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Dr. J.E. Hallsworth

Dr. John Hallsworth
Dr. John Hallsworth
Lecturer in Environmental Microbiology

BSc (Hons) Plant Biotechnology, 1990;
Imperial College Wye, University of London
PhD Fungal Stress Metabolism, 1995,
Cranfield University.


Contact Information
Tel:  +44 (0)28 9097 2314 (Direct line)
Fax:  +44 (0)28 9097 5877
Room:  Medical Biology Centre - 0B.453

Short Biography and Research Interests

John E. Hallsworth graduated in Plant Biotechnology in 1990 (Wye College, University of London, England) and received his PhD in relation to stress metabolism of entomopathogenic fungi in 1995 (Biotechnology Centre, Cranfield Institute of Technology, Cranfield, England). He completed research contracts at a number of institutions: Dow Elanco Inc. (Biochemistry Department, Fungicide Discovery Group, Oxfordshire, England), International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland), Kumamoto Institute of Technology (Department of Applied Microbial Technology, Sojo University; Kumamoto, Japan), University of Stellenbosch (Department of Microbiology, Matieland, South Africa), and University of Essex (Department of Biological Sciences, Colchester, England) until 2005 when he became a member of Faculty at Queen's University Belfast (a Russell Group University) in Northern Ireland; in the School of Biological Sciences.  Since that time he has worked on cellular stress-mechanisms and stress-responses, especially in relation to water:macromolecule interactions in fungi, yeasts, algae, bacteria and Archaea. This work has implications for microbial interactions within communities, ecosystem function, the physicochemical boundaries of the functional biosphere, and potential habitability of extraterrestrial (and other hostile) environments.

Research Activities and Achievements

JEH has discovered and characterized two of the four known types of solute stress, and corresponding cellular stress-responses, in living systems. These are chaotrope-induced (J. Ferment. Bioeng. 1998; Environ. Microbiol, 5(12): 1270-1280 and Environ. Microbiol, 5(12): 1370) and hydrocarbon-induced water stress (Microb. Biotechnol. 2010) which are both mechanistically and conceptually distinct from osmotic stress (identified and characterized in 1826) and matric stress (1977). He demonstrated a new stress-parameter which limits the functional biosphere in specific locations on Earth: chaotropicity (Environ. Microbiol. 2007  and has discovered and characterized two new ecophysiological groups of microorganisms: chaophiles (Environ. Microbiol. 2007 and Environ. Microbiol. 2009 and microbial weeds (Microb. Biotechnol. 2013). In the context of microbial-weed ecology JEH also identified and characterized the properties and ecology of open habitats of microorganisms (Microb. Biotechnol. 2013). He has identified ways in which microbial cells (and indeed biotechnologists) can manipulate their biotic windows (for growth and metabolism) in relation to diverse stress parameters (Microbiol-SGM 1995; Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 2003; Environ. Microbiol. 2009; Microb. Biotechnol. 2010; PNAS 2010).

JEH has set up a unique laboratory-based facility at Queen's University Belfast and developed associated methodologies to identify and quantify an indefinite number of microbial stress-metabolites and emulate conditions throughout Earth’s functional biosphere (water activity, chaotropicity, kosmotropicity, pressure, temperature from -50 to +150°C , etc). He uses various techniques to study in vivo responses including DNA microarrays, proteomics, analytical methods to quantify metabolites (e.g. HPLC, GC, GC-MS, NMR), analysis of growth kinetics, biophysical techniques, and macromolecular model systems. He has devised a scale to quantify chao- and kosmotropic activity of biologically relevant substances (Environ. Microbiol. 2013 ) that can be used alongside the temperature- (devised in 1742), pH- (1909), water activity- (1957), Hofmeister- (1888), and hydrophobicity-scales  (1827) in studies of cellular and biosphere function. JEH has developed other analytical and biotechnological methodologies (Microbiol-SGM 1995; J. Microbial Methods 1997J. Biotechnol. 1998; Biotechnol. Bioeng. 1999Nature, 2006; Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 2007) as well as novel frameworks for processes and principles in microbial ecology and microbial cell biology (J. Ferment. Bioeng. 1998; Environ. Microbiol. 2003 and; Environ. Microbiol. 2007; Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology 2010; Environ. Microbiol. 2013; Microb. Biotechnol. 2013).

