Dr Ciara Keating
- Research Associate (Evolution & Diversity)
I am a trained microbiologist (BSc from the National University of Ireland, Galway [NUIG]). It was here at NUIG that sparked my interest in environmental microbiology and how we can harness the power of these microscopic organisms for biotechnology, agriculture and food production. This led me to pursue a PhD at NUIG, where my primary research focus was on applying microorganisms for biological waste remediation and bioenergy production in low-temperature conditions. In anaerobic digestion, a wide variety of microbes (grouped according to 'job/function') degrade organic material without oxygen and produce methane gas. This methane gas can be used as a form of renewable energy. Globally, as we try to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, these technologies can be a key player in helping us achieve a sustainable future. In 2016, I moved to the University of Glasgow (UoG) to the Water and Environment research group exploring novel anaerobic imaging, international collaborations and bioinformatic approaches in microbiology. I recently moved to the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Medicine to undertake a postdoc in soil microbial communities to diversify my research portfolio.
My research vision is to understand and harness the true potential of the microbes underpinning various processes to develop more informed means for their manipulation.
I currently work on a multi-disciplinary grant funded by the BBSRC, NERC, DEFRA and the Scottish government. This project, "Building a decision support tool for potato blackleg disease." led by Prof Ian Toth (The James Hutton Institute) https://www.blackleghub.ac.uk/about-us - brings together everything I love about environmental microbiology. We want to understand the relationship between a pathogen of potatoes (Pectobacterium atrosepticum), the soil microbial community, nematodes and external factors (weather, agricultural practices) and use this to build predictive models for its control. We work closely with stakeholders and form part of a broader bacterial plant diseases research portfolio (https://www.bacterialplantdiseases.uk).
You can watch me speak about this research here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZu5ZRTw9m4
As PDRA at the Water and Environment Group, I developed a platform for real-time growth analysis of anaerobic microorganisms. Through a collaboration with biomedical engineers, we have explored the use of microfluidic devices within this system to analyse single cells. We can use this platform to understand the complex cell-cell interactions of the species responsible for methane production to improve the macro scale process. This represents a step-change in lab-based methodologies for these difficult to grow microorganisms.
I've given a seminar to the Mineralogical Society on this work which you can view here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPM-53c_23o&t=3s
Asian Institute of Technology collaboration
At the University of Glasgow, I was involved in a collaboration with the Asian Institute of Technology. This work looks to understand the microbiome of decentralised waste treatment systems.
Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) ECR Catalyst Funding Application (£22,346) “How do free-living nematodes (FLN) interact with the microbial populations in soil?”
Society of Applied Microbiology studentship (£2,500) 2021: “B-cin Quest: Development of a curated database and workflow for searching for existing and novel bacteriocins produced by bacterial genera associated with plant pathogens”.
Co-supervisory role in mobility schemes: International Research Support Initiative Program (2021-2022), under Higher Education Commission, Pakistan Project Nos. 1-8/HEC/HRD/2021/10904; Project No. 1- 8/HEC/HRD/2020/10901; ~£14K
VisNET funding recipient of £4,638 in 2020 – 'Fundamentals in Anaerobic Culturing and Live-Imaging using the AnaeroGrow platform'.
Recipient of £2,000 from the Scottish Research Partnership in Engineering (2020) – ‘Utilising microfluidic cell culture to study strict anaerobic microorganisms in the AnaeroGrow platform’.
Funding from the Royal Society of Chemistry for Diversity and Inclusion (£2,500) for VisNET Collaboration Event Social Dinner. Written by Mulvana, H.E., Keating, C. et al. (2019).
John Robertson Bequest for £1,367 as sole Principle Investigator for a preliminary project supporting fellowship ideas (2018) on salt tolerance in Methanospirillum hungatei.
Professional activities & recognition
Prizes, awards & distinctions
- 2017: (Prof. Anthony Moran Prize)
Selected international presentations
- 2019: Gordon Research Conference on 'Archaea' (Les Diablerets, Switzerland)