Primary Supervisor: Prof Thomas Mock
I obtained a degree in marine biology from the University of Groningen where I was working on different projects ranging from marine viruses, organic matter fluxes and anti-freeze proteins in polar diatoms. During my undergraduate and graduate studies I develop a high interest in marine phytoplankton with focus on diatoms. I am currently a PhD candidate investigating the physiological and molecular long-term thermal adaptation mechanisms of two model diatoms with relations to ocean warming and climate change.
In addition to work completed as part of my PhD project, I am also participating in an international metatranscriptome and –genome project investigating phytoplankton diversity and function in the Atlantic Ocean. For this, samples have been taken a long a temperature gradient onboard the Polarstern, a German research vessel. From these samples RNA and DNA has been isolated and is getting sequenced at the Joint Genome Insitute (USA). The gained metagenom and –transcriptom data will later be correlated to abiotic factors.
Experimental evolution; phytoplankton physiology and ecology; ocean warming; algal genomics; biological oceanography.
Dr. Katrin Schmidt is director of Blue Sci Consulting.
Primary supervisor: Dr. Nikolai Pedentchouk
Secondary supervisor: Prof. Thomas Mock
Supervisor at SUSTech (China): Dr. Xinxin Li
I have received my MSc in Marine Biology at the Tongji University (China), where I studied membrane lipids of deep sea Archaea (glycerol dialkyl glycerol tetraether). In my masters project, I was applying organic geochemistry methods to identify the differential archaeal carbon molecules. In my Ph.D. project at UEA and SUSTech, I will study is sea-ice dynamics in the Holocene using algal biomarkers. This is a splite-site Ph.D. programme between University of East Anglia (UEA) and Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech). I am going to culture sea-ice algae under different conditions in the laboratory, extract specific organic molecules and determine their stable isotope characteristics of both natural and cultured sea-ice algal biomarkers.
Simin Gao currently works as a PostDoc in the group of Sinead Collins (University of Edinburgh)
Dr. Maria Luisa Sánchez Montes
I am a climate and environmental scientist specialised in biogeochemical and geochemical analyses. In Prof. Thomas Mock’s lab I will be conducing modern sea-ice culturing experiments to understanding their chemical fingerprints (highly branched isoprenoids (HBIs) and HBI-specific stable isotopes) and use them for novel past sea-ice dynamic assessment. This project is done in collaboration with the University of Plymouth and funded by the Leverhulme Trust.
Before joining Thomas’ lab, I was a Researcher at Durham University reconstructing past climates and environments at different locations around the globe. In 2018 I was awarded a PhD in ice sheet-ocean-climate interactions from Durham University, UK. My PhD focussed on lipid biomarker and stable isotope analyses of marine sediments from the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 341 to the Gulf of Alaska to understand the onset and evolution of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet and associated mechanisms of glaciation.
Sánchez-Montes, M. L., McClymont, E. L., Lloyd, J. M., Müller, J., Cowan, E. A., and Zorzi, C.: Late Pliocene Cordilleran Ice Sheet development with warm Northeast Pacific sea surface temperatures, Climate Past Discussions, https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2019-29
Dr. Maria Luisa Sánchez Montes currently works as a PostDoc at the University of Colorado Boulder (USA) in the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research.
Dr Irina Grouneva
Diatoms have been the main focus of my research for more than ten years. My areas of expertise are physiology, proteomics and molecular biology. I obtained my PhD in Biology at the University of Leipzig, Germany in 2009 and went on to work as a postdoc in the group of Prof. Eva-Mari Aro at the University of Turku, Finland for six years. I moved to Norwich in April 2016 to start work on an exciting new project on gene editing of the ice diatom Fragilariopsis cylindrus in the lab of Professor Thomas Mock at the University of East Anglia (UEA). The objective is to establish the recently developed CRISPR/Cas-mediated gene editing tool in this diatom species. The novelty of this approach lies with the possibility to generate complete knockouts for specific target genes, something that has not been possible in diatoms previously. F. cylindrus is the first fully sequenced psychrophilic eukaryote and can therefore provide invaluable insights into cold-adaptation of eukaryotic photosynthesis.
Diatoms, photosynthesis regulation, light harvesting, proteomics.
