Who are we?


Jon Lloyd

I have been studying microbe-metal-mineral interactions since the mid 1990s, and moved to Manchester in 2001 (from the University of Massachusetts) to set up the Geomicrobiology group.  My BSc/PhD training was in microbial physiology, and I have always had a strong interest in biotechnology from my undergrad years.

I have been invjonolved in lots of different projects over the last decade, from understanding the fundamental biology of metal reduction in the subsurface, to trying to explain how microbes control the fate of metals and radionuclides in natural and engineered systems.  Other work in Manchester aims to exploit the amazing metabolic diversity of subsurface bacteria, through the optimised synthesis of nano-scale magnets, catalysts and other high value products.  I really enjoy working across disciplines, and I am very lucky to have many excellent colleagues that have complementary interests and skills.   I hope that our work is also useful!

I enjoy the usual stuff …. running, hiking, spending time with my family, travelling, photography, music and mucking about on our smallholding in the Peak District.

We have worked with many interesting bacteria in the group, and I try not to have favourites!  A good example though is Marinobacter santoriniensis which Kim Handley isolated from a hydrothermal spring on the Greek Island of Santorini, and is unusual because of its extreme respiratory flexibility (including the ability to use arsenic as an electron donor or acceptor… which is quite unusual).  What keeps me fascinated by this field though is the staggeringly large amount that we DON’T KNOW about geomicrobiological systems, and the chance to help understand more about the “silent majority”……  more than 90% of microbes in the environments that we work on are not available in pure culture and are therefore very poorly studied.

Kath Morris

I am an environmental chemist with an interest in radioactivity and its behaviour in the environment. Before joining the Geomicro group, I did a Chemistry Undergraduate and PhD at the University of Manchester. I then escaped via a post doc inkath plutonium chemistry at Florida State University to Leeds University where I built up an environmental radiochemistry research group. I then joined Manchester and Geomicro in 2010. After my PhD and postdoc I realised there was more to life than just chemistry (!), and since then I have spent a significant amount of time looking at the effects of microbes, minerals and chemistry on the fate of radioactive contaminants in the environment. The research is interesting because it cuts across traditional disciplines, I have to work with a great group of clever people that do research on things as diverse as bacteria and algae through to environmental sampling of radioactive things, and advanced spectroscopic techniques such as synchrotron spectroscopy and electron microscopy.

Away from work I seem to have developed good skills in a range of board games, card games and computer games to keep my daughter happy – I also like biking and hiking and need to do them more, as well as enjoying relaxing with a glass of wine which I need to do less! I am less prone to enjoying football than many of my colleagues but hear that Macclesfield Town is the team to support but perhaps don’t believe it.

My favourite mineral is difficult to pick but the meta-stable face centred cubic form of carbon has to be a top runner as well as uraninite, which is one of the few minerals which sounds like its chemical formula, important for a chemist.

My favorite microbe – Saccharomyces cerevisiae of course! Actually, with a work hat on I suspect I have a fondness for bugs that can facilitate redox change in the environment but do you go for a metal reducer or a chemolithotrophic oxidising species or an alkaliphile…

Richard Pattrick

Born in the Capital of the Fens, made in Norfolk, finished in Scotland at St Andrews and Strathclyde… been at Manchester since 1979!

Richard Pattrick
The good old days

I used to work on base and precious metal mineral deposits but when they ran out, focused on the structure of sulfide mineral structures and metal solution speciation. More latterly worked at the mineral-geomicrobiological interface and radioactive waste disposal. Synchrotron radiation experiments permeate these research programmes.

My second (maybe first) love is sport ….. some aptitude at hitting balls, spend a lot of time being frustrated by Macclesfield Town trying to kick them.

My favourite mineral is (Cu,Ag)10(Zn, Fe, Cu, Cd, Hg, Mn)2(As,Sb,Bi)4(S,Te)13 of course.


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.

PhD Students

Faraaz Ahmad

Hi, I am from Manchester. Before my PhD I studied chemistry for four years at The University of Manchester and gained my MChem degree in Chemistry. I have always taken great interest in radiochemistry and petrochemistry hence after my undergraduate I decided to apply for a PhD in this area.


