Explore: Science for Sustainability
Explore is a series of webinars which has been created to provide a platform for organisations to hear from leading researchers at the University of Edinburgh. The series will see multi-disciplinary academics share their expertise, discuss the latest advances and present cutting-edge innovations relevant to your organisation.
Explore: Science for Sustainability
Moving towards a more circular economy is believed to have the potential to deliver benefits such as reducing pressure on the environment, improving the security of the supply of raw materials, increasing competitiveness, stimulating innovation, boosting economic growth, and creating jobs. With the global population ever growing, so is our demand for natural resources and we are using more resources than the planet can provide. One resource that is unlimited is innovation – this is where the University of Edinburgh can support.
Explore: Science for Sustainability offers an opportunity for companies across multiple sectors – from technology to textiles; food and drink to finance; automotive to energy; the potential applications of circular economy research span across industries. This webinar series will highlight the research and applications of work in areas such as engineered, synthetic and systems biology; metal recovery, industrial scale-up, and waste management; as well as sustainable chemistry, plastics, and bioinformatics that is going on at the University of Edinburgh.
Role of Infrastructure Circular Economy towards Net Zero Sustainability
Speaker: Professor Sean Smith
With over £100 Billion spent annually in the UK infrastructure sector and construction often accounting for over 40% waste, the need to reduce waste to landfill and increase recycling is key. The industry has proactively increased by 50% its recycling and reuse rate over the last decade. As more targets emerge across many countries towards net zero carbon and carbon neutral, the significance of augmenting the circular economy approach for the sector will need to grow.
This webinar covers a range of horizon factors, which are likely to influence and contribute towards future industry changes and also the new innovations and approaches to expanding and improving the circular economy approach.
Professor Sean Smith is Chair of Future Construction within the School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh and Director of Centre for Future Infrastructure at the Edinburgh Futures Institute. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Acoustics, Fellow of the RSA and is an Honorary Fellow of RIAS.
From 2010 to 2020, Sean was Director of the Institute for Sustainable Construction managing five research centres involving offsite construction, energy, timber engineering, wood science technologies and noise & vibration. He has been an advisor to CEN and ISO committees and formed research networks with 40+ countries. Sean has led and co-invented 17 patented innovative construction products involving a range of companies including solutions for brownfield site substructure solutions, energy efficiency, structural enhancement for timber engineered systems and acoustic performance. He currently serves on the Timber & Forest Industries Leadership Group (ILG), Construction Scotland (ILG) Skills Group, CSIC Innovation Champion and serves on a range of external committees and boards involved in innovation, construction regulatory compliance, housing, infrastructure and skills.
Using Biology for Industrial Processes in Space
Speaker: Professor Charles Cockell
The exploration and settlement of space now involves a number of space agencies and private companies. As on Earth, microorganisms can be used to carry out a number of potentially useful processes such as biomining, bioremediation, recycling and other processes to help sustain a human presence in locations like the Moon and Mars and minimise the cost and mass of these endeavours.
In this webinar, Professor Charles Cockell discusses recent experiments on the space station, and explores possible collaborative opportunities with industry and the potential for new research with industry support.
Over the last ten years, we have developed miniature ‘biomining reactors’ that can be used on the International Space Station to carry out biological experiments of various kinds. Our recent experiment on the space station, called BioAsteroid, was launched as part of a commercial route to space station. With this equipment in hand, we would like to discuss and explore possibilities for new space station experiments with interested companies either to advance science, or, for the company, to advance outreach and public profile.
Professor Charles Cockell is Professor of Astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh and is co-Director of the UK Centre for Astrobiology, which he established in 2011. He was PI on the BioRock experiment, which first demonstrated the principles of biomining on the International Space Station in 2019.
His academic interests encompass life in extreme environments, the habitability of extraterrestrial environments and the exploration and settlement of space. He leads the Life Beyond program, which engages prisoners in the design of human settlements in space in collaboration with the Scottish Prison Service and the Prisoners’ Education Trust.
