Exploration and exploitation of microbes
The Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research (WCMR) promotes research and education in the application of microbiological principles and techniques to address environmental, industrial, economic, and human health challenges.
Through the WCMR, members with diverse research interests and varying academic backgrounds come together to engage in collaborative research in which microbes, as part of aquatic, terrestrial, engineered and host-associated environments, are explored through:
- computational analysis of sequence data
- identification of constituent species
- annotation and identification of novel molecular activities
- development of synthetic biology applications
- engineering of microbial processes for industrial applications
- participation in international sharing
- standardization of big data
- understanding the role of microbes in society.
As a group, the Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research plans to unify, catalyze, and promote multidisciplinary research which explores and exploits microbes at the University of Waterloo. The WCMR also supports partnerships between students, researchers, and external partners through networking events, collaborative projects and science communication. As of 2017, the WCMR is an official centre of the University of Waterloo.
University of Waterloo Office of Research has announced the competition for the UW Interdisciplinary Trailblazer Fund - Round 5, intended to support early career researchers kickstart their potentially game-changing interdisciplinary research project and better prepare them for external funding opportunities, such as New Frontiers Research Fund (NFRF) Exploration Grants.
Applications are due November 27, 2023.
Funding from the Trailblazer award may only be used for co-funding jointly supervised graduate student(s) and/or postdoctoral fellow(s) who is/are directly involved in the proposed project. Applicants are expected to have other funding resources available to cover other project expenses by the time the project commences.
For details on the call, including eligibility criteria and detailed application instructions, view the full call.
The Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research (WCMR) is coordinating a campus project screening for COVID using saliva. Professors Trevor Charles and Jozef Nissimov from the Department of Biology, alongside Drs. Patricia Quadros and Carly Huitema of the WCMR have been awarded $120,000 to determine the effectiveness of a new rapid test and help prevent outbreaks on campus.
The WCMR participated in a panel of international experts as part of our membership representing Canada in the international, EU funded project MicrobiomeSupport. The outcome of this workshop and subsequent online survey was to propose a widely accepted definition of 'microbiome', which was just published in the journal Microbiome.
Towards valorization of food waste to bioplastics in Pseudomonas alloputida
with Shirley Wong, Postdoctoral Fellow
Annually, over a billion tonnes of food is wasted, where it largely ends up in landfills and massively contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases. To improve global sustainability, this low-value carbon resource can instead be converted into high-value bio-based products. Microbial valorization of food waste has been validated for many applications, from biofuels to bioplastic polymers like polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs). Much effort has gone into processing heterogenous food waste towards such applications, such as anaerobic digestion to produce short-chain fatty acids (scFAs), a group of industrially-relevant fatty acids that can be used as building blocks for other bioproducts.Pseudomonas alloputida is a highly promising PHA producer but its ability to metabolize scFAs is limited.
To improve the capacity of PH production on scFAs and, therefore, enable its upcycling of food waste into high-value bioplastic, we are using functional metagenomics to mine exogenous carbon utilization pathways from the environment. Environmental microbial communities represent rich, untapped reservoirs of novel genes and metabolic pathways. Here, we present community analyses of compost and soil microbiomes enriched for utilization of short (C2-C5) versus medium chain fatty acids (C8 and C9) under conditions conducive to PHA accumulation. We are furthermore constructing metagenomic libraries from the enriched cultures using the broad-host-range cosmid pJC8, with an average insert size of 33 kb. The metagenomic libraries will enable us to functionally screen for, identify, and isolate exogenous metabolic pathways that could support scFA-PHA conversion by P. alloputida. Additionally, we further characterize the ability of engineeredP. alloputida to use VFAs in bioplastic production, demonstrating its use in food waste valorization.
Event page for W2024 WCMR Open House