Jon Baxter – DNA Replication

Jon Baxter – DNA Replication

Brighton, University of Sussex

What do you do?

I’m a Royal Society university research fellow and team leader of a group that looks into DNA replication at the University of Sussex. DNA replication has been studied for a long time but there are still processes that occur during it that are hard to understand. DNA is very twisted molecule, not only in the sense that it is a double helix but how it twists around itself as well. I use the analogy of a very tangled telephone cable to help picture it. For DNA to be replicated it needs to be untwisted, and we study the enzymes that do this, topoisomerases. It is very important for this to be well controlled because too much twisting can cause damage to DNA that can lead to serious mutations and potentially even a cancerous cell.

Something I’m really eager for, is technology to advance to the point where we can actually visualise in real time what is happening in cells during replication. At the moment we can only study DNA once all the proteins and enzymes that interact with it have been removed. Being a scientist my job means I’m lucky enough to be able to satisfy my own intellectual curiosity and find out how things actually work, whilst providing valuable information to the wider public. Research has to do both, otherwise why should you be getting any money at all.

What can you see?

We’ve had some snow on campus recently and this is the view from one of the windows in my office. In the background you can make out the South Downs with a light dusting of snow over them.

When I’m not doing science I…

I have two young, kids they take up all my time!