Mr Martin Wierzbicki
I am an MSc student in the Forest Molecular Genetics (FMG) group under the supervision of Prof. Zander Myburg and co-supervision of Dr Eshchar Mizrachi. My project is called the systems genetics of xylan modification In Eucalyptus. This is a project done in collaboration with SAPPI and the University of British Columbia. Wood is composed of three main elements namely cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, and all three of these components pose as sources of valuable bioproducts such as textiles, bioplastics, animal feeds and as renewable energy sources. However, the physical structure of wood makes it rather difficult to separate all three components cleanly without losing much of it in the process, this is referred to as recalcitrance. The predominant hemicellulose in hardwoods such as Eucalyptus is glucuronoxylan (xylan for short) and one of the main contributing factors to recalcitrance mostly due to the modifications of its polysaccharide backbone. These modifications mainly consist of acetyl, glucuronic and methylglucuronic acid groups but their exact function in terms of xylan function in wood is still largely unclear. In this project, I will be understanding the effect of genetic and expression variation of the genes which are responsible for these modification and what effect they have on the woody phenotype by making use of the SAPPI Eucalyptus backcross population data. This project will hopefully shed some light on the effect of these modifications. I am in the process of completing my MSc and hope to publish both my literature review and research chapter. I also did my Honours degree with FMG under the supervision of Dr Steven Hussey which involved testing antibodies that will be used for a ChIP-seq analysis of a transcription factor related to wood formation.