Currently, Irina is Lab Study Co-ordinator at University of Sheffield
Dr Andrew Curson
Senior Research Associate
I obtained my undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics at the University of East Anglia. During my degree, I became interested in molecular microbiology and did my PhD on the molecular genetic aspects of iron uptake in the nitrogen-fixing bacterium Rhizobium leguminosarum, in Professor Andrew (Andy) Johnston's group in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia. Since completing my PhD, my post-doctoral research has been focussed on the molecular and biochemical analysis of the genes and proteins involved in the bacterial catabolism of dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) and production of dimethyl sulphide (DMS). DMS is an influential marine gas, with a key role in the marine sulphur cycle and potentially in climate control, through its effect on cloud formation. My current project, working in the groups of Dr Jonathan Todd and Professor Thomas Mock, is to investigate the pathway for DMSP synthesis in marine diatoms. This should allow us to identify the genes required for DMSP synthesis and the function of DMSP in this important group of marine phytoplankton, and possibly in other DMSP-producing organisms.
Currently, Andrew is a Senior Research Associate in the School of Biology at UEA.
Dr Amy Kirkham
Post Doctoral Researcher
I obtained my degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Exeter, and my Ph.D., investigating the distribution and diversity of eukaryotic picophytoplankton using molecular techniques, at the University of Warwick (Group of Prof. David Scanlan). I have since worked, as a post-doctoral researcher, on the application of molecular techniques to DNA preserved in sediments, in order to characterise historic lake communities. Following this work, I was eager to move into the field of functional genetics. Understanding the genetic basis of diatoms' unique silica shell construction has great potential for explaining the evolutionary success of this hugely abundant and diverse group. Furthermore, this understanding may have significant application in nanotechnology. Knock-down of genes involved in making silica cell walls is expected to result in recognisable phenotypic differences between transformed and wild-type cell lines. Starting with a short-term EMBO fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Angela Falciatore (Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris) to establish RNA interference mediated gene knock-down in Thalassiosira pseudonana, my project aims to characterise a suite of silica responsive genes whose function is currently unknown. This approach will reveal how these unique and intricate shell structures are formed..
Currently, Amy is a research technician (ERC funded) in the group of Dr. Laura Lehtovirta-Morley (UEA).
I obtained a first class degree in Analytical Sciences from the University of Coventry. During these studies I concentrated on environmental and industrial chemistry. I am currently a second year PhD student at the University of East Anglia under the supervision of Dr Jonathan Todd and Professor Thomas Mock. My PhD project is focused on the application of molecular genetics and biochemistry to study enzymes known generically as "DMSP lyases" that exist within marine bacteria and the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi. These DMSP lyases function to cleave the abundant algal sulfonium osmolyte dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) generating the volitile dimethysulfide (DMS). The gaseous product of this reaction has important roles in the global sulfur cycle, chemoattraction in organisms ranging from bacteria to penguins and potentially in regulating both the local and global climate.
Currently, Dr. Simone Payne is a research technician at UEA.
Before my PhD I obtained a BSc in Biochemistry and MRes in Systems & Synthetic Biology at Imperial College London, which sparked my interest in using a systematic rational approach to biological engineering in order to carry out projects with "real-world" applications. My PhD research, carried out at Rothamsted Research in collaboration with UEA under the supervision of Professor Johnathan Napier, Dr. Olga Sayanova (Rothamsted Research) and Professor Thomas Mock, is based on using such an approach combined with metabolic engineering to enhance the production of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in marine microbes, which are the primary producers of omega-3 fatty acids (FAs). Omega-3 FAs are vital to human health, and the project aims to find a sustainable way to produce a high level of these, along the way learning more about the molecular biology of diatoms and developing tools in which to work with them.
Currently, Dr. Vaezi is an Innovation Associate at IXC UK Limited
I have been interested in the field of Computational Biology since my degree in Applied Computer Science with Ecology, at the University of East Anglia. The degree included a third year project on simulating the evolution of a plant population. I followed this with a Masters in Computational Biology, which concluded with a project analysing the quality of automatic gene annotations. My PhD is focused on investigating the presense and evolutionary relationships of small RNAs within two different diatoms: Thalossiosira pseudonana & Fragilariopsis cylindrus, and a Coccolithophore, Emiliania huxelyi.
Small RNA Analysis; Microalgae genomics; Molecular evolution.
