Carnegie PhD Scholar awarded Robertson Medal 2023-24
Project Title: Reducing the environmental impact of petrochemical synthesis via microbial biotechnology
Reducing our society’s reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels is arguably one of the most important challenges facing our society today. Traditionally, the fields of organic chemistry and metabolic engineering have represented two independent solutions to this challenge. Whereas organic chemists use largely non-biological reagents to manipulate small molecules in multi-step processes, metabolic engineers encode synthetic pathways within a sequence of DNA and produce target compounds via fermentation. However, despite the respective (and potentially complementary!) benefits of these two fields, they have existed as largely separate disciplines for over a century.
Dr Stephen Wallace is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and a Lecturer in Biotechnology at the University of Edinburgh. His lab uses a combination of chemical and biological tools to convert renewable feedstocks (e.g. CO2, sugar and waste material) into value-added chemicals (e.g. pharmaceuticals, flavours and fragrances). This multidisciplinary approach enables the bio-production of industrial chemicals that cannot be accessed via synthetic biology and would otherwise remain reliant on fossil fuels – i.e. >80% of the molecules we rely on each day!
Current projects in his lab include the use of unexplored micro-organisms for sustainable chemical synthesis, the construction of new biosynthetic pathways in bacteria, the evolution of new enzymatic function, and the valorisation of waste materials using designer microbial cells.
Awarded: Research Incentive Grant
Field: Biochemistry & Molecular Cell Biology
University: University of Edinburgh