Most promising science’ prizes at Annual Conference 2021: more of the Microbiology winners

Posted on June 21, 2021   by Microbiology Society

Last week on the blog, we learned about some of the winners of the Microbiology Society Journals ‘Most Promising Science’ prizes. In this blog, more winners awarded the prize by Microbiology Editors discuss their research.  

Lina Maria Pintor: ‘4000 metres closer to novel antibiotics: a bioprospecting tale of three Streptomyces strains from the Andes’ 

Who or what inspired you to be a scientist?   

First, a course in my undergraduate degree in engineering that gave me a glimpse of what micro-organisms can do in nature. Then, the passion for science that I have seen in some lecturers and mentors since I began my journey in microbiology. They are still a source of inspiration.  

What are you currently working on and what area of your research excites you the most?  

I am working on finding novel antibiotics produced by the soil-dwelling bacteria Streptomyces. I am fascinated with the genetic and regulatory elements behind the broad biosynthetic repertoire in these micro-organisms.  

 How would you explain your poster to a child under 10? 

In the mountains of Colombia, there is an ecosystem whose soil harbours bacteria with the potential to produce novel antibiotics. To unravel it, we have looked at these micro-organisms’ genetic material and predicted the fragments linked to antimicrobial activity. Now we are working on them to understand how they produce antibiotics and how we can manipulate them so one day these compounds can save lives.    

What would you be doing in your career if you weren’t a scientist?  

No idea, but I love languages and dancing. If I could, I would love to make a career out of combining both. 

Maya Kamat: ‘Clostridium clostridioforme; a unique member of the mammalian gut microbiome that directly influences host physiology’ 

Who or what inspired you to be a scientist?  

I have always been curious as to how the world around me worked and finding out that I could work to discover these things instantly captured my interest. 

What are you currently working on and what area of your research excites you the most?  

I am currently looking at interactions of metabolites produced in the gut microbiome and how they can influence various diseases that affect humans. This project really excites me as I have always wanted to have some medical link throughout my research. Additionally, the concept of the gut microbiome having an effect on mental wellbeing is of particular interest to me. 

 How would you explain your poster to a child under 10? 

The bugs in our gut can change if we eat different things or take new medicines. These bugs can then make signals that can travel around our bodies, even to our brains and make us ill. 

What would you be doing in your career if you weren’t a scientist? 

I am not entirely sure, most probably something medical. 

Michael Bottery: ‘Interspecies interactions provide antibiotic protection within CF bacterial communities’ 

Who or what inspired you to be a scientist?   

My high school biology teacher Mr Goodwin was a true inspiration to me, he brought so much excitement and joy to the subject and fostered my fascination with biology. He was an amazing teacher who didn’t just teach the facts but inspired me to ask questions and seek answers. 

 What are you currently working on and what area of your research excites you the most?  

My work focuses on how interactions within microbial communities can shape the adaptation of its members, specifically focusing on how interactions can alter the evolution of antibiotic resistance. The fact that there is a world of hidden microbial interactions that can fundamentally change how a community reacts to abiotic stresses fascinates me. 

How would you explain your poster to a child under 10? 

We use medicines to fight the germs that make us ill. But sometimes the germs can fight back against these medicines, so the medicines aren’t as good at making you feel better. Some of these germs that fight medicines can protect other germs that can’t fight back. So, it is really important we choose the right medicine to make people better when they get ill.   

 What would you be doing in your career if you weren’t a scientist?  

If I wasn’t a scientist, I would love to work in data visualisation and graphic design. I really enjoy finding clear and accessible ways to visualise my data, there is something very satisfying about a good graph! 

Ruby Coates: ‘Development of a CRISPR interference system in Campylobacter jejuni’ 

Who or what inspired you to be a scientist?   

Both my schoolteachers and family played a huge part in motivating me to become a scientist. My parents, aunties and brother all supported and inspired me to pursue a career in science. My school also ran a brilliant extracurricular STEM programme, which grew my confidence as a woman in science. 

What are you currently working on and what area of your research excites you the most?  

My current work focuses on establishing a tool called CRISPR interference to provide targeted gene repression in gastrointestinal pathogen, C. jejuni. What excites me most about my research is thinking about all of the potential applications this tool could have in understanding the fundamental biology of C. jejuni. 

  How would you explain your poster to a child under 10?   

I work on a bug which causes food poisoning. Usually, scientists have a big toolbox full of tools that they use to study dangerous bugs. However, the toolbox for studying my bacteria is tiny! I am trying to make that toolbox bigger by adding a new tool. 

 What would you be doing in your career if you weren’t a scientist?  

I love reading in my spare time, and when I was younger, I used to write and illustrate my own stories! So maybe working as a publisher or editor. 

Ryan Kerr: ‘Cell-to-cell ATP differences can modulate cellular decision-making’ 

 Who or what inspired you to be a scientist?   

I didn’t have a scientific ‘role model’ growing up. Instead, science and mathematics were the topics I enjoyed most at school, and because of this I have always been supported by my family to pursue it. 

What are you currently working on and what area of your research excites you the most?  

In my current work, I am developing a scalable framework to investigate how available energy influences regulatory networks underlying further cellular decision-making phenomena. A second (and exciting!) project I have started aims to infer the pathways by which resistance is acquired to different antibiotics in clinical Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates. 

 How would you explain your poster to a child under 10?   

All living things are made up of cells. Each cell needs energy to function and can look different depending on its environment. My work shows a cell with more energy has multiple options on how it can look and a cell with less energy cannot change the way it looks. 

 What would you be doing in your career if you weren’t a scientist?  

I couldn't see myself in any discipline outside of science/mathematics. However, if I wasn’t in my current position, I believe I would be working within the Aerospace industry, working on projects to take humans beyond this planet or experimental spacecraft to unexplored areas within (and beyond) the Solar System.