High Throughput Approaches to Engineering Biology
This webinar explores Engineering biology, in particular High Throughput Approaches to Engineering Biology. The University has recently purchased some exciting new equipment, which when added to our existing facilities, make Edinburgh capabilities unique and really revolutionise the work we are able to do.
Hear about the unique engineering biology facilities at Edinburgh, which transform traditional ways of working. We present an overview of our unique facilities for high throughput engineering biology and use case studies to illustrate the potential.
Professor Susan Rosser is Professor of Synthetic Biology at the University of Edinburgh. She also holds a prestigious 10-year Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies focused on Engineering Biology.
Susan is the director of the £13.4M UKRI–funded UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology, and PI and co-director of the Edinburgh Genome Foundry (EGF). EGF is a £5.3M UKRI–funded automated DNA assembly platform offering end-to-end design, construction and validation of genetic constructs. She is on the steering committee of the Global Biofoundries group. Susan was a member of the EU High Level Strategy Group on Industrial Technologies and the Scottish Science Advisory Council providing science advice to the Scottish Government. She is deputy chair of the BBSRC Committee D and a member of the EPSRC Science and Engineering Technology Board.
Dr Rennos Fragkoudis completed his PhD on molecular virology at the University of Edinburgh and for ~15 years he concentrated his research on the pathogenesis of arthropod-borne viruses (arboviruses) in both vertebrate and invertebrate systems working with alpha-, flavi- and bunyaviruses. In November 2019 he returned to the University of Edinburgh to take the post of the manager at the Edinburgh Genome Foundry. Together with the Foundry team, Rennos promotes the usage of automation across all disciplines of Life Sciences and actively expand the capabilities of the Foundry.
There are myriad materials in the natural world, with a wide range of properties that human-made materials barely come close to matching. Presentations in this session will show how biological macromolecules can be re-engineered to create designer biomaterials with user-specified properties. Not only do biomaterials present us with a spectacular range of physical and chemical properties, with countless potential applications, they also are intrinsically biodegradable and their use naturally contributes to the development of a circular economy.
The webinar will comprise three speakers with Prof Lynne Regan covering protein-based biomaterials, detailing how their macroscopic physical properties can be modulated by changing their nano-scale components.
Dr Davide Michieletto will speak about how nucleic acids, DNA in particular, can be used to realise new (nano)materials. The concept of “topologically active polymers” and conceptually connecting DNA to solutions of “living” polymers leading to potentially new topologically active materials with continuously tunable rheology will be discussed.
Prof Chris French will speak about polysaccharides; the most complex class of biological polymer, with many different subunits, linkages, and modifications, synthesised by multiple enzymes working sequentially. He will discuss his laboratory’s work in the engineering of microorganisms for production of useful polysaccharides, specifically starch and chitosan
Speakers: Professor Lynne Regan, Dr Davide Michieletto and Professor Chris French
Professor Lynne Regan read Biochemistry at Oxford University, she obtained her PhD at MIT, followed by postdoctoral work at E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. and at the LMB/MRC Cambridge. Until 2018, she was Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and of Chemistry at Yale University. In 2016, she was a Leverhulme visiting professor at the University of Edinburgh. Since 2018, she has been Chair of Interdisciplinary Science at the University of Edinburgh, and since 2019 Head of the Institute of Quantitative Biology, Biochemistry and Biotechnology.
Dr Davide Michieletto obtained his PhD at the University of Warwick in 2015. His thesis work in “Topological interactions in Ring Polymers” was awarded the Outstanding PhD Thesis Award by Springer and the IoP Ian Macmillan Ward Prize for best PhD student publication in polymer physics. He then became interested in understanding genome organisation and DNA topology and worked under the supervision of Davide Marenduzzo and Nick Gilbert in Edinburgh until 2019. In 2020, Davide was awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship, an ERC Starting Grant and the Edinburgh Chancellor’s “Rising Star” award. His lab aims to discover new (DNA-based) soft materials and complex fluids that can change topology in time.