I’ve now joined the Geomicro group to study my PhD entitled ‘Radionuclide fate in naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM)’. The PhD will involve detailed characterisation of TE-NORM samples from the oil and gas industry including both non-active and active scales from selected sites, and other key materials such as sludges.

When I am not in the lab I like to hang out with friends, go to the gym, play & watch football and eat pizza.

If I had to choose a favourite mineral it would be diamond because it is the hardest naturally occurring mineral made from simple carbon atoms. Also, its name means unbreakable or invincible.

Adrian Cleary

I am originally from Stirling in central Scotland. I did a B.Sc in Environmental Geoscience at Edinburgh University and then stayed on another year to do an M.Sc in Environmental Protection and Management.

Blog photo AdrianMy PhD research is on the decontamination of radioactively contaminated land through bioreduction and the use of nanoparticles such as bio-magnetite and zero-valent iron

When I am not doing exciting geochemistry things I like hillwalking, baking and making things out of Lego.

My favourite microbe would have to be Lactobacillus casei as it is just super at helping me digest food.

Kat Dungan

I’m originally from Orpington, South East London but I’ve spent my last 4 years at Loughborough University doing an MChem. My Masters project was looking how  degraded PVC affected the solubility of nickel under geological repository conditions.

kathMy research will be looking at the key drivers of radioactive waste disposal, then relating these to the waste produced by a selection of potential future nuclear programmes for the UK.

Outside of research I love spending time outdoors (particularly camping and walking in the UK, scuba diving in warmer places) as well as getting involved in Girl Guiding. I also enjoy cooking and baking when I’m at home, although there’s room for improvement.

I can’t say I’ve thought about a favourite mineral – maybe uraninite (pitchblende) because of the role it had in the Curies’ work?

Lynn Foster

I am originally from Leicester and got my degree from the University of Leicester. I studied Biological Sciences, my modules focused on environmental microbiology, virology and genetics.

My PhD title is “Understanding microbial productivity in highly radioactive nuclear IMG_135836683967175-1facilities”. I will be looking at the genomes of microorganisms. Following this I will look at the RNA and proteins that they produce, with the aim of trying to understand some processes that allow them to survive in highly radioactive environments.

My hobbies when not working are going to festivals in the summer, horses and horsey activities like shows and demonstrations.

My favourite microbe – a bit difficult to say, I guess anything that falls into the category of extremophile. I was also really interested in the discovery of Pithovirus – which is the largest known virus that was revived from Stone Age permafrost. I like the stuff that challenges what we know about the limitations of life.

Edwin (Gnanaprakasam)

I am Edwin. Gnanaprakasam is my father’s name. For the international visa requirement, I took my father’s name as my surname as Tamils do not have the concept of surnames. Hailing from Kannyakumari, the southernmost tip of India, I received all my education in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. After obtaining M.Sc and M.Phil in Biotechnology (Loyola College, Chennai), I migrated to Guyana as a missionary. As a Jesuit missionary I administered various parishes in Georgetown and taught part-time in the University of Guyana. Thereafter I spent more than a year in the US doing a spirituality course (Portland, Oregon) and working as a chaplain in St Peters University (Jersey City).

My work here in Mancedwinhester tries to understand the mechanism of arsenic speciation mediated by arsenic respiring bacteria in aquifer sediments. A meta-omic (genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics) approach will help establish the role of microorganisms in arsenic mobilisation in aquifers and help decipher the underpinning mechanisms. This deeper level of understanding will in turn help better target measures applied to arsenic mitigation.

As my hobby, I keep a constant vigil at cricket scores. Though I support Chennai Super Kings, my favourite cricketer is Chris Gayle. Besides cricket, I play badminton on Mondays, table-tennis on Thursdays and visit historical sites on Weekends (if possible). I read history from victim’s perspective. Watching historical documentaries is my big time hobby.

My favourite mineral from TODAY is amethyst because of its metaphysical properties and purple colour and of course it is my birthstone too.

Hollie-Louise Green

I am originally from Plymouth and grew up in Cornwall. Bored of the cows and lack of a night life, I ventured up to Manchester to undertake an undergraduate master’s degree in chemistry at The University of Manchester. Having not yet completed my mission of visiting every pub in Manchester I decided to stay and do a PhD as part of the NGN CDT.