External Activities (including Awards and Recognition)

JEH is the Guest Editor for a Special Issue of Environ. Microbiol. on 'Microbiology of Low Water-Activity Habitats' (submission deadline March 2014) and a Special Issue of Life on ‘Tenacity of Microbial Life’ (submission deadline December 2014) and has been an Environ. Microbiol. Editorial Board Member since 2009. He was awarded a Prof. B. D. Tilak Fellowship from Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT)-Mumbai in 2012 and has been an Invited Speaker at a number of meetings including International Symposium on Fungal Stress 2014 (São Paulo, Brazil); Dutch Mycology Meeting 2013 (Utrecht, The Netherlands); Astrobiology Seminar Series hosted by C. S. Cockell Director of the UK Centre for Astrobiology (2013, University of Edinburgh, Scotland); General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM 2012, San Francisco, USA); Society for General Microbiology Annual Meeting 2010 (Nottingham, England); Microbes-in-Action Seminar Series hosted by K. N. Timmis Fellow of the Royal Society (2009, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany); and Halophiles-2007 (University of Essex, Colchester, England). JEH has published work with 50 international collaborators from Japan, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Netherlands, India, France, Spain, Sweden, Zimbabwe and Greece including those relating to deep-sea microbiology (Nature 2006, Environ. Microbiol. 2007), stress induced by hydrophobic substances (Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology 2010; Microb. Biotechnol. 2010, and quantification of chao- and kosmotropicity (Environ. Microbiol. 2013). He made a Sasakawa Foundation-funded visiting-lecture tour of Japanese universities (in the Osaka-Kansai Region and Kyushu Island; 2007) and Indian University-funded and UK Research Council-funded research visits to Indian universities and research institutes in Maharastra, Rajasthan, South India, and West Bengal (2008 to present).

JEH acts as a Reviewer of articles for Science, Molec. Microbiol., Appl. Environ. Microbiol., Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol., Internat. J. Food Microbiol., J. Appl. Microbiol., Microbial Biotechnol. and other specialist journals; and Reviewer of grant proposals for various international funding bodies including the National Agency of Research (France), National Science Foundation (USA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA, USA).  He is or has been a member of focus groups for a number organisations including the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC, UK), and the Northern Periphery Programme (European Union), and NASA. One such group (San Diego, 2012) chaired by C. A. Conley (Head of Planetary Protection at NASA), was assembled to produce a Life-Detection on Mars policy-document for NASA and the European Space Agency. He is a member of the current Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) Science Analysis Group chaired by D. W. Beaty (Chief Scientist, Mars Exploration Directorate at NASA) whose remit is to review potential habitats on Mars (2013-2014; ‘Special Regions (definitions, locations, and resource relationships)’.

Current Collaborators and Affiliations

JEH’s current collaborators include I. R. Grant and D. J. Timson at Queen’s University Belfast; P. Ball  formerly Consultant Editor for Nature; N. Gunde-Cimerman at University of Ljubljana; B. Lievens at KU Leuven; N. Magan at Cranfield University; T. J. McGenity at University of Essex; A. Oren at Huji University; S. V. Patil at North Maharastra University, R. S. Singhal at ICT-Mumbai; A. Steele at Carnegie Institute for Science; K. N. Timmis Fellow of the Royal Society and M. A. Voytek Director of NASA’s Astrobiology Program. JEH is a member of the Society for General Microbiology and works with with the Global Institute for Food Microbiology; his work has implications for prevention of soil- and plant-health, soil fertility in arid regions, use of microbial agents for biological control, production of fermented foods, and prevention of food spoilage.

Life Detection on Mars joint NASA-European Space Agency meeting in San Diego, 2012

Teaching and Administration

JEH is a member of Academic Council at Queen’s University Belfast, Chairs the School of Biological Sciences Student Support Committee, has served on the School's Student-Staff Consultative Committee, and is a Founding Member of the School of Biological Science’s Bioethics Committee.  He designed, coordinates, and/or teaches on a range of modules at BSc and MSc levels at Queen's University Belfast, University of Essex, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa and (as a Guest Lecturer) at other universities.

Impacts and Funding

The work of JEH (Environ. Microbiol. 2007) was used by the International Science Council’s Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) during the previous designation of the 'Special Regions' on Mars to be targeted in future searches for life (Adv. Space Res. 2010). This work (Environ. Microbiol. 2007), and was featured by Faculty-of-1000. Other studies (PNAS, 2010) featured in AskNature 2012, as well as news articles in ScienceNOW 2010, Nature Microbiol. Revs. 2010, 2010, and ASM J. 2010. Additional impacts of his findings include enhanced efficacy of biological control for diverse insect pests (Brighton Crop Protection Conference - Pests and Diseases 1994; Microbiol-SGM 1995; Biocon. Scien. Technol 2000; Biocon. Scien. Technol 2008; Mycopathol. 2011; Environ. Microbiol. 2013 and increased ethanol tolerance and/or yields in diverse microbes (e.g. J. Biosci. Bioeng. 2002; Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 2003; Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2005; J. Scien. Indust. Res. 2009; Biores. Technol. 2010).

