Research Projects

James Blee

Current PhD Student

Using food product waste streams as a sustainable source of natural components capable of enhancing the efficacy of antibiotics against resistant bacteria

Current Research:

This PhD project is primarily concerned with utilising sustainable food-waste sources as a novel resource for biologically-active compounds which may increase the efficacy of current ineffective antibiotics. Globally, more than one-third of food is wasted. Antimicrobial resistance, a term used when antibiotics are no longer effective at killing bacteria, is a growing global issue. Projected figures estimate an average of 10 million deaths per annum by 2050. Thus, it is imperative to explore novel ways to combat antimicrobial resistance. Using various extraction methods, extracts will be generated from food-waste streams and tested as potential modulators of antibiotics, with their proposed mechanisms of action subsequently revealed. After, the strongest compound(s) instigating the effects will be elucidated via use of varying analytical chemistry techniques. Ideally, the strongest ‘modulators’ will significantly lower the required amount of antibiotic necessary to achieve the desired effect.


My undergraduate degree provided the opportunity to study various subjects such as microbiology, biochemistry and chemistry. I was extremely interested in these subjects, with particular relevance to the research aspect. In my third year of study, I completed a summer research internship in the area of natural products chemistry and drug discovery at the Institute of Technology, Sligo. Suitably, my fourth year research project was concerned with evaluating the acetylcholinesterase inhibitory qualities derived from native algae extracts. To my delight, I was granted an award for best thesis presentation and was accepted to present my findings at the SURE 2020 conference. Following this, I attended the University of Reading as a microbiology research assistant. The research was primarily focused on investigating the effect of probiotics on neurotransmitter production via utilising the gut microflora. Further, I received the opportunity to assume the role as a lab instructor. This research and my previous post enabled me to discover that my predominant interests lie at the heart of microbiology and natural product chemistry. Shortly after, I received the Governing Body Award for my academic achievements at the 2020 virtual graduation. Reflecting back on my undergraduate degree, I was given immense opportunities to serve as class representative, course national open day representative, peer mentor and science fair volunteer for three consecutive years.