I did my 3rd year project with Prof. Roy Goodacre, quantifying the limits of detection of certain food additives bound to gold and silver nanoparticles, using Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy. My 4th year project was with Dr. Nicholas Lockyer in a comparative study of Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry with Laser Post-Ionisation Sputtered Neutral Mass Spectrometry, for the quantitative analysis of metal alloys.hlg

Now I am a part of the schools of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences and Chemistry with the project entitled “Radionuclide Biogeochemistry in Cementitious Wasteforms”. Where I will be focusing on the ability of microbial processes to mediate biogeochemical processes and radionuclide speciation in cementitious wasteforms, and how the heterogeneity of waste and cement grout affects this.

Outside of research I enjoy going to the gym, golf (pub golf that is) and I love cheesy chips with gravy but then again who doesn’t?!

And my favourite mineral is Labradorite, because it’s so pretty due to its iridescent properties. It also has the word Lab. and Rad. in there, and you’ll catch me in the Rad Lab, so win, win. I also like dogs.

Haydn Haynes

I am originally from Telford in the north of Shropshire. I studied for a Masters degree in Earth Science at the University of Manchester, and spent my final year researching the geochemical cycling of uranium in clays.haydn

My research studies the microbiology of bentonite, a buffer material intended for use in a geological disposal facility. The combination of high temperatures, radiation, and decreased water activity make for a hostile location. Understanding the microbial community is a crucial factor when considering the long-term stability of high-level wastes.

Outside of the office I enjoy watching a variety of sports including football (Shrewsbury Town FC), visiting new places, and walking. I also enjoy a wide variety of music, and play electric guitar.

My favourite mineral is the phyllosilicate montmorillonite, the main component of bentonite. It exhibits the unusual property of swelling in the presence of water.

Gina Kuippers

I was born in Aachen and graduated in Bremen as MSc Geosciences with the deep sea being my speciality, before I came to Manchester for my PhD.

ginaIn my current project I am working with isosaccharinic acid, a cellulolytic degradation product that is soluble and forms stable complexes with radionuclides. The focus of my studies is on the immobilisation of radionuclides through microbial break-down processes of the mentioned complexes.

Away from work I enjoy being active by hiking, long distance running, skiing and snowboarding… However, my biggest passion is Ultimate Frisbee, which is a combination of a great sport and seeing my friends. I am enrolled in several clubs and currently leading the Manchester Women’s team. Other than that I’m a passionate gardener and happy to try experiments in the kitchen.

I haven’t found my favourite microbe yet, but my favourite mineral would be a red silicate variety from the garnet group, known as Pyrope, as it is mined in Madagascar, South Africa or Sri Lanka, because of its incredibly deep red – my favourite colour too!

Rebeca Lopez

I’m from Tecate, a small city located in the northwest part of Mexico.  Before starting this PhD I studied a MSc in Biotechnology, at the Center of Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute, in Mexico City.

waterfall resized!My PhD is titled “Exploring the metal-microbe interface using advanced mass spectroscopy techniques”.  I’m just starting, I’m new in this field and I find everything very interesting!  I think what makes this project particularly interesting is the exploitation of analytical methods that haven’t been widely used before to study metal-reducing bacteria, which will hopefully allow us to learn more about the mechanisms involved in these reactions.

I like to do a lot of things in my free time, sometimes I read, I do yoga, bake vegan desserts, go to concerts, take photos of anything that draws my attention…lately I’ve been taking online French classes.  But honestly, I frequently catch myself spending more time on the internet and social networks than I would like to admit.

If I had to choose a favourite microbe it would probably be Saccharomyces cerevisiae, basically because to it we owe the existence of two biotechnological products that I really love: bread and beer.  Regarding my favourite mineral, I like amethyst, I love its colour.

Babajide Milton Macaulay

I am from Obalende, a town that never sleeps, situated on Lagos Island in Nigeria, West Africa. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Biology (focused on Plant Ecology) from the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) in Nigeria and an MSc degree in Sustainable Environmental Management (focused on Environmental Microbiology) from the University of Greenwich, UK. I was an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Biology at FUTA before returning to the UK for my PhD studies.

miltonMy PhD research focuses on understanding the role of anaerobes and organic substances in the mobilisation of arsenic in groundwater. Hundreds of millions of people (not restricted to South and South East Asia as often reported) are at risk of arsenic poisoning. There is a lot of debate on the mechanisms that drive arsenic transport in aquifers, which inspired me to join the business of trying to resolve the unanswered questions, as well as the lack of data on arsenic in Nigeria aquifers, despite not knowing anything about rocks and minerals!  It’s been quite challenging so far, but the Geomicrobiology and Geochemistry research groups have got a rock-solid student support system which makes learning new skills/competences much easier.

