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Keith Mewis
PhD Program
Previous Degree: B.Sc. Biophysics

2009 Cohort

A high throughput method for the screening of metagenomic libraries is to be developed. This method can be used for the detection of any enzyme activity for which a suitable substrate can be developed, with the initial emphasis on cellulase activity. Cellulases are expected to play an important role in meeting the demand for alternative biofuel production. Cellulases break down recalcitrant plant matter into glucose, which can be processed and fermented into ethanol. The identification of new cellulases from a range of environments will hopefully yield enzymes that are active across a broad range of pH values, salt concentrations, or ionic liquid concentrations that would be compatible with other steps in the cellulosic ethanol pathway. Following the demonstration of a rapid and effective screen for cellulase activity, this method can be used for the identification of other enzymes.

The project will involve the preparation, screening and analysis of metagenomic libraries. Screening involves the replication and processing of 384 well plates using hardware and software to be automated. Analysis involves the post-sequencing bioinformatic methods to determine phylogeny and function of the analysed DNA. This method has industrial and academic applications for the identification of any novel enzyme, initially developed for identification of cellulases, from any environment.

Supervisor: Steven Hallam