Christopher Hamilton – Natural pesticides

Christopher Hamilton –  Natural pesticides

What do you do?

My work currently focuses on the application of Sulphur molecules called thiols found in garlic, which can be used as a pesticide in agriculture. A lot of what we do, which I think is the more interesting end of things, is try and find out how things work in biology, especially problematic fungi and bacteria. A cup of coffee and quick conversation started my working relationship with Ecospray. They’re a local company that had money to place a student and wanted me and my lab to work out a mode of action for garlic molecules, when they are used in insecticides. A lot of what we have discovered has been used to help them convince people to use the product, it helps quell the suspicions surrounding “plant extract” it sounds too flowery for some people. The fruit flies we are using in our experiments have been genetically engineered to fluoresce (give off light) under the oxidative stress caused by the garlic Sulphur molecules. We want to know what happens if you spray a surface with our garlic molecules, is the compound effective when the fly stands on it, does it get on their wings, does the fly eat it? We then look at them under a fluorescent microscope and find out where things are going on inside the fly to help figure out the mode of action of the garlic Sulphur molecules.

What can you see?

My shaker incubator. When I first started as an academic I had some to buy some kit. Most shakers are a dull cuboid shape, but the plastic dome on top reminded me of 1960’s sci-fi movies, that’s the only reason I got it, it’s my favorite bit of kit.

When I’m not doing science I…

I have a recumbent bike (cycling lying down) and have become a very keen cycling commuter. Last year I set myself the challenge of riding 10000 miles, which I managed but I’m never doing again.