When I’m not working, I love watching American movies, particularly action and horror. I also enjoy hanging out with friends and surfing the internet for hours. I must admit that I am an ardent fan of Manchester United, so the coincidence to study here in Manchester is more than fulfilling!

My favourite microbe will most definitely be Geobacter, mainly because I see it mentioned in almost every research article on arsenic that I have read. Sometimes I say to myself, ‘If Geobacter was a human, I would love to meet him.’

Shauna McLoughlin

I am originally from Widnes, a small industrial town in Cheshire. Before my PhD I gained a BSc in Environmental Science here at the University of Manchester.

The focus of my project is to understand selenium toxicity in the natural environment, in Photoparticular, an area of Limerick in Ireland where elevated concentrations of selenium are affecting agricultural land. Selenium is an important micronutrient to humans and animals with the narrowest range between deficiency and toxicity than any other element. Seleniferous areas often exist in very close proximity to selenium deficient areas making it an interesting element to study. My project will explore the entire selenium cycle from the source rock, regolith, soil, to the uptake in plants, examining the biotic vs abiotic processes involved.

Outside of research I have huge interest in human nutrition, so I spend a lot of time cooking healthy food! I also enjoy painting, drawing and photography and try to make time to visit art exhibitions. When I’m not in Manchester, I love spending time outdoors, whether it’s hiking or attending music festivals.

Even though it’s one of the most abundant minerals on earth I would have to say quartz is my favourite mineral, mainly because my birthstone Amethyst is a member of the quartz family!

Sul Mulroy

Originally I was from London a long time ago, but have lived all over the UK. Generally I pretend I’m from Manchester these days. Before starting my PhD I took the Geochemistry route through the MEarthSci course at Manchester and graduated in 2013. Then I worked in a hospital in London, went to Australia to find a job in mining (didn’t get one so did a bit of travelling and working across Western Australia), worked in Edinburgh for a year in a pub and was lucky enough to be saved from obscurity by getting this PhD.

DSC_0020My PhD project involves determining the structure of Co- and Ni- bearing Fe- and Mn-minerals from natural environments such as ocean-floor Mn-nodules and terrestrial laterite deposits. I will use Geobacter sulfurreducens to assess the influence of Fe-reducing bacteria on these minerals using both synthetic and natural samples, in order to study how the minerals evolve during bio-processing. What makes this project so exciting is that these organisms might potentially be used to mitigate the environmentally damaging and expensive processes currently used to turn raw materials into usable products. Also I get to do work at the Natural History Museum which, having gone through a prolonged and intense dinosaur infatuation as a child, means one of my life’s greatest dreams has come true.

Outside of the lab I like kickboxing (still rubbish at it), rock-climbing (not too bad at it), gold-panning (never found any gold), camping (total boss), drinking whisky (in moderation as per Government unit guidelines).  As for my favourite mineral, I’m in love with diamond but I’ll probably settle down with vernadite.

Tom Neill

I am from Loughborough, which is a town in the East Midlands, and my first degree was here at the University of Manchester in the School of Chemistry. I did MChem Chemistry with a research project in inorganic synthesis.

For my PhD I will be looking at radionuclide-containing colloids in the conditions relevant to effluent treatment processes at Sellafield. The aim of this is to understand the formation, stability, size and composition of these colloids and which factors are most relevant in stabilising and destabilising them.

Outside of work I like to stay active. I play sport quite regularly, in particular football. I also enjoy cooking (and eating) and reading.

My favourite mineral is not something I have previously given much thought! I would have to say malachite, just for the colour.

