How life got going: origins of bacterial motility

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Many organisms move, but the origin of motility is still not known. We focus on nature’s oldest propellor: the bacterial flagellar motor (BFM). A remarkable product of evolution, the BFM rotates at 100,000 rpm to drive swimming and navigate bacteria towards food. We will estimate ancestral protein sequences and engineer these ancient genes into present day bacterial genomes to ‘re-run’ evolution to make a microbial ‘Jurassic Park’. We combine biotechnology and synthetic biology to direct motor evolution and then use novel engineered motors to control fluid flows in microreactors.

This project spans a wide range of aspects of biology. The ideal candidate for this project would have technical skills and expertise in one of: microbiology, synthetic biology, evolutionary biology, and biophysics and would have research experience in microbiology or biotechnology.

Our supervisory team has teaching and research experience in biophysics, microbiology, synthetic biology and evolutionary biology and will provide a tailored training environment for the candidate accordingly. Our team has experience in interdisciplinarity, for example Dr Baker was originally a chemist, did a PhD in physics, then postdoctoral training in Chemistry and Structural Biology, thus we have personal, teaching, and research experience in training students from the physical sciences with biological research skills. A strong candidate with a background in physics, engineering, or mathematics, would be suitable for this project if they held an interest in evolutionary biology or microbiology.

Supervisory team
Matthew
Baker

Science
Biotechnology & Biomolecular Sciences
Rick
Cavicchioli

Science
Biotechnology & Biomolecular Sciences
Mark
Tanaka

Science
Biotechnology & Biomolecular Sciences
Register to Apply
Non-UNSW staff/students must Register to Apply
matthew.baker@unsw.edu.au