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Team Members

Team leader

Dr Mike Manefield
 is a curious ox. After completing an undergraduate degree with honours in environmental microbiology and a PhD in Australia in 2000 on the ability of algal metabolites to inhibit bacterial quorum sensing Mike spent four years in the UK developing and applying RNA stable isotope probing. After returning to Australia in 2004 he developed a team of experts in the reductive biodegradation of chlorinated solvents, the biotransformation of coal to methane and wastewater floc formation. As a result he has a deep understanding of environmental microbiology in several environments, on many levels of organisation 
and within multiple theoretical frameworks 
(chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, cellular biology, population biology and community ecology). Click here for an extended biography. 
Email: manefield@unsw.edu.au

Research Associates

Dr Matthew Lee
 is a senior research associate in the team.  He obtained his doctorate from the University of Western Australia in 2006.  The focus of this work was to gain an understanding of the flux alkaloidal compounds with in plants that confer them with protection against predation.  Since then Matt has been part of the Manefield research team.  His research interests lie in reductive dechloriantion of organo chlorine solvents where he has developed patented technology and also the biological fragmentation of coal with a view to methane production. Email: mattlee@unsw.edu.au

Dr Maria-Luisa Gutierrez-Zamora
 is a postdoctoral member of the team originally from Mexico. She obtained her PhD in August 2010 from the University of New South Wales presenting a thesis entitled ‘Development of a novel rRNA based method for fingerprinting bacterial consortia’. She has general interest in the ecological and functional roles of microorganisms in the biosphere, in particular the flow of carbon through microbial food chains. She has a specific interest in the microbial biodegradation of hydrocarbons and its associated bioremediation potential. She has been working as a postdoc on the biotransformations of coal to methane for the past two years and is now on maternity leave returning to the bench March 2013. Email: ml.gutierrez@unsw.edu.au.

Dr Sabrina Beckmann is a postdoctoral member of the team. She is originally from Germany and obtained her PhD at the University of Oldenburg (ICBM) presenting the thesis “Microbial Methane Formation in Abandoned Coal Mines in the Ruhr Basin of Germany”. Her research interests focus on the analysis of microbial communities in coal deposits. Important questions concern characterization of these microorganisms and their physiological significance on microbial processes on coal to the final product methane. Special research interests include the lifestyle of Archaea and the methane cycling in the deep biosphere of coal mine habitats. Email: s.beckmann@unsw.edu.au

Dr Astrid Michaelsen
 is a postdoctoral scientist from southern Germany. She completed her PhD at the University of Vienna in Austria in 2010. Her postgraduate studies investigated the foxing of paper caused by fungi and molecular monitoring of conservation treatments. She is now working part time on commercial contracts to quantify bacteria and functional genes involved in the reductive dechlorination of chlorinated solvents in sediment and groundwater samples from polluted sites in Australia. Email: a.michaelsen@unsw.edu.au

Dr Joanna Koenig is originally from Mauritius. She completed a BSc in Biotechnology with Honours at Murdoch University in Perth in 2006. Her Honours project involved describing anaerobic bacteria that degraded volatile fatty acids in thermophilic methanogenic reactors. Jo completed her PhD focussing on bacteria that degrade mixtures of the polluting chlorinated solvents perchloroethene (PCE) and carbon tetrachloride (CT) and joined the group as a research associate working on reductive dechlorination. She is very interested in microbiological applications as solutions to environmental issues, and so far her research projects have had this in common. She believes in utilizing microbes to provide clean energy, valuable materials from waste, and to engineer closed-loop systems. Email: j.koenig@unsw.edu.au

Dr Theerthankar Das, conducted undergraduate studies in India, has a masters degree from Curtin University, Australia and was recently awarded his PhD from University of Groningen, Netherlands. Whilst he is a chemist by training, Das did his PhD on the role of extracellular DNA on biofilm formation. As part of the team he will bring his expertise to bear on the role of quorum sensing in the colonisation of chitin particles and on the discovery of novel redox active compounds produced by bacteria.