Professor Chris French obtained a degree in Biotechnology and Bioprocess Engineering at Massey University in New Zealand, then worked briefly at the New Zealand Dairy Research Institute before moving to the UK for his Ph.D. and postdoctoral work at the Institute of Biotechnology, University of Cambridge. He joined the School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh in 1998. His laboratory performs research in synthetic biology and microbial biotechnology, with a particular focus on biosensors, biomass, and biosynthesis of valuable products.
Waste to Wealth: Opportunities for Sustainability across the Lifecycle of Plastics
Speakers: Dr Jenni Garden and Dr Joanna Sadler
This webinar will explore opportunities to improve the sustainability of plastics from their production through to post-consumer management. Specifically, technologies to replace petrochemical feedstocks with renewable resources, the design of efficient production processes and upcycling of plastic waste into value-added chemicals will be addressed.
Dr Joanna Sadler received her MSc in Chemistry (1st Class Hons, 2013) from the University of Bristol, before undertaking an industrial PhD with GlaxoSmithKline and the University of Strathclyde under the direction of Prof Glenn Burley and Dr Luke Humphreys. This was followed by postdoctoral research at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology under the supervision of Prof Douglas Kell, where she developed high-throughput methods for the directed evolution of biocatalysts.
In 2018, Jo moved to the University of St Andrews to work on microbial pathway engineering for the production of a high-value small molecule and biosynthetic pathway elucidation in the group of Prof Rebecca Goss. Jo moved to the University of Edinburgh in 2019 to take up a BBSRC Discovery Fellowship in the laboratory of Dr Stephen Wallace, where she is currently developing bio-based processes for the degradation and up-cycling of post-consumer plastic waste.
Dr Jenni Garden received her MSci (1st Class Hons, 2010) and PhD (2014) in Chemistry from the University of Strathclyde, the latter under the direction of Prof Robert Mulvey. This was followed by two years as a postdoctoral researcher in the group of Prof Charlotte Williams at Imperial College London, where she developed heterometallic catalysts for carbon dioxide/epoxide copolymerisation.
In 2016, Jenni moved to the University of Edinburgh as the first recipient of the Christina Miller Research Fellowship, which was followed by a Ramsay Memorial Trust Fellowship and L’Oréal-UNESCO UK & Ireland For Women in Science Fellowship. She currently holds a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, and her group focuses on the design and synthesis of novel homo- and heterobimetallic compounds, and their application towards homogeneous catalysis and the production of sustainable polymer materials.
Formulating Physics: Clarifying Complexity
Speakers: Professor Wilson Poon and Dr Daniel Hodgson
Soft matter and complex fluids are ubiquitous in our daily lives, from personal cosmetics, many foodstuffs and pharmaceutical products through to paint, concrete and ceramics. ECFP is the knowledge exchange organisation for complex fluids research at the University of Edinburgh. It is based in the Soft Matter and Biological Physics group of the School of Physics and Astronomy, and partners with the Schools of Chemistry, Engineering, Biology to deliver our mission of being a leading centre for science-driven formulation across multiple sectors through consultancy services and collaborative research. Since its inception in 2012, ECFP has worked with more than 50 companies, from small local manufacturers to global players.
In this talk, we will discuss the ubiquity of complex fluids across all industrial sectors, either in end products, intermediate processing stages or in raw materials. Through a selection of case studies, we will demonstrate that fundamental understanding of these products and processes can improve sustainability through enabling reformulation, improving processing or reducing waste. More information about our academic team, facilities and case studies can be found here: www.edinburghcomplexfluids.com
Professor Wilson Poon, FRSE, FInstP is internationally known for his work using very well characterised ‘model’ colloids to study phenomena that are ubiquitous across condensed matter and statistical physics, particularly the structure and dynamics of arrested states such as glasses and gels. Understanding such states is a grand challenge facing 21st century physics; at the same time, they occur widely in a very large range of industrial processes and products. To exploit the latter connections, Wilson set up the Edinburgh Complex Fluids Partnership (ECFP) a few years ago to coordinate industrial consultancy. ECFP clients now span many sectors, from food and confectionaries through personal care to specialty and agri-chemicals.
