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Find out what we have presented in our previous seminars:

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YouTube: Life on Both Sides of the Lens

Date: 29 July 2016
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Kiana Jones (Freakmo)

Kiana Jones will discuss the realities of earning a living on YouTube, the funny moments, the stress, and the never-ending pressure to get more views while managing severe anxiety and balancing a life away from social media. In the age of 24-hour information, it is an eternal battle to stay relevant and protect what is yours.

Working under the name Freakmo, local artist Kiana Jones (WA) runs one of Australia's most popular special effects makeup YouTube channels. With nearly 350,000 subscribers and more than 60 million views, her work is world renowned. She is sought by feature filmmakers, makeup schools, and art galleries alike. Jones’s work consists of fantasy photos and video portraits, developed through hours of labour intensive makeup sessions.

Uncovering the Hidden Treasures in Fungi: Cornucopia of Drugs, Toxins and Agrochemicals

Date: 5 Aug 2016
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Dr Yit Heng Chooi, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, The University of Western Australia

Fungi are an important part of the nutrient cycle in the Earth ecosystem and they play important roles in many aspects of human life. In agriculture, they are a major cause for yield loss in crop due to diseases. Some fungi are also known to cause devastating diseases in human especially in immunocompromised individuals. At the same time, fungi have been used for thousands of years in the production of food and beverage. The bioactive small molecules produced by fungi (aka secondary metabolites) have been the source of medicines, including important clinical drugs, such as the antibiotic penicillin, the cholesterol-lowering statins and the immunosuppressive cyclosporine. On the other hand, some fungal secondary metabolites are mycotoxins that are harmful to humans, while some have been implicated as the virulence factors that enable fungi to cause disease in plants and animal, including human.

The surge of microbial genomic information in recent years revealed that fungi encode for secondary metabolite biosynthetic potential that far surpasses the chemical diversity that we have previously appreciated. This not only presents immense opportunities for genome-based discovery of novel chemical entities but at the same time highlight our lack of understanding of the roles of secondary metabolites in fungal biology and ecology. A core part of the research in our lab is thus focusing on establishing the link between genes and secondary metabolites and understanding the biosynthetic mechanism using various molecular genetic, biochemistry and synthetic biology tools. Besides fueling bioactive molecule discovery, many unique biosynthetic enzymes have been discovered in various fungal secondary metabolite pathways. Some of these have the potential to be developed into useful biocatalysts for chemical synthesis.

Our work also deals with the biological aspects of secondary metabolism in fungi, in particular through establishing the genotype-to-chemotype link, we seek to uncover the role of secondary metabolites in host-pathogen interactions by integrating functional genomics (transcriptomics and metabolomics) and chemical ecology.

Dr Yit Heng Chooi (PhD, Applied Biology and Biotechnology) worked as a postdoctoral researcher at University of California, Los Angeles, USA with Professor Yi Tang (2009-2013), focusing on the molecular genetic and biochemical basis of secondary metabolite biosynthesis in fungi. He moved to the Research School of Biology at the Australian National University in 2013 after winning a prestigious ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA). In 2015, he joined the faculty at The University of Western Australia and took up a lectureship in the School of Chemistry & Biochemistry. His current research is focusing on the secondary metabolism of fungal pathogens and understanding its roles in plant and animal disease development. His work spans the field of genomics, genetics, molecular biology, synthetic biology, biochemistry and natural product chemistry.