Research Seminar: Rethinking predator-prey dynamics: recognising that mortality and conversion vary with prey abundance.

Dr. David Montagnes, Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool

Wednesday 27th May, 4.00 p.m., Stacey Lecture Theatre 1

Predator-prey dynamics structure ecosystems, and most models assume predators grow by converting a set-percentage of ingested food into themselves and a set-percentage of the predator population dies at any one time; we fail to recognise that these percentages are influenced by the amount of prey available to the predator.  Common sense (and our initial work) suggests that animals are more likely to die when food is scarce, and if there is more food they may be more efficient at converting it into themselves.  I will explore these issues and how we will assess the complexities arising from prey-dependent conversion efficiency and mortality rate.


Stacey Symposium to be held during Alumni Reunion Weekend


All alumni and former staff are invited to the 4th Stacey Symposium “Biological sciences at Kent: the next 50 years” to be held on Friday Sept 4th 2015. The Symposium will be held in the School (Stacey Lecture Theatre) and will form part of the 50th Anniversary ‘Alumni Reunion Weekend’. Speakers will be recently appointed staff who will provide a forward look, emphasising both their research ambitions and how these will shape the School’s research for the “Next 50 Years”. The Symposium begins at 12:00 noon with a buffet reception.

The Symposium is held in honour of Professor Ken Stacey, the founder of the School of Biosciences at Kent who served as its Director until 1982. Under his leadership, Biosciences quickly became one of the most successful departments in the country, and he is remembered by many in the Kent community with great affection.

If you are interested in coming along please contact Mick Tuite  ( for further details.

Research Seminar: Dialogue between protein phosphatases controls progression through mitosis.

Professor Iain Hagan, Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, University of Manchester

Wednesday 20th May, 4.00 p.m., Stacey Lecture Theatre 1

Like many pathways that change cell fate, the mitotic cell division cycle is driven by a successive series of phosphorylation events that are driven by the sequential activation of a number of protein kinases. The gain or loss of CDK-cyclin kinase activities at each rate limiting step of the cycle gates the activation of downstream kinases to promote the phosphorylation cascades that drive the duplication and segregation of chromosomes. Despite this clear and prominent role for phosphorylation in cell cycle control and the identification and characterisation of over 20 cell cycle kinases, very little is known about the modulation of the phosphatase activities that are just as important as the kinases in regulating cell cycle progression. Without these phosphatases, there could be no cyclical gain and loss of phosphate on key targets and the cell cycle would rapidly stall. This seminar will describe how a coupling between the activities of Protein Phosphatase 1 (PP1) and Protein Phosphatase 2A, that account for over 90% of cellular serine/threonine directed phosphatase activity, provides the sequential delivery of phosphatase activities to drive cells through mitosis in fission yeast. Exploratory experimentation and sequence conservation between critical regions of these phosphatases indicate that the phosphatase relay we find in yeast is highly likely to be conserved throughout eukaryotes and function in a range of signalling contexts beyond the cell cycle.


Biosciences students shortlisted for Kent Student Awards

We are delighted to announce that three students from the School of Biosciences have been shortlisted for Kent Student Awards.

Two of the shortlisted students are postgraduates studying the MSc Reproductive Medicine: Science and Ethics. Gullalaii Yousafzai was shortlisted in the “Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community” category for helping the homeless, volunteering as an English teacher, raising awareness of hate crime and supporting asylum seekers through being a birth partner. Ihuoma Chizia Kejeh was shortlisted in the “Chancellor’s Employability Points Award” category for implementing a peer mentoring scheme for our suite of MSc courses in the School of Biosciences.

Our undergraduates are represented by Biomedical Science student Alexander Lamarque, shortlisted in the “Outstanding Contribution to the 50th Anniversary” category for establishing the first TEDxUniversityofKent event. This event, based on the popular TED talks concept, will will share ideas around the theme of ‘Milestones’ as part of the University of Kent 50th anniversary.

The awards are announced at a Gala Dinner on Friday 8th February. With immense pride, we wish our nominees every success!



Research Seminar: Encapsulated Ferritins, or how a bacteriophage ended up as an iron store.

Dr. Jon Marles-Wright, Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh.

Wednesday 13th May, 1.00 p.m., Stacey Lecture Theatre 1

Encapsulins are a class of metabolic compartments that are widely distributed in bacterial and archaeal lineages. These compartments sequester enzymes with peroxidase activity within their central cavity and protect their host cell from oxidative damage resulting from the activity of these enzymes. The encapsulin shell is formed by a protein that is resembles a virus capsid protein and appears to be a case of a genomically integrated bacteriophage that has become defective for replication which has been put to use by its host. The enzymes within encapsulins fall into two classes: dye dependent peroxidases; and ferritin-like proteins. The dye dependent peroxidase enzymes are a well characterised family of heme-dependent enzymes that have a radical mechanism of action and are able to degrade ado-dyes. The ferritin-like proteins found in encapsulins represent a new class of this family of iron-oxidising enzymes. We have determined the X-ray crystal structure of the encapsulated ferritin from the Rhodococcus Jostii encapsulin. This protein has a half-ferritin sequence motif and forms a ‘ring-donut’ structure with the active site formed by two protein chains. This arrangement is starkly different to the classical ferritin cage and has consequences for its role in iron storage. By encapsulating this ferritin within a large capsid, bacteria and archaea are able to store ten times as much iron within its cage in comparison to the classical ferritins.