Funded initially by an EPSRC Senior Research Fellowship, and now continuing under a European Research Council Advanced Grant and an EPSRC Programme Grant, Wilson also works on the physics of active particles. These colloids are intrinsically non-equilibrium, in that they continually transduce free energy from their surroundings to engage in activities such as growth (in size and number) and self-propulsion (i.e. they are micro-swimmers). Wilson’s group studies both active particles in the form of bacteria as well as synthetic colloidal swimmers. Their long-term goal is to discover and understand new modes of collective behaviour in active particle systems, both on their own, and in the company of passive particles. The results should provide impetus for theory development in a frontier area of statistical mechanics, lead to new material designs, and throw light on selected biological phenomena (such as the growth of biofilms).
Dr Daniel Hodgson is the Executive Director of the Edinburgh Complex Fluids Partnership (ECFP), the knowledge exchange organisation for complex fluids research, based at the Soft Matter and Biological Physics group at the University of Edinburgh, UK. Daniel leads a team of researchers who work with academics from across the College of Science and Engineering, and industry scientists from a wide range of sectors to identify and solve industrial problems and facilitate innovation.
Hodgson’s scientific expertise is in the flow of dense granular suspensions, with a particular focus on industrial applications. Following a Master of Physics Degree at Edinburgh, Hodgson completed his PhD in 2016 in which he studied granulation; a process where dry powders and small amounts of liquid are combined to create larger composite particles enabling easier conveyance and reducing the risk of explosion associated with fine particles. Following this work, he has studied how the rheological properties of chocolate (a dense suspension of adhesive sucrose particles suspended in oil) can be modified using small amounts of surfactants, and investigated flow instabilities of viscoelastic pastes in complex geometries. As part of ECFP, Hodgson’s work focusses on the underlying physics of industrial systems and aims to link related phenomenology across multiple sectors (for example the striking similarity between chocolate and cement production). Through this fundamental understanding ECFP is able to assist companies improve product sustainability through reformulation, improved processing and reduced waste.
Low-cost Open-source Automation Tools Applied to Diagnostics and the Design of Microbial Cell Factories
Speaker: Dr Leonardo Rios
This seminar will explore the latest developments in low-cost automation applied to synthetic biology, especially in the fields of diagnostics and designing microbial cell factories. Low-cost open-source automation is currently tackling some of the bottlenecks of traditional automation, which is higher costs, reduced software integration flexibility and a lack of standardisation about the different commercial brands. In addition to this, the flexibility of low-cost open-source automation is ideal to take advantages of the latest developments of artificial intelligence, which may revolutionise how microbial cell factories are engineered.
Dr Leonardo Rios was awarded a lectureship at the Engineering School of the University of Edinburgh in 2017, where he leads his research group at the Institute for Bioengineering and the Centre for Synthetic and Systems Biology. His research group focuses on promoting further understanding on the interphase of biochemical engineering, automation and synthetic biology as well as finding novel ways to apply this knowledge to tackle growing global socio-economic inequalities such as access to food and pharmaceuticals, boosting local economies, high–quality education as well as the promotion of a greener and more sustainable environment.
His group combines automation and synthetic biology tools to engineer microbial cell factories for diagnostic purposes or to produce high-value products such as biofuels, biomaterials and pharmaceuticals. In their group, they also have the firm belief that in order to boost the production and to maximise the potential of the designed biosystems, they require to develop specific bio-equipment (e.g. bio-automation, bioreactors, downstream processing) to cater to the new qualities of the engineered cells. Specifically, his group is also focusing on developing low-cost automation tools, as well as reliable ways to use continuous flow bioprocesses using novel materials, smart instrumentation and user-friendly software. LeoRios group is also very interested in entrepreneurship having co-founded the following start-ups: Marizca Ltd, Logikopt SA de CV and Genomic Arts Ltd.
Sustainable Metal Recycling
Speakers: Professor Louise Horsfall, Professor Jason B. Love and Dr Leigh Cassidy
This webinar will explore recent chemical and biochemical breakthroughs in the sustainable extraction and recycling of our valuable metal resources. It will provide insight into the chemical recycling of gold from electronic waste, the bio-mediated transformation of metals into new nano-sized materials, and the environmental treatment of metal-containing effluents from recycling processes.
