School researchers awarded Chancellor’s Fellowships
Dr Beatriz Orosa Puente and Dr Joanna Sadler have been awarded prestigious fellowships to develop their innovative work.
Forty new Chancellor’s Fellows have been selected from across the University to be part of the five-year programme for promising early career researchers.
For the first time in the programme’s seven year history, all of the Fellows have been appointed from within the University – in recognition of the extreme career uncertainty caused by Covid-19.
Beatriz Orosa Puente
Beatriz’s research investigates plants immune responses and how they can be enhanced to protect crops against disease.
Plant diseases are the largest threat to crops, reducing yields by up to 40% and hindering food security as the world’s growing population places ever increasing demands on limited land.
Current approaches to improve disease resistance in crops are often not environmentally sustainable or fail to provide long-lasting immunity to a wide variety of bacteria, fungi and viruses.
Improving the plant’s own natural defences could alleviate disease-related losses and is a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable alternative.
Plant defences are regulated by a protein known as ubiquitin, which provides a fast and reversible way of controlling the size and intensity of the plant’s immune response.
Beatriz will explore ubiquitin’s role in barley crops, investigating how it regulates immune responses by changing the activities of plant immune proteins.
Improving disease resistance in barley, one of the UK’s most important crops, is vital as it is under increasing threat by the fungus Puccinia hordei which causes the disease brown rust.
I am extremely excited about this opportunity to develop my research in the vibrant environment of the University of Edinburgh. Post-translational modifications are an untapped resource that can contribute to enhancing plant resistance against diseases. Through this line of research, I will contribute to meet the University’s goals, producing long-lasting benefits to our society and our planet.
Joanna’s research develops new biotechnologies to degrade and up-cycle plastic waste into industrially valuable small molecules for the chemical, pharmaceutical, fragrance and flavours industries.
In little over 100 years plastic waste has become one world’s most urgent environmental issues.
Every year, 8 million tonnes of these fossil fuel derived materials escapes into oceans, posing a serious threat to marine ecosystems.
Recent scientific advances are enabling new methods to tackle the plastic crisis, by treating post-consumer plastic as a resource rather than a waste product.
Combining several disciplines including organic chemistry, biocatalysis and synthetic biology could help to meet the wider goal of transitioning to a circular economy for a more sustainable future.
Biotechnology harnesses the natural biological processes in microorganisms, such as fermentation, adapting them to provide environmentally-friendly ways of producing a variety of useful products.
Synthetic biology merges biology and engineering principles. Practitioners break the genome into smaller parts of DNA – the building blocks of life - to better understand how living systems work.
Genetic parts can be reused, redesigned and combined to reprogramme existing living systems or build new biological systems – including enzymes and cells – with useful industrial applications.
Joanna’s research spans the development of efficient and biocompatible plastic degradation processes, to constructing and optimising new chemo-enzymatic systems for up-cycling plastic.
I am absolutely delighted and honoured to have been award a Chancellor’s Fellowship. The University of Edinburgh fosters a rich and productive research environment and will be a fantastic place to establish my independent research career. This is a wonderful opportunity and I’m excited to see where the science goes over the next few years. This is such a young and exciting field – I think there’s huge potential to make a real difference.
Investing in talent
The University was committed to ensuring the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion informed the appointment process.
Some 80 per cent of the new Chancellor’s Fellows are female and 19 per cent are from ethnic minority groups.
These exceptional colleagues are testament to the world-leading research talent across the University. The pandemic has been especially tough for researchers, particularly for those at the start of their careers. This makes our ability to support some Edinburgh’s most promising early career academics all the more important. These awards reflect the high value that the University places on these colleagues.