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Robin Dawson

Senior Research Assistant


2021-Present: Senior Research Associate, University of East Anglia.


2017-21: PhD (Environmental Science), University of East Anglia.

2016-17: MRes Molecular Microbiology, Nottingham Trent University.

2013-16: BSc (Hons) Microbiology, Nottingham Trent University.

Isoprene is one of the most abundant volatile organic compounds (VOCs), representing approximately one-third of all VOCs (over 500 Tg C yr-1) emitted each year. The majority of isoprene is emitted by trees, meaning that changing land-usage and mass-production of certain crops (e.g. oil palm) may significantly influence global isoprene emissions. When considering the sheer abundance of isoprene, it is unsurprising that bacteria have evolved to employ a specific isoprene metabolic pathway, initiated by a diiron-containing isoprene monooxygenase (IsoMO).


The research conducted during my PhD was primarily focussed on characterising the ability of a novel Gram-negative bacterium, Variovorax sp. WS11, to degrade isoprene. Molecular and biochemical analyses confirmed that Variovorax sp. WS11 employed an iso metabolic gene cluster, similar to the iso gene cluster identified in Rhodococcus sp. AD45, the first workhorse of isoprene metabolism research. Another key aim of my PhD was to study the regulation of isoprene metabolism in Variovorax sp. WS11. I approached this through activity-based assays and gene expression studies, thereby improving or understanding of the conditions under which the iso genes are expressed. Over the last year we have made significant progress in improving our understanding of the isoprene metabolic pathway as a whole. I have carried out proteomics and transcriptomics experiments in Variovorax sp. WS11 with the aim of identifying the full complement of genes and proteins which are expressed during growth on isoprene. Using this information, we have predicted the full isoprene metabolic pathway. My current research is focussed on verifying the roles of the essential and accessory components of the isoprene metabolic pathway. These goals are being approached using a combination of gene expression studies and targeted mutagenesis.


Contact Details

School of Environmental Sciences,
University of East Anglia,
Norwich Research Park
Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK


+44 (0)1603 592239

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