Postgraduate Students

Mr Adrian Low is a postgraduate student originally from Singapore investigating a mixed bacteria culture that degrades the environmental pollutant 1,2-Dichloroethane in the Botany Sands Aquifer, Sydney, Australia. He obtained a BSc in Environmental Science and majored in Environmental Microbiology at UNSW. He has a broad interest in the role of bacteria in biogeochemical cycles and more specific interest in the use of bacteria to degrade environmental pollutants for the remediation of contaminated sites. He has been with the group since 2005 as an honours student proceeding with a two-year stint as a research assistant. He will complete his PhD in March 2012. Email: a.low@student.unsw.edu.au

Ms Hazlin Hazrin-Chong received her BSc (Hons) in Biotechnology from the University of New South Wales in 2008, during which she studied the biodegradation of chlorinated compounds using electron shuttles as catalysts. She is now pursuing her PhD in Mircobiology investigating on the role of biofilms on coal as to facilitate coal biodegradation and bioconversion to methane. She hopes to further improve our currently limited understanding of cell attachment and colonisation on coal surface. Originally from Malaysia, she looks forward to serve her nation as a scientist and role model for younger generations after she finishes her study. Hazlin is also acting lab manager for the team. Email: n.hazrinchong@unsw.edu.au

Ms Iman Taleb
 is a postgraduate student from Lebanon who joined the group in July 2009. She got her masters degree in Environmental Microbiology from Beirut Arab University in Lebanon and is currently working on the bioremediation of oil hydrocarbons in seawater by linking the degradation of specific crude oil components to specific bacterial taxa using RNA-stable isotope probing. She is very keen to isolate and identify competent bacteria that can consume, and so help cleaning up oil spills from the environment. Email: angette210@gmail.com

Mr John Webster is a postgraduate student who completed a BSc (Adv) with Honours in 2010. His Honours project involved closing the genome of the Antarctic methanogen Methanogenium frigidum. John is currently undertaking a PhD, looking at the role of microorganisms in the conversion of coal to methane. His project will focus on the anaerobic portion of the microbial consortia and the metabolic reactions involved. John has always been interested in microbial metabolism and how it affects the cycling and/or breakdown of various compounds in the environment. Email: john_webster89@hotmail.com

Ms Valentina Wong is a postgraduate student from Malaysia via New Zealand. She will be studying the reduction of chloroform and other chlorinated solvents in groundwater with Matthew Lee commencing session 2, 2011. Starting with an exploration of the environmental parameters limiting Matt's chloroform degrading culture, Valentina will make attempts to isolate and understand the primary dechlorinator in this culture. She will also be engaged in field work in Sydney and Melbourne where the culture will be released. 

Masters, Honours, Practicum and Volunteer Students 

Mr Önder Kimyon
 is an MSc student who obtained his BSc from the Biochemistry Department of Ege University, Turkey. His MSc project focuses on the role of quorum sensing in waste water treatment. The research involves characterization of  acylated homoserine lactones (AHLs) produced by activated sludge strains and the AHL dependency of extracellular enzyme production and redox active compound production in activated sludge strains. Email: o.kimyon@unsw.edu.au

Ms Mona Elhassan is an Mphil student from the North of Lebanon. She completed her BSc/BA at UNSW and is now investigating floc formation on chitin particles in activated sludge and the processes involved in this phenomenon. The aim of her project is to characterize the effect of AHL signalling on chitinase production and chitin degradation within these flocs. She has come to realise that there is a great disparity between what one cannot see and what is not actually “there”. Email: monaelhassan@hotmail.com

Ms Eliza Wells completed a B. Environmental Science/B. Arts at UNSW in 2011, majoring in microbiology and development studies respectively. Her honours project aims to further investigate the activities of a chloroform degrading culturerecently isolated by Dr Matthew LeeEliza is aiming to bring together both aspects of her degree by providing solutions to the environmental contamination issues experienced in developing countries around the world today. Email:eliza.wells@student.unsw.edu.au

Coming soon!

Monica Das Gupta will join the team as a BABS3301 student before commencing honours mid year in 2012.

Tammy Sihui Tang from China will join the team in session 1, 2012 working on the bioremediation project with Joanna Koenig.

Margaret Collins is an undergraduate chemical engineering student from Villanova University in the US who will join the group for S1 2012.

Mackenzie Hagan is an undergraduate civil engineering student from Arizona State University in the US who will join the group for S2 2012.

Zak Harumain is a postgraduate student from Malaysia. Zak will be working with Maria-Luisa Gutierrez-Zamora on the application of direct RNA fingerprinting to trace substrate usage in anaerobic hydrocarbon degrading enrichment cultures commencing 2012.

Daniel Palm will join the team for postgraduate studies in 2012. Daniel currently works for Dow Chemicals and will spend the majority of his candidature on site in Altona Victoria.