Sharon Ruiz Lopez

I am Sharon, and I am from Mexico. Born and raised in a small city called Atlacomulco, then moved to Mexico City where I studied in the Polytechnic National Institute. My BEng in Biochemistry was focused in Bioinformatics, although I liked it, I decided to look for something new, so I changed the topic and did my MSc in Biotechnology and Bioengineering working with groundwater remediation, molecular biology and aquatic toxicology where I learnt so much and I discovered the fantastic, sometimes stressful, research world.

sharonI also worked a few months in a pharmaceutical laboratory doing liquid chromatography and microbiological analysis.

My project is “Understanding the microbial productivity in highly radioactive storage facilities” and what I find interesting is the characterisation of microbial communities which are able to survive in extreme environments such as nuclear facilities, generating new information of the diversity of life in these environments. It is also interesting to consider the wide use of techniques like next generation sequencing in combination with metagenomic analysis and metatranscriptomic studies to determine the physiological adaptations of these microorganisms, making easier their future identification and improving our understanding of their interactions with radionuclides.

When I am not in lab I like hanging out with friends, watching sit-coms, listening to music, dancing, reading, chatting to my family and cooking (I’m not good at it, but I try).

About microbes, my favourite ones are protozoa, specifically Euglypha, a shelled amoeba which is common in soil, treatment plants, and stream bottoms where decaying organic matter is present. I like it because it is able to adapt to a wide range of conditions.


Adam Sims

I am from Burgess Hill, near Brighton, in West Sussex. I studied for four years at the University of Manchester on a MCHEM degree with a study in North America, in which I spent a year in Illinois at the University of Urbana-Champaign studying chemistry as well. I finished with a first class honours degree in chemistry from The University of Manchester.

AdamSims (1)My topic of research is development of an in depth study of the engineered clay barrier for deep geological disposal facilities for nuclear wastes. A number of clays are looked at in my project comparing high and low iron clays that are montmorillonites or nontronites. Challenges from heat, radiation, corrosion products, and groundwater impact clays differently and effects will be studied initially separately leading to coupled studies. The project is relevant now and within an expanding field keeping things interesting.

I am an active member of the University basketball and swimming teams which help de-stress from work and also take part in a number of runs throughout the year.

If I had to choose a favourite mineral it would be Cristobalite as you can always count on it to be there, in the right place, in highly heated clays giving some form of pattern to clay XRDs.

Agustín Solano Arguedas

Hi, proudly I am Tico, which it means that I am from Costa Rica. I have lived all my life in a town called Paraíso (Paradise in English), and yes, it lives up to its name!  Prior to coming to Manchester I obtained degrees in chemistry and biology from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR).  For my MSc thesis I looked at the synthesis and modification of a nano-biomaterial called hydroxyapatite. I studied its potential application in cancer therapies as a drug vector and as a fluorescent marker. After my studies, I spent time working as a researcher in the Forestry Resources Unit of the UCR (ReForesta). There, I was part of a team studying and restoring the Stone Spheres of Pre-Columbian Sites of Diquís Delta in Costa Rica (UNESCO World Heritage, 2014).

KODAK Camera

In my PhD I will be studying the geomicrobiology of cobalt in Costa Rican tropical ecosystems. I want to investigate cobalt levels in the soils and minerals before moving onto studying the interactions between fungi /bacteria and Co.  My idea is to work in Santa Elena (dry forest) and in Páramos (perhaps the most unexplored ecosystem in my country); both are beautiful complex and interesting sites.

In my free time I like to watch TV, chat with my family, read books, go to the movies and of course watch football (especially my team in CR: “La Liga” and my national team “La sele” as we called). I also like swimming, running, dance salsa and merengue and visit new places, especially archaeological sites or natural parks. I really enjoy hearing and feeling nature.

I would say that hydroxyapatite is my preferred mineral; it is very interesting as it is the main inorganic component in the bones of mammals, and it is super versatile and can be used in clinical/biological applications, as a catalyst, and in other chemical applications.

To finish, as we say in CR, Pura Vida!

Alex Tait

Hi, I grew up in a little town called Bromyard in Herefordshire, but I’ve lived in Manchester for over 10 years now. I moved here to study Biology and achieved a BSc from the Faculty of Life Sciences in 2008. Over the next few years, I developed a keen interest in environmental science, and returned to study in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, graduating with an MSc in Pollution and Environmental Control in 2012.

atAfter working in environmental consultancy for four years, I’ve decided to take on the challenge of a PhD. My research is looking at novel approaches for the remediation of Mercury from contaminated land and water. I hope to find solutions that can harness the ‘power’ of microbial communities to influence geochemical processes controlling the fate of Mercury in polluted environments.

