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Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

 

Research Associate

Hi, I’m Evan (he/him) and this is my bio page!

My academic life I guess began with an MSci in Molecular & Cell Biology and Organic Chemistry at University College London, which I finished up in June 2017. The final year of this was spent studying the structural biology underlying a1-antitrypsin polymerisation with Dr James Irving, which involved a great deal of recombinant protein production, EPS spectroscopy and FRET analysis to determine how different parts of the protein shifted during the polymerisation event. Following this I spent two years outside of academia: the first as a private tutor and tutor/support staff at 6th form college, tutoring maths and science A Level; the second doing science communication at a genetic and rare disease charity, Genetic Alliance UK, while studying part-time for Postgraduate Certificate of Practical Science Communication at the Institute of Continued Education here in Cambridge.

I’ve always been interested in the public side of science, how we as scientists communicate our research, how different publics engage with and relate to science, who has a say in what science gets done and how it is used. I recognise science as inherently political, and think that scientist should approach their work with this in mind - for instance not accepting funding from fossil fuel companies to fund renewables research.

Which brings me to my current work. I started my PhD with Dr Jenny Zhang in October 2019, studying extracellular electron transport in cyanobacteria i.e. how do cyanobacteria, having absorbed sunlight, then ‘secrete’ photo-excited electrons from their cells? I look at the interface between these cells and the electrodes we use them with to harvest electrons (and thus solar electricity). In particular I’ve been trying to isolate and identify the specific molecule that picks up electrons from the end of the photosynthetic electron transport chain and drops them off at the electrode. I also do a lot of microscopy with these cyanobacteria, to study how the community of cells changes and the internal & external cell environments change throughout the process of extracellular electron transport. The underlying idea is that if we can better understand the mechanisms behind this process (what is shuttling electrons, how is this process distributed across the electrode) then we can intelligently improve applications of the process - biophotovoltaic devices which would produce solar electricity using predominantly biological systems.

To finish, here are some pretty pictures of Synechocystis PCC. 6803, the cyanobacteria strain I work most with:

The cyanobacteria Synechocystis (also known as blue-green algae), are packed full of chlorophyll to absorb sunlight and allow them to photosynthesise. Under the microscope, this chlorophyll glows red, and allows us to image Synechocystis communities forming a biofilm. In our lab, we grow Synechocystis on electrodes (as pictured here) and harness the extra energy they create during photosynthesis as a new source of solar electricity.

The cyanobacteria Synechocystis (also known as blue-green algae) are packed full of chlorophyll to absorb sunlight and allow them to photosynthesise. Under the microscope, this chlorophyll glows red, and allows us to image Synechocystis communities forming a biofilm. Here I’ve added a fluorescent flavin (cyan), to try to help us image the electrochemical gradient across the biofilm - but it’s been sucked up by the extracellular matrix that the cells produce to form a biofilm. It looks pretty though!

Here I’ve added a fluorescent flavin (cyan) to the cyanobacteria Synechocystis (also known as blue-green algae), to try to help us image the electrochemical gradient across the Synechocystis biofilm. Unfortunately it is mostly sucked up by the extracellular matrix that the cells produce to form a biofilm. At this resolution, and lit from behind by the flavin, it reveals the cells as little bubbles of liquid.
 

 

Publications

Harvesting photocurrents from cyanobacteria and algae
J Zhang, EI Wroe, RM Egan, SJ Willyam, L Shang
– Current Opinion in Electrochemistry
(2024)
101535
Fourfold increase in photocurrent generation ofSynechocystissp. PCC 6803 by exopolysaccharide deprivation
L Wey, E Wroe, V Sadilek, L Shang, X Chen, J Zhang, C Howe
(2024)

Research Group

Email address

eiw22@cam.ac.uk