Derek Bell

School of Biosciences

PhD student

Derek Bell
Profile picture of Derek Bell

PhD project title: Activators of microbial enzymes for enhanced C capture and decreased pathogen populations in arable soils.

Derek completed an MSc in medical microbiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and worked in performing and teaching clinical microbiology techniques and research. He has made the change to pursuing environmental microbiology as he sees the climate as the current great challenge to human and planetary wellbeing.

He joined LC3M in October 2020 as a PhD student with the BBSRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology supervised by Professor David Beerling FRS, Professor Jonathan Leake, Professor Jurriaan Ton and Dr Dimitar Epihov at the University of Sheffield.

Agriculture is a necessary product of the large population of people the planet now supports however the greenhouse gas emission from this industry is estimated to make up 25% of the global greenhouse gas emission. By adding basalt to arable soil there is a potential to not only make more useful elements available to a crop but to potentially turn these arable farmlands into carbon sequestration machines.

Derek will be performing mesocosm experiments and field trials aiming to identify key microbial components present in basalt treated arable farmland that contribute to the sequestration of carbon. Following the identification of relevant beneficial microorganisms, genes and pathways he will attempt to increase the activity and efficiency of said processes using soil-resistant inoculants and biochemical regulators with three goals in mind:

  • Increase the amount of microbial carbon sequestration in soil.
  • Have a negligible or positive effect on plant yield.
  • Ensure research outcomes can easily translate into current agricultural practices.