Outside of university, I try to stay active through cycling, hillwalking and regular trips to the gym. I love the great outdoors and enjoy exploring new places. I’ve done a couple of trips to S.E. Asia – providing an opportunity to immerse myself in some exotic landscapes. I’ve also got a keen interest in music and film.

My favourite microbe has got to be the bioluminescent Photobacterium phosphoreum – lux genes enable it to emit a blue-green light, it forms symbiotic relationships that can light up the deep sea!

Luke Townsend

lukeHi, I’m Luke and I’m from Chorley in Lancashire. I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Manchester, studying Chemistry with Industrial Experience. My interest in radiochemistry came from my year in industry, in which I worked for Amec Foster Wheeler analysing nuclear decommissioning samples for radionuclides such as iodine-129 and nickel-63.

After taking a slight detour from radiochemistry for my master’s year (playing with upconverting nanophosphors), I’ve now joined the Geomicro group to study my PhD entitled ‘long-term fate of radionuclides during sulfidation’. The project is especially interesting to me as a chemist due to the interdisciplinary aspects of mineralogy and microbiology, which are somewhat foreign to me! My work will have implications towards broadening the understanding uranium and technetium mobility in geological disposal facilities and the environment.

In my free time, I enjoy playing and watching football, supporting the greatest team in the world; Blackburn Rovers. I’m also a keen runner and guitarist (not both at the same time) and love music in pretty much any shape or form.

My favourite mineral is schoepite, chosen for only two reasons; primarily, it’s really bright yellow, and it contains uranium (and so is at least a little relevant to my work).

Gianni Vettese

I’m from the wonderful (and definitely great) town of Great Yarmouth, but after 4 years of study in the fine city of Manchester (and at least another 3 to go) I feel I have truly made my home up North.

gianniI did my chemistry undergrad in Manchester working in the Mills group, and for my masters project I studied the chemistry and reactivity of low coordinate samarium (II). My PhD research will involve studying enzymatic microbial metal reduction reactions. The work is great for me as it saddles more than one discipline but still revolves around chemistry. In short, I will happily spend the next three years of my life shaking soils.

Out of the office I am a family guy, mahoosive foody, watch obsessionist, terrible guitar player, and blindly believe the humble faith that ‘anything Italian is the best’. I love finding new and cool bars and restaurants about town.

My favourite mineral is apatite – I’ve always got one…

Josh Weatherill

I am from Norfolk and before coming to Manchester I did my BSc in Environmental Chemistry at the University of East Anglia in the fine city of Norwich. As part of my degree I also studied for a year at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

945043_10151565551067508_659985945_nIn Manchester I am studying iron oxyhydroxide (FeOx) formation in relation to radioactive effluent treatment. The high adsorptive capacity of FeOx, and their ability to co-precipitate aqueous ions makes them effective industrial decontaminants of radionuclides. Gaining a fundamental understanding of the FeOx formation process and how it is affected by solution composition is vital for achieving better control over such industrial processes. Specifically, my project is focused on understanding the fundamental process of FeOx formation in the Enhanced Actinide Removal Plant, an effluent treatment plant at Sellafield that decontaminates radioactive waste streams by co-precipitating dissolved radionuclides with FeOx phases.

Outside of academia I enjoy travelling, hiking, literature and art (looking at, not doing).

My favourite mineral would have to be ferrihydrite (specifically the 2-line variety) because it is the phase I encounter most commonly in my work and its properties are the subject of many exciting unanswered questions. However, a close second would be malachite because it is green, and green is my favourite colour.

Ellen Winstanley

I am from North Manchester. I did my MChem in Chemistry with Industrial Experience here at the University of Manchester. I spent my third year working as a chemist in an R&D department of Lubrizol Ltd, and then finished my Masters in fourth year by working on an organic chemistry project.

The title of my project is: Radionuclide uptake during iron floc formation: application toEllen Winstanley the Enhanced Actinide Removal Plant (EARP) Process.