Currently, Matt is a Principle Data Scientist at Raytheon UK
I obtained my Bachelors degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Heidelberg, Germany. During that time I did an exchange year to Canada, where I wrote my Bachelor thesis under supervision of Prof. Dr. Jonathan Newman (Canada) and Prof. Dr. Ursula Kummer (Germany). I created a mathematical model including the interactions between the fungus Neotyphodium coenophialum with the grass Schedonorus arundinaceus. With the help of the model, I worked on identifying costs and benefits of the fungus to know more about this mutualistic symbiosis.
I have always had a broad interest in system biology, biochemistry and also ecology, especially when it comes to interactions and feedbacks between the biotic and abiotic environment. In order to gain a more systematic and global viewpoint on interactions, I started my master degree in climate change at the University of East Anglia. This sparked my interest in studying the molecular biology of diatoms, which play a crucial role in the wider climate system. For my Masters thesis in the Mock-Lab, I will therefore try to make the method of ribosome profiling applicable to diatoms, in order to learn more about their adaptation to different environments by observing their gene regulation on a translational level.
Annemarie Eckes-Shephard currently works as a PostDoc at Lund University (Sweden).
Dr Jan Strauss
Senior Research Associate
I obtained a German diploma degree in Biological Sciences (2008) from the University of Rostock, Germany, and a Ph.D. (2013) from the University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich, UK, investigating the genome and transcriptome of the sea ice microalga Fragilariopsis cylindrus. During my studies I developed a high interest in the science at the interface of genetics and biological oceanography and my research interest is in the unique and diverse biology of globally important marine microalgae (phytoplankton). I am applying genomics-enabled tools (e.g. genome and transcriptome sequencing, RNA-seq, qRT-PCR, genetic transformation) in combination with biochemical approaches (e.g. Western blot, protein assays) to understand the biology of marine phytoplankton and elucidate the molecular underpinnings of their adaptation to marine environments. Since finishing my Ph.D., I have been working, as a research technician, on investigating the physiological role of the abundant sulfur compound dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) in marine phytoplankton. In my current research, as postdoctoral fellow at the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA Norwich, I am investigating the global significance of light-driven rhodopsin proton pumps in eukaryotic marine phytoplankton.
Marine genomics; environmental and functional genomics; adaptation to low temperature and nutrients; polar biology; biological oceanography.
Jan has become staff scientist at GEOMAR, Kiel, Germany.
Developing a CRISPR-Cas system in diatoms for genetic engineering
As part of a larger team and in collaboration with Prof. Sophien Kamoun's team at The Sainsbury Laboratory, I will create a construct to allow development of a CRIPSR-Cas type II system for genetic engineering of the model diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana. CRISPR-Cas is a RNA-guided endonuclease system, which induces double strand breaks (DSB) in target DNA, allowing repair mechanisms that induce mutations (Non-homologous end joining) and gene exchange (HR) to be employed. It is a powerful system with applications across multiple fields.
Dr Barbara (Bobbie) Lyon
NSF Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
I obtained my Bachelor of Sciences degree at Arizona State University and afterwards worked for the U.S. National Ocean Services in Charleston, South Carolina, on a highly collaborative marine mammal health assessment project where I helped examine antibiotic resistance in bottlenose dolphin populations. When I returned to school to obtain my PhD in molecular and cellular biology in the Marine Biomedicine & Environmental Sciences program at the Medical University in South Carolina I began my studies on eukaryotic phytoplankton physiology. I obtained my degree in the labs of Drs. Jack DiTullio and Micheal Janech studying the sea-ice diatom Fragilariopsis cylindrus. Sea-ice algae thrive under extreme conditions, overcoming freezing temperatures that form internal ice crystals, shut-down metabolic activity, and create cell-wide oxidative stress in most organisms; but they also synthesize a sulfur compound, DMSP, that is believed to help mitigate cellular damage through its proposed antioxidant, antifreeze, and salt buffering properties. Other marine algae and salt tolerant plants also produce large amounts of this potentially important anti-stress compound which has more than 10 proposed physiologically functions. To date, the specific enzymes controlling DMSP synthesis remain unknown which prevents studies to determine the exact function(s) of DMSP production. To overcome this critical gap in knowledge protein changes associated with DMSP increases were examined in sea-ice algae and advanced protein identification techniques were used to identify candidate DMSP synthesis genes. Molecular genetic techniques are now being applied to confirm their role in DMSP synthesis and finally provide unequivocal evidence for the physiological functions of DMSP. Furthermore, algal DMSP production has global impacts on climate and biogeochemical cycles so understanding biological production is fundamental to understanding and predicting climate and biogeochemical cycles.
Graduate Student Intern
Martin obtained his bachelor degree in Biological Sciences (majors: Microbiology, Ecology) at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany. In the context of my bachelor thesis I performed an immunological analysis of guttation fluid of Bacillus thuringiensis maize for the presence of Cry1Ab protein (Group of Prof. Steffan-Dewenter). During my masters I was involved in a NGS database project focusing on the transcriptional gene expression of the marine sponge associated candidate phylum Poribacteria (Group of Prof Hentschel Humeida). During my internship between September and December 2013 at the University of East Anglia (UEA) I worked with phytoplankton samples originating from a cruise to the Arctic Ocean. My aim was to isolate and identify different species out of these samples using methods for isolation like Single-Cell Isolation by Micropipette, Single Cell Sorting and Plating and methods for identification like 18srRNA sequencing, light microscopy and flow cytometry.
Bioinformatics; Microbial Ecology; Plant-Microbe Interactions
Currently, Martin is at Oxford University as a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Foster lab.
Lian worked on establishing a protocol for chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) in the marine diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana and other diatoms.
Professor Lian Ma, College of Life Science, Yangtze University, 88 Jingmi Road, Jingzhou, Hubei, P. R. China.
Before coming to UEA I studied and later worked as a research assistant in the Faculty of Biology at the University of Warsaw, Poland; where I looked at how the environment influences the behaviour and life history of fresh water zooplankton via, physiological pathways, using Daphnia as a model organism. During my undergraduate studies I became interested in hardcore theoretical ecology and later simultaneously studied biology and Computational Methods of Physics in the Faculty of Physics, UW, Polnad.
As a Ph.D. student in the School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia; I looked into how to build simple and fast, yet representative models of the genetic evolution of the prokaryotes. Previously I was focused on the problem of genome streamlining.
I used to be a member of The Earth System Modelling Group led by Professor Tim Lenton; and work with Professor Thomas Mock.
Currently I work at the University of Warsaw, Poland.
Theoretical fundamentals of evolution; impact of the biosphere on earth systems; linking theoretical and experimental ecology; pray-predator interactions; mathematical models as way to discover the world.
Currently, Dr. Bentkowski is a Research Fellow at the University of Warsaw, Poland.
I became interested in the application of genomics to investigate the marine environment during my undergraduate degree in Marine Biology with Oceanography at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), University of Southampton. I went on to continue with my studies at the NOC carrying out a Masters of Research studying the functional role of Phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase in the coccolithophorid Emiliania huxleyi. Once completed I worked as a technician within the Plant Membrane Transporters lab of Lorraine Williams, University of Southampton supporting molecular work involved in the EU funded PHIME (Public health impact of long-term, low-level mixed element exposure in susceptible population strata) project. Using cloning methods I worked analysing the role of heavy metal transporters of Barley.
I am previously investigated the role of an unknown DNA binding protein in T. pseudonana potentially involved in growth. I utilised overexpression mutants of T. Pseudonana and analysed whole genome expression to identify gene networks associated to this unknown protein.
Biogeochemical cycling in the ocean; Algal genomics and proteomics; Gene networks; Developing molecular tools with diatoms
Currently, Dr. Hipkin is senior strategic account manager at Oxford Nanopore Technologies.
I am an undergraduate student at the University of East Anglia studying Environmental Sciences and am currently doing my dissertation under the supervision of Professor Thomas Mock. For this, I am looking at cadmium toxicity on different strains of the diatom Phaeodactylum Tricornutum. I am enjoying getting to know more about the species, as well as working and observing the research in the laboratory and learning more about such an important group like diatoms in general.
Clara Martinez Perez
I am an Erasmus student from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (UAM), Spain, studying my final year of Undergraduate in Biology at UEA. My experience in a summer program at the Microbial Ecology laboratory at the Centre of Advanced studies in Blanes (CEAB, CSIC), Spain, where I worked in microbial biodiversity in alpine lakes, encouraged me to do my final year project in marine microbiology. My project is a side project to Jan Strauss PhD thesis, in which I am studying the distribution of the bacteria-like rodopsin gene found in Fragilariopsis cylindrus in marine eukaryotic phytoplankton.
Currently, Dr. Martinez Perez is Postdoctoral Researcher at ETH in Zuerich, Switzerland.
Shiri Graff van Creveld
Visiting PhD Student (EMBO Short-term fellowship) from Weizmann Institute of Science, Vardi Group, Israel
After graduating in molecular biochemistry in the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) my love to the sea drove me to peruse an MSc, and then a PhD studying marine diatoms in the lab of Assaf Vardi’s at the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel).
I am interesting in diatom’s response to stress, how they perceive and response to the ever-changing marine environment. In particular, I am studying the role of redox in cell fate regulation in marine diatom’s response to environmental stresses. I received a short-term-EMBO fellowship to come to the lab Professor Thomas Mock at the University of East Anglia, in order to adapt the CRISPR/Cas9 tool for gene editing in the model diatom Phaeodactylum.
Programmed cell death, stress response, redox signaling, functional genetics; marine microbiology; diatoms; protein structure-function.
Shiri currently is a PostDoc in the group of Ginger Armbrust, Seattle, USA
Ph.D. Student (CSC Fellowship)
Primary Supervisor: Prof. Thomas Mock
Secondary Supervisor: Prof. Cock van Oosterhout
External Joint Supervisors:
Huan Zhang (University of Connecticut)
Guangxing Liu (Ocean University of China)
Yunyun Zhuang (Ocean University of China)
I graduated from Ocean University of China (OUC) with a Bachelor's and Master’s degree. During my graduate study, I have conducted research on the effects of ocean acidification on the growth of two diatom species Phaeodactylum tricornutum and Chaetoceros curvisetus. In 2016, I started my PhD at OUC, majoring in environmental sciences. I mainly focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms on harmful algae and their strategies to cope with eutrophication and climate change. In 2018, I have been awarded a scholarship from the China Scholarship Council (CSC) to pursue my research in the lab of Thomas Mock in collaboration with Yunyun Zhuang from OUC. I will apply molecular methods (e.g. RNAseq, RT-qPCR, CRISPR/Cas mediated genome editing) to investigate nitrogen uptake and assimilation in the dinoflagellate species Alexandrium pacificum.
Molecular Ecology of Phytoplankton, Harmful Algal Blooms, Dinoflagellates, Algal Transcriptomics, Genome Editing
Xuewei has gone back to OUC for pursuing PostDoc work.
Dr. Krisztina Sarkozi
Driven by my interest in the environment, I completed a degree in Biology and Chemistry followed by a Master’s degree in Ecology at the University of Oradea in Romania. After spending seven years in Romania’s educational system, I have embarked upon a PhD in marine environmental genetics at the UEA. My research project focused on identifying the molecular underpinnings of bloom formation in marine diatoms. I combined genomics, biochemical and bioinformatics approaches with the aim of elucidating the genomic binding sites of cell-cycle regulatory proteins with emphasis on a DNA-binding protein, which appears to induce fast growth in the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana and other centric diatoms. After completing my PhD, I did a PostDoc focusing on metabolic engineering of diatoms including the synthesis of high-value lipids such as omega-3 long chain fatty acids.
Algal genomics, proteomics, ecology, bioinformatics
Krisztina has moved to Oxford University to continue as a Senior Postdoctoral Researcher in the group of Ros Rickaby in collaboration with Dmitry Filatov.
Primary Supervisor: Professor Vincent Moulton (School of Computing)
Secondary Supervisor: Professor Thomas Mock
Dr Richard Leggett (The Genome Analysis Centre)
Bioinformatics approaches for assessing the impact of temperature on eukaryotic phytoplankton
I graduated from the University College Dublin (UCD) with a degree in Science, majoring in Microbiology in 2011. My final year project was 'Investigating the role of sigma factor in physiology of Rhodococcus equi.' I then went to pursue a masters and graduated with a MSc. in Bioinformatics from University of Leicester in 2012. My final year project for my masters was 'In silico mining for microsatellites'. I gained research experience in bioinformatics at the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology (NICB). The role involved statistical analysis of microarray data generated from colorectal cancer samples conducted within the R/Bioconductor software environment.
Latest paper: Martin et al. 2021, Nat. Comms.