UCL Division of Biosciences



Current Lab Members

Dr Harry Jackson

Postdoctoral Research Associate
PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology (University of Southampton)
BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry  (Queen Mary University)

Dr Harry Jackson

Research Interests: (Re)design of the chloroplast genome: towards a synthetic organelle

Advances in sequencing technologies and a concurrent acceleration in the understanding of cellular biology has opened the door to a revolution in synthetic biology. For the first time, not only can complex gene networks be understood, they can be rationally engineered on a genome-scale using standardised combinatorial strategies. This has spawned several ongoing efforts to build a ‘minimal genome’. The pursuit of this goal not only incentivises a deeper and more holistic understanding of basic biology and genome regulation; if successful, such a minimized system could provide a powerful platform to further probe the basic requirements for life and engineer strains with an expansion of novel and commercially relevant traits. The chloroplast genome of the green alga C. reinhardtii is a well-suited model system to overcome the obstacles to fully realising this potential. In this system, the goal of my current research is the generation of a minimal synthetic genome via iterative cycles of design, construction and testing.







Former Lab Members

Lamya Al-Haj

Lamya's research focused on modifying the metabolism of the cyanobacterium Synechocystis spp. 6803 to produce new biofuels and investigating growth characteristics of biofuel-producing transformants. She has now returned to Oman as a lecturer at the Sultan Qaboos University.

Umaima Al-Hoqani

Umaima studied the chloroplast of the eustigmatophyte alga Nannochloropsis gaditana and terpenoid production in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, completing her PhD in 2017. She is now a lecturer in the Sultanate of Oman.

Tommaso Barbi

As part of the FP7 GIAVAP (Genetic Improvement of Algae for Value Added Products) programme, Tom developed new tools for the genetic improvement of industrially important microalgae such as Haematococcus pluvialis and Parietochloris incisa and set up protocols for routine transformation of microalgae using Agrobacterium.

Stephanie Braun-Galleani

In her PhD research, Steffi evaluated the factors limiting recombinant protein production in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and investigated an inducible expression system, combined with optimised codon usage and improved fermentation conditions. She is now working as a postdoctoral research fellow at University College Dublin.

Yuliya Dyo

Yuliya was a joint PhD student with the Kazakh National University in Almaty, with the aim of producing bio-fungicides in algae. Yuliya successfully produced several plant-derived anti-fungal enzymes in the Chlamydomonas chloroplast. Post PhD, Yuliya worked as a Senior Researcher at the M. A. Aitkhozhin Inst. of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry in Almaty before becoming Head of the Dept. of Biotechnology at Satbayev University, Almaty.

Chloe Economou

Chloe's research involved studying the control of chloroplast gene expression in Chlamydomonas and investigating ways of metabolically engineering and increasing transgene expression in the chloroplast. Chloe is now a molecular microbiologist at Queen Mary University of London.

Alice Lui

Alice developed tools for the genetic engineering of the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. 6803. She graduated from her PhD in 2016. After her PhD, Alice secured a position in the civil service, working at the Treasury.

Marco Larrea Alvarez

In his PhD, Marco explored different strategies and molecular tools for multi-gene expression in the Chlamydomonas chloroplast in order to develop technologies for efficient metabolic engineering such as the introduction of nitrogen-fixation capacity. He is now working as a senior researcher at the London-based algal biotechnology start-up, Axitan.

Thanyanun Ninlayarn

Thanya developed new expression vectors and transformation methods for chloroplast genetic engineering in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. She is now lecturing at Silpakorn University in Thailand.

Priscilla Rajakumar

Priscilla worked on the recombinant expression of vaccine candidates in the Chlamydomonas reinhardtii chloroplast for use in farming and aquaculture and obtained her PhD in 2016. She is now a molecular biologist at SynbiCITE, based at Imperial College London.