Louise and Jason will be joined by Dr Leigh Cassidy from SEM Energy, who have engaged in several collaborations with the University.
Professor Louise Horsfall is Chair of Sustainable Biotechnology in the School of Biological Sciences. She began her career as a chemist at the University of Oxford before moving to Liège, Belgium, to study biochemistry; gaining her PhD in 2007. This was followed by postdoctoral research back in the UK at the Universities of Leeds and Glasgow.
Louise believes that biotechnology has the potential to transform manufacturing by using waste as a feedstock, rather than it being an end product. Current research projects include the bioremediation of waste, water and land; employing techniques and tools provided by synthetic biology to increase the value of metals recovered. Collaborative research with industry is focused on improving both the expression and performance of enzymes to increase the energy efficiency and the sustainability of bioprocesses.
Professor Jason B. Love is Professor of Molecular Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. He is the Edinburgh co-director of the EPSRC CDT for Critical Resource Catalysis (CRITICAT), a centre which delivers postgraduate training and research in all areas of catalysis across St Andrews, Edinburgh, and Heriot-Watt Universities.
He was a visiting professor at the Technical University Munich, Germany (2015) and at Osaka University, Japan (2019-20) and winner of the 2020 Ekeberg Prize for his work on tantalum recycling. He has published 133 peer-reviewed articles and has delivered over 60 international, national, and public invited lectures since 2010, including ‘Mining the Scrapheap’ at New Scientist Live (2018).
His interests that span the periodic table, with a focus on chemical sustainability in catalysis and the recovery and recycling of metals from primary and secondary sources.
Dr Leigh Cassidy is Lead Scientist at SEM Energy Ltd. and studied Environmental Sciences at the University of Aberdeen followed by a PhD, mainly focusing on pollution issues. Leigh carried out research into the measurement, toxicity, fate and remediation of chlorinated solvents. During this time, she made the most ground-breaking discovery of her career – water treatment solution, DRAM technology. Leigh has won several awards and grants with her innovative DRAM technology and started her own company, providing water treatment solutions both locally and globally. Since then, Leigh has taken a role of Lead Scientist, pioneering and delivering innovative water treatment solutions.
Sustainable Chemistry using Engineered Biology
Speakers: Dr Stephen Wallace with Dr Jude Huggan
Does your business need to develop more sustainable alternatives to using fossil fuels? Do you have ambitious net-zero targets?
This webinar will inform how you can achieve the above by marrying modern synthetic biology and synthetic chemistry to enable the synthesis of your target chemicals from renewable feed stocks. Joined by Dr Jude Huggan from NCIMB, Dr Stephen Wallace will focus on how we can combine our in-house expertise in green chemistry, bio catalysis and pathway engineering with national culture collections and Scottish bio-foundries to discover new enzymes, build new pathways and fast-track these ambitions into new microbial bioprocesses with targeted industry relevance.
The webinar will raise awareness of the use of microbial manufacturing processes to your industry. It aims to open up discussions around how modern synthetic biology and synthetic chemistry can be united to develop new bio-manufacturing processes that help meet your net-zero ambitions over the coming years.
Dr Stephen Wallace is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Biotechnology at the Institute for Quantitative Biology, Biochemistry and Biotechnology in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. He obtained an MChem in chemistry from the University of Edinburgh and a DPhil in synthetic organic chemistry from the University of Oxford. He has held postdoctoral research fellowships at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Harvard, MIT and the University of Cambridge, and has recently returned from a secondment to the Department of Chemical Engineering at Caltech where he was hosted by Professor Frances Arnold. His research interests span the study and manipulation of microbial chemistry for use in sustainable chemical synthesis.
Dr Jude Huggan is Business Development Manager for NCIMB. NCIMB manages the National Collection of Industrial, Food & Marine bacteria, the UK’s biggest repository of industrially and environmentally useful bacteria, plasmids and bacteriophage. NCIMB and Stephen are working in collaboration to assess the inherent chemical potential of microbes within the culture collection and their applicability towards bio-manufacturing and green chemical synthesis.