School of Natural and Environmental Sciences Newcastle University
Supervisor: Dr Thomas Howard
I had completed an integrated Masters in Genetics at York, due to my strong interest in genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics. Throughout my studies I enjoyed learning molecular and bioinformatic techniques, wanting to utilise both these skills in future projects. My Master’s project involved the fluorescent tagging and imaging of the E. coli transcription termination factor Rho, with subsequent image analysis to find its properties within cells. In general I enjoy the interplay of experimentation and data analysis - with each feeding into the other, forming a cycle of discovery.
Project Title: Metagenomic-enabled Discovery of the Plant Virome
My project, titled ‘Metagenomic-Enabled Discovery of the Plant Virome’, involves the study of plant viruses. Though plant viruses are known for their deleterious impacts on their hosts, we are now finding that most viruses don’t cause any known symptoms. These symptomless viruses, though greatly understudied, have much potential for novel agricultural engineering. In my project I explore the ‘plant virome’ - the total viral nucleic acid content within a plant. By use of Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS), I am looking at the cohorts of viruses that live together within individual plants, of various species, across the UK. I will then exploit this data by creating cohorts of synthetic viruses that can deliver nucleic acids and express proteins of interest in their host, expanding our ability to express whole pathways without genetic modification of the host. My CASE industrial partner, Fera Science, has much equipment and expertise in the detection of plant viruses. Fera routinely surveys plants for infection, including the use of NGS and subsequent analysis. This has made Fera a great resource for me, allowing me to expand the scope of my project.
I have attended many conferences and meetings so far in my PhD, including the IAFRI Science Conference, the Molecular Microbiology Conference, the Designer Biology Meeting, and this DTP’s own conference. These have given me much insight into greatly relevant research and techniques I had not known of, as well as feedback from others about my project, changing the whole path of my PhD.