MRC Career Development Award for Biosciences Dr. Chris Toseland


ct_awardDr. Chris Toseland who recently joined the School of Biosciences has been awarded almost £1.5 million by the Medical Research Council for a Career Development Award.
The project is entitled “Function of Nuclear Myosin Motors: A Biochemical and Single Molecule Characterization”. The research aims to determine how myosin proteins regulate gene expression.
Chris is part of the newly established Mechanics and Dynamics of Cells and Proteins(MaDCaP) group (

Society of Biology accreditation for undergraduate courses

SB Acc Prog logosThe School of Biosciences has added to its impressive array of professional recognition, with Society of Biology accreditation for all of its undergraduate degree programmes.

From April 2015, students studying for undergraduate degrees in Biomedical Science, Biochemistry and Biology, including those with a Professional Year or Year Abroad, will graduate with degrees accredited by the Society of Biology. This followed a panel visit in which our degree programmed were scrutinised to ensure that they offered students the best training possible, and that it matched the needs of employers in the Biosciences sector. Kent is one of only 8 institutions in the UK to have achieved accreditation of its standard 3-year degree programmes.

SoB congratulationsThis most recent professional accreditation is in addition to the existing Society of Biology Advanced Accreditation for our degrees that feature an integrated sandwich year, and the Institute of Biomedical Science accreditation for all of our Biomedical Science degrees. All of our undergraduate degree programmes are now professionally recognised after rigorous scrutiny by relevant professional bodies.

Coupled with our consistently strong performance in the National Student Survey, and our top 10 position in the Research Excellent Framework (REF) for Research Intensity, in confirms Kent as one of the best places in the UK to study the biological sciences.

Science communication student’s crowdfunding success

Chrysanthemums, to be staged on Tuesday 21 April at 7.30pm, combines music from Monteverdi to Philip Glass with Argentine tango dancers. It is being produced by Jane Seaman, a part-time student in MSc in Science, Communication and Society, with donations from two crowdfunding campaigns.

Jane is fundraiser for The Mirabai Project, a not-for-profit collective of musicians, composers and performers, mostly from Kent, who stage innovative events to introduce audiences to new works by contemporary composers.

Jane says: ‘Being a new venture, funding was a challenge so I ran my first ever crowdfunding campaign, which was going well – until the crowdfunding platform we chose went bust eight days before we reached our target!

‘So I tried again, this time with Ideas Tap, and thanks to amazing supporters we reached our target. The show will be mesmerising and a first for Kent.’

The School of Biosciences is delighted that its students make an impact beyond their academic study. For more information on the event see the university news page.

Research Seminar: From its origins to the modern metabolic network

Dr. Markus Rasler, Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge

Wednesday 8th April, 4.00 p.m., Stacey Lecture Theatre 1

Every cell depends on a conserved core set of conserved metabolic reactions, and necessitates flexibility in the flux through the reactions in order to adopt to changes in physiology. We combine quantitative mass spectrometry with genetic tools to study how metabolic networks react upon changes in environment and during ageing. In this talk I’ll present novel results that indicate origins of this network date back to the prebiotic world. In chemical simulations of Archean ocean, we detect the enzyme-free interconversion of metabolites constituting glycolysis and the pentose phosphate pathway, indicating a pre-enzymatic origin of these reaction sequences.

In the modern metabolic network however, additional constraints arise from the limited number of catalysts over the high complexity of chemical molecules present in the metabolic network. Cells can overcome this by compartmentalisation of the networks over time and space. In the second part of the presentation and show examples how modern cells adjust their metabolic flux in order to adjust to rapid growth of a cells and during and stress conditions.

Research Seminar: A synthetic framework for understanding membrane domain formation

Dr. Chieh Hsu, Eastern ARC Research Fellow, School of Biosciences, University of Kent

Wednesday 1st April, 4.00 p.m., Stacey Lecture Theatre 1

To conduct and maintain specific functions of membrane compartments in the cell, the identity of a specific membrane region needs to be established before assembling functional molecular machineries. Small GTPases, amount other major molecular families, define the identity of membrane regions by forming domain structures in processes such as cell polarisation and endocytic cargo trafficking. It has been widely proposed that these membrane domains are formed and maintained via positive feedback loops – the membrane bound form of the small GTPases enhances the recruitment of the same form onto the surrounding membrane. Supporting this hypothesis, several mathematical models have been proposed to describe how loops result in domain structures. Yet, there remains a missing link between quantitative models and qualitative findings from experimental data. Synthetic approaches provide simplified and controllable systems by building up molecular processes in the cell based on theoretical models. With this strategy, one can pinpoint the core reactions/elements and quantify the determinants in a process. In this talk, I will discuss the current models and their limitations as well as present a design with synthetic approaches to study feedback loops in membrane domain formation.