BiographyPatricia studied Industrial Biochemistry and graduated from the University of Limerick in 2008. On completion of her degree, she was awarded the Silver Medal for Academic Performance in the College of Science. She completed a Ph.D. in Molecular Microbiology in 2012. The focus of her work was on the analysis of a group of Mobile Genetic Elements termed the SXT/R391 family of Integrative Conjugative Elements. These mobile elements are known to spread antibiotic resistance determinants among gram-negative bacteria, specifically Vibrio cholerae and other enteric pathogens. On completion of her Ph.D., she then became involved in the DEMA project [http://www.dema-etoh.eu/en/]. The DEMA consortium aims to develop low cost technologies that allow for the direct production of bioethanol from microalgae. Within the consortium, she is primarily involved in the generation of a library of metabolically engineered high ethanol-producing microalgae strains. Patricia has recently joined the CES department as a lecturer in Industrial Biochemistry while she continues her work within the DEMA consortium.
Research InterestsDue to a rise in global CO2 levels and depletion of fossil fuel resources, biofuel energy solutions are of increasing importance. With the EU mandatory target of 10% substitution of fossil fuels by 2020, it is crucial that we rapidly find alternative cost effective sustainable solutions for biofuel production. With this in mind, my current research plans are focused on the production of 3rd generation biofuel solutions [biofuels derived from algae and cyanobacteria] which aim to directly convert solar energy to biofuel products. I am also interested in developing technologies that can utilise the spent cell biomass for environmentally beneficial applications and the optimisation of conversion processes for industrial waste materials to biodiesel and other bio-products.
Within the DEMA project, I am currently focused on the investigation of the utility of the cyanobacterial strain Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 for the production of bioethanol. The utilisation of cyanobacteria for the production of biofuels has recently received significant attention due to the phototrophic nature of the organism and minimal requirement for land usage compared to 2nd generation biofuels. Synechocystis PCC 6803 is a model cyanobacterium for genetic manipulation and has been widely used to produce a range of biotechnological products such as isobutanol and lactic acid. We have integrated several versions of a non-native ethanol biosynthesis pathway into Synechocystis PCC 6803 and have generated a large library of ethanol-producing mutants. Under laboratory conditions, some of these strains produce levels of ethanol that are above that of the current state of the art. Currently, we are optimising these high-producing strains to further enhance ethanol productivity rates to improve the commercialisation potential of the DEMA process. To this end, a number of novel strategies are being investigated including the deletion of genes involved in storage compound accumulation and over-expression of pyruvate, the internal energy resource for ethanol production.
- 2012 University of Limerick - PhD
- 2008 University of Limerick - BSc (Hons)
- 2012 - BOC Gases Postgraduate Award
- 2008 - Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology PhD research study grant
- 2008 - Silver Medal for Academic Performance
- 2005 - UREKA scholarship