JEH has received research funding from the Departments for Education and Learning and Agriculture and Rural Development (Northern Ireland); BBSRC; Natural Environment Research Council (UK); the Marine Institute, Ireland; Kluyver Centre for Genomics of Industrial Fermentation, The Netherlands; and the European Union. He was a participant in the pan-European Systems Biology of Microorganisms initiative working on the Pseudomonas putida PSYMO project and is or has been involved in other collaborative cross-national projects including a number of EU projects (Exploring Genomics to Engineer an Environmentally Friendly Microorganism for Bioremediation Purposes [MIFRIEND], Eco-Genomic Survey of Microbial Diversity for Lindane Degradation: Formulation of Catalysts for Site Intervention [LINDANE], and Biotechnologies from the Deep [BIODEEP]); Biotransformation; Product Toxicity and Cofactor Regeneration (Kluyver Centre for Genomics of Industrial Fermentation, The Netherlands); and the Beaufort Marine Research Award for Marine Biodiscovery (Sea Change Strategy and the Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation, Marine Institute, Ireland). He has produced 35 published works (see Publications) which, according the Thomson Reuters Web-of-Knowledge database (October 2013), have been cited more than 800 times in peer-reviewed articles; JEH has an h-index of 17 (at November 2013) and his scientific findings feature in more than 35 specialist and educational books some of which are listed below:

Ecology and Environment

Adaption of Microbial Life to Environmental Extremes: Novel Research Results and Application  (Stan-Lotter and Fendrihan [eds.]; Springer, 2012).

Biodiversity and Ecophysiology of Yeasts: The Yeast Handbook  (Rosa and Peter [eds.]; Springer, 2006).

Ecology of Saprotrophic Basidiomycetes  (Boddy, Frankland, and van West [eds.]; British Mycological Society Symposium Series, 2008).

Environmental and Microbial Relationships, 2nd Edition  (Kubicek ‎and Druzhinina [eds.] Springer, 2007).

Extremophiles Handbook  (Horikoshi, Antranikian, Bull and Stetter [eds.]; Springer, 2011).

Halophiles and Hypersaline Environments: Current Research and Future Trends  (Antonio, Oren and Yanhe [eds.]; Springer, 2011).

Life at Extremes: Environments, Organisms and Strategies for Survival  (Bell; CABI, 2012).

Microbial Ecology of Aerial Plant Surfaces  (Bailey, Lilley, Timms-Wilson and Spencer-Phillips [eds.]; CABI, 2006).

Food and Agriculture

Beer in Health and Disease Prevention  (Preedy [ed.]; Elsevier, 2008).

Food Mycology: A Multifaceted Approach to Fungi and Food  (Dijksterhuis and Samson [eds.]; CRC Press, 2007.

Formulation of Microbial Pesticides: Beneficial Microorganisms, Nematodes and Seed Treatments  (Burges [ed.]; Springer, 1998).

Fungal Biocontrol Agents: Progress, Problems and Potential  (Butt, Jackson and Magan [eds.]; CABI BioSciences, 2001).

Fungal Biotechnology in Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Applications  (Arora [ed.]; CRC Press, 2003).

Handbook of Food Spoilage Yeasts, 2nd Edition  (Deak, CRC Press, 2007).

Membrane Technology: A Practical Guide to Membrane Technology and Applications in Food and Bioprocessing (Cui and Muraldihara [eds.]; Elsevier, 2010).

Post-Harvest Pathology  (Prusky and Gullino [eds.]; Springer, 2010)

Status of Crop Biotechnology in Sub-Saharan Africa  (Olembo, M’mboyi, Nyende, Oyugi and Ambani; African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum, 2010).

Yeasts in Food and Beverages  (Querol and Fleet [eds.]; Springer, 2006).

Water Activity in Foods: Fundamentals and Applications  (Barbosa-Cánovas, Fontana, Schmidt and Labuza [eds.]; Wiley, 2008).

Astrobiology and Fundamental Science

AskNature  (Benyus [ed.]; The Biomimicry 3.8 Institute, online resource).

Bacterial Stress Responses, 2nd Edition  (Storz and Hengge [eds.], ASM Press, 2011).

Fungal Biology  (Deacon; Wiley-Blackwell, 2005).

Life Detection Workshop  (Conley, Voytek, Kminek and Mogul [eds.]; NASA and ESA Offices of Planetary Protection, 2012).

Predictive Mycology (Panagou and Dantighy [eds.]; Nova Science Publishers Inc., in press).

Polyextremophiles: Life under Multiple Forms of Stress  of the Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology  book series (Seckbach, Oren and Stan-Lotter [eds.]; Springer, 2013).

Yeast Stress Responses  (Hohmann and Mager; Springer, 2003).

Applied Science and Techniques

Advances in Applied Microbiology Volume 85  ([Gadd and Sariaslani [eds.]; Elsevier, 2013).

Biofuels: Alternative Feedstocks and Conversion Processes  (Pandey, Larroche, Ricke, Dussap and Gnansounou [eds.]; Academic Press, 2011).

Extremophiles: Sustainable Resources and Biotechnological Implications  (Singh; Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

Fungi: Experimental Methods in Biology, 2nd Edition  (Maheshwari; CRC Press, 2011).

Handbook of Fungal Biotechnology  (Arora [ed.]; CRC Press, 2003).

Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology – Hydrocarbons, Oils and Lipids: Diversity, Properties and Formation  (Timmis, K.N. [ed.]; Springer, 2010).

Methods in Biotechnology  (Franklin and Menn [eds.]; Springer, 1998).