Post Docs

Naji Bassil

I come from the land of cedar trees and great food, Lebanon.

NajiAfter completing a M.Sc. in Molecular biology at the University of Balamand, I worked as a research assistant at the American University of Beirut, studying the possibility of using some plant extracts to induce apoptosis in some types of cancer cells. This work made me realise that working with human beings isn’t really interesting, so I decided to pursue my higher education, working on extremophilic microorganisms. I joined the Manchester Geomicrobiology group and started a PhD to study the role of microorganisms in cellulose degradation under the anaerobic, hyperalkaline conditions of an intermediate-level radioactive waste disposal facility. In addition to enabling me to work with extremophilic microorganisms and understand why they prefer these extreme conditions, this work will help reduce the uncertainty about the safety of storing radioactive waste in deep underground disposal facilities.

In the rare occasions when I’m not working in the lab, I play rugby league (haven’t played for a while due to an ACL injury), go swimming, or just go for a stroll on my inline skates.

Although all extremophilic microorganisms are interesting, my favourite is Bacillus buxtonensis since this is the first bacterium that I had isolated (I hope it won’t be the last!) and it has the ability to degrade a number of interesting organic molecules under anaerobic, high pH conditions.

Will Bower

Before starting as a Postdoc in the group I completed a PhD in mineralogy, closely linked to radioactive waste disposal, also at the University of Manchester. Prior to this, I trained as a geologist at the University of St Andrews but have since left rocks behind for shallower (stratigraphically at least!) research.

My current project focuses on assessing radioactive or ‘hot’ particle evolution in the environment; simulating a variety of subsurface conditions in which these small environmental nuisances persist, in order to better understand their geochemical behaviour. Studies such as these reduce uncertainty and aid strategies in the management of radioactively contaminated land.will_blog

When I’m not playing with mud in the lab I enjoy throwing myself down muddy mountains as fast as my feet will carry me. When fell running gets the better of me, I like to ‘recover’ on my road bike out in the Peak District. Days in the hills usually aren’t complete without a wheat-based recovery beverage.

My favourite mineral is the humble and much maligned phyllosilicate, biotite. The mineral responsible for many hours of insanity during my PhD, I have developed a strong love-hate relationship with this particular fellow. I have decided not to commit to a favourite microbe until I can spell one correctly without the need for Google… ask me again soon!

Rick Kimber

Originally from Stockport, I completed my PhD at The University of Manchester investigating the biogeochemistry of plutonium and americium in contaminated soils from sites in the UK. Following this, I opted for a change in scenery and moved to Austria where I completed my first postdoc position at The University of Vienna. Most of my work in Vienna focussed on the effect of surfactants on ligand-promoted dissolution of aluminium oxides; however, I was also involved in a project on the role of root exudates in nutrient mobilization and uptake.RickKimber

I recently re-joined the group in Manchester to return to my main research interests in microbe-metal interactions where I have joined an exciting project investigating the production of high value products in bioelectrochemical systems.

Outside of the world of microbes and metals, I enjoy visiting as many historical sites around Europe as I can! I try to maintain some sort of weekly physical activity by playing football and then undo any of the benefits by visiting the pub after work on a Friday.

I’ll say my favourite bacteria are Geobacter sulfurreducens and Shewanella oneidensis as these are the bacteria I will be working with and I’d like them to behave as I hope they should!

Laura Newsome

I’m originally from Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire but have lived in Manchester for nearly 10 years now.  Before starting here I did a geology degree in Leeds, and then spent some time in industry as an environmental consultant and a radioactive substances scientist.  My favourite things I did from my previous jobs were going to International Atomic Energy Agency meetings in Vienna, riding on top of a lift for an asbestos survey, driving a white van, and spending many hours working in the great outdoors.

1264100_10153193412695531_1945627685_oMy research focuses on microbe-metal interactions, my PhD looked at how we can best stimulate the soil microbial community to remove contaminant radionuclides like uranium and technetium from groundwaters by precipitating them as insoluble biominerals, and more my recently my research involves looking at arsenic and cobalt biogeochemistry.  I’m fascinated by the ingenuity and power of the humble microbe; they’re able to deal with all naturally occurring organic compounds and even toxic and radioactive metals.

Away from the lab I like to spend lots of time on my mountain bike, play football, climb mountains, go to beer festivals and listen to music.  I also train with Didsbury women’s cricket club but am not very good (yet!).

At the moment I’d say my favourite microbe is Bacillus mycoides. I recently isolated it from a soil sample and it makes beautiful patterns when grown on solid media which inspired my recent prize winning 3 Minute Thesis presentation.

Sophie Nixon

I’m from nearby Buxton, in the Peak District. After leaving school I gained an MSci in Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol, where I became fascinated in life in extreme cold environments. This led me to do a PhD at the UK Centre for Astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh, on the topic of the habitability of Mars for iron(III)-reducing microorganisms. This research involved looking for iron(III)-reducing microorganisms in Mars-like environments on Earth, such as the perennially cold subglacial environments of the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as testing whether organics that are rare on Earth but common in meteorites can support this microbial metabolism.

blog photoI recently joined the Manchester Geomicro group as a postdoc working on a knowledge exchange programme, with the goal of transferring the group’s expertise in geomicrobiology to the oil and gas sector. This is an interesting topic to research, since there is still so much to learn about the bioavailability of organic material to microorganisms in the subsurface, including the hydrocarbon systems we rely on to fuel our everyday lives.

I am a keen runner, and have lately been reacquainting myself with the hilly Buxton landscape. I have also been enjoying the world-class classical music Manchester has to offer, and look forward to getting my violin out and playing with an orchestra or two myself soon.

If I had to pick a favourite microbe it would have to be Geobacter metallireducens – its discovery in the late 1980s marked the start of this fascinating field of geomicrobiology.

Kurt Smith

kurtI’m originally from Hull before moving to Manchester for my undergraduate studies. In 2014 completed my PhD in environmental radiochemistry at the University of Manchester on the interaction of uranium and neptunium with calcite solids in high pH cementitious environments.  After graduating I spent 2 years working for the National Nuclear Laboratory, working on a wide range of topics related to the environmental behaviour of radionuclides with a particular focus on the Site Ion eXchange Effluent Plant (SIXEP). I recently returned to the University of Manchester as a postdoctoral research associate as part of the Environmental Radioactivity Network.  Our aim is to expand the use of Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) facilities such as the Diamond Light Source in environmental radioactivity research.

Outside of work my main interests are the standards: reading (mainly science fiction and historical), TV and film. A little more unusual hobby that I have is doing a bit of amateur video game development on the side!

Oh, and my favourite mineral?  Has to calcite.