projects include: