Algal Photobioreactors

Microorganismal algae, perhaps most recognisable blooming on a stagnant lake, offers a great alternative to fossil fuels. Furthermore, selecting for growth traits in these plants gives the potential for ultrahigh biomass productivity, supporting a transition to a cleaner, sustainable energy source. I will discuss the most important features of algae for biofuel production here, as well how we can manipulate their environment to push growth rates even further.

Toxic Squash

In 2018, JAMA Dermatology published two cases of hair loss, amongst other symptoms, of individuals who reported eating bitter Cucurbits - members of the Cucurbitaceae family: squash, courgettes, pumpkins, and melons. These were reported as cases of Toxic Squash Syndrome, a type of poisoning resulting from ingestion of a toxin named Cucurbitacin E. Here, I will explain what is known about this syndrome, as well as briefly discuss known therapeutic uses of cucurbitacins.

The Genetic Toggle Switch

Synthetic biology, a new and exciting field of biological engineering, investigates how we can re-programme cellular components in a bottom-up approach, building new biological systems from existing and altered parts. An incredible array of creations have sprung to life over the relatively short period since the field's inception, particularly thanks to the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. One classic example of such a device is the genetic toggle switch, whose workings I'll explain here.

A Model Mushroom

Schizophyllum commune, also known as the split-gill mushroom, may be the most widely distributed and common fungal species on the planet. Not only this, but the intricacies of its reproductive and degradative systems are incredible and unique characteristics which have helped cement it as an important fungal model organism. Here, I'll present an array of current knowledge about S. commune, as well as diving deeper into some of its most intriguing features.

Brilliant Brassica

Did you know that broccoli and cauliflower are the same species? No? What if I told you that list also includes kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, romanesco, and many more! These vegetables are cultivars of the species Brassica oleracea, which, through selective breeding and a few genetic hurdles, displays the amazing variety of features we see today. Here, I'll explain what we know about the evolutionary history of B. oleracea, as well as outlining current study to understand the genetic forces behind its extraordinary variation.

De-extinction

What comes to mind when you first hear the term de-extinction? For me, it’s Jurassic-Park-style dinosaur tourism. Modern de-extinction research covers a variety of methods, but due to a series of technical and ethical challenges, such imaginative ideas as modern-day Velociraptor remain infeasible. Here, I'll explain some of the history of de-extinction research, the practicalities of its implementation, as well as some crucial ethical considerations.