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|2014 - present||CNAP Director||Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), Department of Biology, University of York|
|2001 - 2013||Chair in Materials Biology||Centre for Novel Agricultural Products, Department of Biology, University of York|
|1994 - 2002||Royal Society University Research Fellow||Department of Biology, University of York|
|1993 - 1994||Post-doctoral Research Assistant||The Pennsylvania State University|
|1993||PhD (Plant Physiology)||The Pennsylvania State University|
|1987||BSc Biology (CNAA) Honours (1st Class)||Portsmouth Polytechnic School of Biological Sciences|
Research encompasses various aspects of plant cell wall biology. The cell wall plays a key role in the control of plant growth and morphogenesis by regulating the rates of cell expansion through changes in extensibility. Plant cell wall extensibility is under dynamic control and the molecular mechanisms underlying extension are a major research interest. Expansins are key proteins that regulate cell wall extensibility and we study these proteins at the level of biochemistry and molecular genetics. The cell wall is a complex fibre composite material composed of a range of different polysaccharides. We study the contribution of different matrix polysaccharides to cell wall extensibility and elasticity, as well as the genes and enzymes involved in their biosynthesis.
Plant biomass is one of the greatest reserves of fixed carbon on the planet, is viewed as a potential replacement for fossil fuels, and is largely composed of cell walls. We are using our knowledge of cell walls to advance the development of second generation liquid biofuels from plant biomass in three distinct areas. Firstly, we are coordinating a large international project, which aims to optimise plant cell walls for biofuel applications by making them more readily converted into fermentable sugars for alcohol production. Secondly, we have initiated a major programme for the discovery of novel enzymes for converting plant biomass into fermentable sugars. Finally, we are investigating the production of liquid biofuels from plant biomass from municipal waste.
|Research Team Leader||Dr. Leonardo Gomez||
|LBNet Manager||Dr. Veronica Ongaro||LBNet|
|Sunlibb Manager||Dr Anne Readshaw||SUNLIBB Research|
|Technical Specialist/Lab Manager||Dr Clare Steele-King||Learning from marine wood borers.|
|Post Doctoral Researcher||Dr. Katrin Besser||Learning from marine wood borers|
|Post Doctoral Researcher||Dr. Alexandra Lanot||Multihemp: Multipurpose hemp for industrial bioproducts and biomass.|
|Post Doctoral Researcher||Dr. Laura Faas||Identification and analysis of putative protective protein gene homologues.|
|Post Doctoral Researcher||Dr Federico Sabbadin||Learning from marine wood borers.|
|PhD student||Caragh Whitehead||Using QTL mapping of Brachypodium distachyon to understand the genetic basis of grass cell wall saccharification.|
|PhD student||Poppy Marriott||Identifying novel genes to improve lignocellulosic biomass for the production of bioethanol.|
|PhD student||Lynda Sainty||
Anaerobic digestion of low-input upland grasslands.
|PhD student||Nurashikin Ihsan||Targeted analysis of lignocellulolytic secretomes-a new approach to enzyme discovery.|
|Senior Technician||Rachael Simister||SUNLIBB|
|Senior Technician||Luisa Elias||Learning from marine wood borers.|
|Research Administrator||Julia Crawford|
Molecular Genetics of Silica Biology in Plants (2014-15)
All plants obtain silicon during normal growth, and accumulate it to different levels depending on species and environment. Si has been shown to have benefits for crop productivity and pathogen defence, and the importance of Si varies between species, with some crops such as rice being highly dependent on this element for normal growth and productivity, and others having little dependence. As well as having agricultural importance, Si can be a confounding factor in a number of industrial applications of plant biomass. For example, cereal straw Si content can render it unsuitable for combustion and co-firing for power generation, and also impairs the production of full value during biorefining. Despite the impacts of Si in agriculture and bioenergy and biorefining, knowledge of Si biology in plants and the regulation of Si accumulation is not well understood. We have been studying Si accumulation in the model grass Brachypodium distachyon and identified a number of mutants with altered acquisition. This project will involve identifying the underlying gene mutations responsible for altered Si and studying the mutant plants to understand the biology of Si in these plants.