I’m looking into the mechanism for how the precipitation of iron (oxyhydr)oxide flocs can remove various radionuclides from aqueous solution. Knowing how the radionuclides are sorbed to the iron is important because it allows you to see how different conditions could affect the sorption mechanism and hinder (or help) the uptake of radionuclides. This project is specifically aimed at the EARP procedure which processes some liquid waste streams at Sellafield.

Outside of research I love rock climbing (though I’m not very good) and eating cake.

Before I started this project I never imagined I would have a favourite mineral … ask me again in a year!


Pieter Bots

Hi, I am Pieter Bots, yes with an “i”, spelt the Dutch way. I did my undergraduate and my MSc at the University of Utrecht, then I moved to England (Leeds) to do my PhD in carbonate mineralogy. I have been in Manchester since 2012 working on the geochemistry of radionuclides and how they behave in redox-active, alkaline environments, using TEM, XRD and synchrotron based X-ray scattering and spectroscopy. When I grow up, I want to continue working in academia and focus more on the processes that occur at the nano-scale (the micro- and macro-scale are boring), such as the nucleation and growth of mineral phases.for profile5

When I’m not at the department, I love wandering around in the city centre of Manchester or any other big city. Also I enjoy playing sports, but still can’t figure out which one to choose here in Manchester – as a Dutchie I would prefer long-track speed skating, but that’s impossible here in the UK. Some interesting facts about me are that I used to be a qualified trampolining referee, I shook the hand of the president of Iceland in 2010, and once I’ve cracked the skin on the back of my head with a snowboard that was attached to one of my feet.

My favourite mineral is probably rapidcreekite, a mineral phase that I encountered during my PhD and some kind of weird mixture between gypsum and calcite, which has only been found at 3 locations (including Rapid Creek, in the far north of Yukon, Canada), but potentially forms as a precursor phase to gypsum.  If I was an element I would be technetium (specifically, pertechnetate) because I’m unnatural, I don’t bind to anything and I radiate.

Ash Brown

Ash is originally from Hull in Yorkshire. He completed his BSc in Environmental Science at the University of Manchester in 2009, before joining the Geomicrobiology group to pursue a PhD investigating the impact of radiation on microbial processes relevant to the geodisposal of radioactive waste.Ash

After completion of his PhD in 2013, Ash continued in the group as a postdoc.  His research interests remain broadly similar but have increased to incorporate an investigation of the potential use of biominerals for the upgrading of oil.

When he’s not in the lab, Ash is out on his road bike in the hills around Manchester trying to win back his King of the Mountain title.  He’s not bitter about this at all.

His favourite microbe is currently Haematococcus pluvialis, though this changes on an almost weekly basis, depending on what is refusing to grow in the lab! H. pluvialis exhibits some fascinating responses to intense radiation fluxes, allowing it to make a living in some pretty extreme environments!

James Byrne

I was a PhD student supervised by Jon Lloyd and Richard Pattrick from September 2008 until March 2012. I also worked closely with Vicky Coker and Neil Telling during this time. My PhD thesis focused on the synthesis and manipulation of biogenic magnetite (biomagnetite) nanoparticles that were produced by the Fe(III)-reducing bacteria Geobacter sulfurreducens. We found that through the incorporation of transition metals such as zinc and cobalt it was possible to change various properties of the mineral including its size and magnetization. The aim was to try to improve the suitability of the biomagnetite for various different applications such as remediation, for medical treatments such as targeted cancer therapy, or as contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).IMG_7365

Currently I am a Postdoc in the Geomicrobiology group of Andreas Kappler at the University of Tuebingen, Germany. I still focus on bacteria and magnetite however I am now exploring how bacteria can use magnetite as a natural battery, i.e. either as an electron sink or source depending upon the redox conditions present. This could potentially work as a survival mechanism which enables bacteria to survive under fluctuating redox conditions or night and day cycles. I also do a lot of work focused on the use of 57Fe Mössbauer spectrometry to probe the basic mineralogy and oxidation state of iron minerals in sediments, soils or pure cultures.

There are some great things about the job and living here in Germany. I think some of the best things include the beer, Fleischkäse (which literally translates into meat cheese although I don’t know what is really in it) and the whole chance to live and work in a different country. It’s not quite as wet as Manchester here either! Some things I do miss about Manchester are going for lunch at Umami and the inevitable Friday evening/afternoon beers, although I try my best to keep up that tradition here.