Laura Stoffels

During her PhD, Laura developed Chlamydomonas cell lines that expressed bacteriophage endolysins against different target bacteria. She continued this work in a postdoctoral collaboration with Brenda Parker (UCL Biochemical Engineering), looking at scale-up and harvesting processes. In 2017, Laura obtained a position at Syngenta.

Joanna Szaub

Joanna carried out genetic engineering of algae for biofuel production and other products such as Human Papilloma Virus vaccine and cyanovirin. She subsequently worked as a Research Scientist at Algenuity.

Sofie Vonlanthen

Sofie's PhD research involved genetic engineering of the lipid biosynthesis pathway in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and creating starch mutants of Chlorella sorokiniana, to increase the cellular lipid yield. Sofie also carried out postdoctoral work for the BBSRC-funded "Algal oils by design" project before going on to work as a post-doc at Stockholm University, and then at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm.

Yanan Xu

During her PhD, Yanan developed novel micro-scale methods to evaluate performances of algae candidates in industrial scale operations and optimised culture conditions and oil extraction from microalgae for use as biofuels. She has secured a postdoctoral position at Greenwich University.

Max Blanshard

Max's PhD focused on expressing endolysins in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and looking at the role of codon optimisation in expression levels, as well as investigating the binding mechanism of endolysins to see if alterations could improve their lysing efficiency. Since completing his PhD, Max has gone on to work at global strategy consulting firm, L.E.K. Consulting, as a Life Science Specialist.

Rosanna Young

Rosie collaborated on the BBSRC-funded 'Algal Oils by Design' project, engineering Nannochloropsis and Phaeodactylum to predictably produce high levels of valuable oils (omega-3 fatty acids). Rosie employed genetic engineering techniques to test the functionality of various DNA elements, modify the lipid metabolism pathways and additionally explored new tools for genetic engineering in the Chlamydomonas chloroplast.

Janet Waterhouse

Janet was the project administrator of the "Algal Oils by Design" project funded by the BBSRC Strategic Longer and Larger (sLoLa) grant, which was a collaborative effort with groups headed by Alison Smith (University of Cambridge), Chris Abell (University of Cambridge), Jonathan Napier (Rothamsted Research) and Oliver Ebenhoeh (University of Aberdeen). The aim was to use synthetic biology approaches, combined with predictive metabolic modeling and high-throughput cell analysis and sorting technology, to establish the means to predictably engineer microalgal strains producing high levels of commercially important lipid molecules. Following the end of the grant, Janet took up the position of PHYCONET Network Manager.  PHYCONET was a UK based Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Network in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (BBSRC NIBB), enabling biologists, engineers and industrial partners to consolidate their knowledge and expertise to unlock the IB potential of microalgae. Operating over five years, PHYCONET focused on producing high value products from microalgae (including cyanobacteria) industrially cultivated in an intensive and controlled manner using photobioreactor and fermentor-based technologies.

Fuyao Li

Fuyao worked on the recombinant expression of VLPs in the Chlamydomonas reinhardtii chloroplast for the use of heterologous epitope carrier. Different strategies to improve protein expression were explored. Towards the end of her PhD, Fiona secured a position as an associate consultant at a management consulting firm.

Juliana Ramos

With the need for new antibiotics due to the emergence of multi-drug resistant bacteria (known as superbugs), Juilana's PhD focused on producing synthetic endolysins that would be effective against Gram-negative bacteria in the chloroplast of the microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, as well as trying to determine the efficiency of these synthetic endolysins as antibiotics.

Xenia Spencer-Milnes

Microalgae are of much interest for the production of fats and oils for alternative fuel sources such as biodiesel, or higher value compounds such as nutritional omega-3 fatty acids.  Xenia's PhD research project, which was part of the BBSRC-funded sLoLa Algal Oils by Design collaboration, focused on optimising tailored lipid production in the fast-growing microalgae Chlorella sorokiniana. This included developing and improving genetic engineering tools and DNA parts, isolating more fast-growing strains, characterising mutants and integrating with microdroplet technology.