I first joined the Quadram Institute in 2019 as a group leader in the Gut Microbes and Health programme before becoming lead for our Food Innovation in Health programme in 2020. In 2022 I was appointed Chief Scientific Officer for the Quadram Institute. I am originally from Northern Ireland and went to Southampton University where I read Biochemistry as an undergraduate (1981-1984). I stayed on in the Biochemistry Department to do a PhD with Professor Peter Shoolingin-Jordan, which initiated my interest in the genetics and biochemistry of tetrapyrrole biosynthesis.
After completing my PhD studies, I moved in 1989 to Texas A & M University, where I worked as a research associate with Professor Ian Scott FRS on vitamin B12 biosynthesis. In 1991 I took up a lecturing position in the School of Biological Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London, where I stayed until 1995 when I moved to a Senior Lecturer position at the Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London. I was promoted to Reader of Biochemistry in 1998 but then moved back to the School of Biological Sciences at Queen Mary in 1999 to take up a Personal Chair. In 2005 I moved to the University of Kent, where I am Professor of Biochemistry. In 2007 I was awarded a BBSRC Professorial Fellowship to work on the bioengineering of complex metabolic pathways and in 2018 I was fortunate to gain a Royal Society Industrial Fellowship to work with Mologic on a rapid nutrient diagnostic assay system.
My current interests include understanding how cobalamin (vitamin B12) is made and distributed across the Kingdoms of Life. A key question my group is addressing is the role of cobalamin as a modulator of the GI microbiome and how/if this is related to B12 deficiency. Other works is aimed at understanding the form and function of metabolosomes, bacterial microcompartments, the proteinaceous organelles that assist in the breakdown of specific substrates. A key area of investigation is understanding the metabolic advantage provided by metabolosomes to specific bacteria and whether these are associated with health or disease.