The strand that underlies my work to date is a fascination with patterns and processes in nature.
As a child I remember walking through woods in the UK and being fascinated by the diversity of plants, insects and birds, and how these all interacted and seemingly depended on one another. I took a Marine Biology with Applied Zoology undergraduate degree (at the University of North Wales in the UK) – this was a integrative whole organism based degree with a heavy ecological focus. It was in the second year that I properly encountered the subject of evolutionary biology — I distinctly remember reading ‘The Selfish Gene’ by Richard Dawkins. The attraction of evolution for me was a system of thinking that put the diverse array of facts and observations concerning the natural world into perspective – a system that (sometimes) made sense of the natural world. I then moved onto research at the University of Leicester (UK) looking at the genetics of Tuberculosis, and it was here that I was introduced to, and learnt the foundations of, microbiology and molecular biology. After this I was fortunate to work toward a PhD under the guidance of Prof Austin Burt at Imperial College. The work examined the ecology and evolution of selfish genes. From here I gained a post-doctoral position at the NERC Centre for Population Biology, also based at Imperial College, initially under Prof John Lawton, and then Prof Charles Godfray, where I used yeast as model systems to conduct experimental evolution to test ideas about the maintenance of sex. From here I moved to my Faculty position at the University of Auckland. I now am based back in the UK at the University of Lincoln, but also retain a fractional position at the University of Auckland.
In the context of cross species interaction, my research interests are focused around molecular aspects of communication. I am a plant biochemist by trade and my studies ventured from legume-rhizobia symbiosis (MSc equiv. at the Max-Planck Insitute for Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam, Germany) to flavour-related volatiles in kiwi fruit (PhD in Chemistry, Plant and Food Research and University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand).
At no point I expected finding final answers doing research but stimulation to raise ever new questions. This, has not only led to an exciting journey across disciplines and countries but also across organisms. Yeast is a great model for exploring the origin of cellular life, diversity and of course chemical interaction.
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For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with the natural world and the organisms inhabiting it. I began my studies at the University of Auckland as an undergraduate with a keen interest in conservation biology and ecology. This quickly grew to include population and evolutionary genetics which underpinned my PhD, under the guidance of Prof. Mat Goddard, investigating the New Zealand population of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and its contribution to regional wine characteristics.
I am intrigued by how fundamental theories in ecology and evolution can inform commercially relevant questions and vice versa. As such, I am interested in understanding New Zealand’s natural yeast diversity as it is associated with vineyards, and how it can be harnessed to provide new and exciting tools for the New Zealand wine industry. This is reflected in my current research as part of the Lighter Wines PGP Programme where we are investigating New Zealand derived yeasts to aid in producing high quality, lower alcohol wines.
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I have always been curious about ‘how stuff works’, a curiosity that led me to study Science at University. Since graduating, I have spent time working in a number of research labs before returning to the School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland.
In Richard Gardner’s lab I spent some years working on yeast genes important for winemaking and wine flavour (specifically the varietal thiols in Sauvignon Blanc) and more recently, on breeding improved Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains for winemaking.
Since joining the Goddard lab in 2010, I have been involved in conducting & supporting the research efforts of the lab as part of the Sauvignon Blanc Research Programme. In 2011, much effort was devoted to a rigorous sampling of the yeasts associated with Sauvignon Blanc vineyards around New Zealand.
Currently, my main projects are:
1. The fit between yeast and juice (examining if S. cerevisiae exhibit strain differences in their preferences for nutrient sources during fermentation, and if so, might this be used to improve yeast selection for winemaking).
2. The adaptation of yeasts to ferment conditions (testing if fitness of S. cerevisiae can be improved to ensure successful completion of winemaking ferments).
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Watch this space 🙂
I have always liked science generally and biology has been especially interesting to me. This led to me studying for my BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Science at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, conducting research into the shape and movement of mitochondria in the hippocampus as my dissertation topic. Following this, and looking to broaden my knowledge, I began an MSc in Industrial Biotechnology, also at the University of Strathclyde, with my masters thesis involving research into the optimal light conditions to stimulate microalgal growth. I am now researching the microbial communities that are present on grapes, looking particularly at the their population make up and interaction around the time of harvest and what that might mean for winemaking.
Henry de Malmanche