Helen Downie

I’m from Glasgow and for my PhD I studied soil biology in Dundee at the Jame Hutton Institute, where I made transparent soil for imaging roots and microbes.


I am currently working on imaging subsurface microbial processes which influence the fate of toxic metals. The imaging techniques range from cryoTEM to fluorescence microscopy to synchrotron X-ray microscopy and most things in between. By combining all of these techniques we can begin to link the morphology and physiology of microbes to the chemistry of the minerals with which they interact at the sub-micron scale. This is interesting because we can replicate microbial processes in nature in the lab, giving us an insight into the effects of bacteria in the environment on toxic metal cycling.

In my free time I enjoy hillwalking, climbing, football, a bit of gardening and playing my trumpet in Glossop’s Regent Big Band.

My favourite microbe is probably Magnetospirillum because of their interesting helical morphology and their tasteful accessorising with magnetosomes.

Fabiola Guido-Garcia

I’m from Mexico City and used to have a job for designing wastewater treatment plants back there.

In Manchester FABIOLAI’m studying the redox behaviour of iodine under progressive anoxia conditions to understand how it will behave when present in the subsurface. This is really interesting because iodine is present in radioactive waste and even though scientists are doing their best to find out the best way to keep it as far away as possible from humans, we need to know if/how it can travel back to us!

When I’m not in the lab, I like hanging out with my friends, going to the theatre, concerts, gigs, dancing, exercising, or just enjoying a nice meal out followed by coffee/tea on a rainy day.

My favourite mineral is probably magnetite because I have recently learned how to promote its formation with microbes which I find really exciting. Therefore maybe, Geobacter would be my favourite microbe.

Sarah Smith

SarahsmithphotoI was a PhD student working in the Manchester Geomicrobiology group with Jon Lloyd from 2011-2015, and was co-supervised by Julia West from the British Geological Survey. My PhD project focused on the impact of microbial processes on transport properties of a host rock environment for the geological disposal of intermediate-level radioactive waste. This involved carrying out a number of column experiments under high pH conditions, aiming to be representative of some of the conditions that will be present in this environment.

Currently I am a Postdoc working in the acidophile research team at Bangor University with Barrie Johnson. I use acidophilic microorganisms to bioleach metals from a range of ore types, with a particular focus on cobalt extraction.

Outside of research I enjoy running, hiking, cycling and eating. My favourite microorganisms belong to the genus Serpentinomonas. They are alkaliphilic hydrogen utilizers and were the key players in some of the experiments during my PhD, but really I’m just a fan of anything extremophilic.

Ed Thomas

As an undergraduate I studied an MEarthSci at the University of Manchester with a particular research focus on geochemistry of soft tissue preservation in fossils, which is how I became fascinated with the interactions between the biosphere and lithosphere.  My PhD research is on the bio-reduction of cobalt and nickel in manganese minerals and the potential uses of nanoparticles.

edrocksIn my spare time you can usually find me at a pub quiz, playing 5-a-side football or following Sheffield Wednesday on their journey back to the Premier League.

My favourite mineral is apatite, specifically Durango apatite. It has many uses as a reference material across a range of disciplines in mineralogy and geochemistry make it incredibly useful, as I found out during my time at SLAC synchrotron last summer.

Clare Thorpe

I am from Marple, a small town on the boarder of the Peak District. I have been involved with the Manchester Geomicro group since 2008 when I was a master student at the University of Manchester. I then left to do a PhD at the University of Leeds but returned in 2010 to re-join the Manchester group as part of the Research Centre for Radwaste Disposal

Clare (left)

Like others in the group I study microbe-metal interactions and am particularly interested in the co-treatment of co-contaminant radionuclides such as Sr-90 and Tc-99. I am interested in using dynamic column experiments to more closely mimic subsurface conditions.

I absolutely love sailing. I race dinghies on a reservoir in Derbyshire and sail yachts all over the world. Most recently I lead a sailing expedition from the UK to Antarctica and back.

I quite like the mineral siderite (iron(II) carbonate: FeCO3). Siderite is often the product of microbial iron reduction and is often overlooked in favour of its more exciting half brother magnetite. Siderite is important when thinking about Sr-90 capture because Sr2+ can substitute into carbonate phases.

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