PhD: Thomas Conlon


Each month we are going to be highlighting one of the PhD’s of the project so their work can be showcased. We continue with Thomas Conlon, PhD in ATU. We are asking the PhD’s five questions and here is how Thomas answered.

Good morning Thomas, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi.  I’m Tommy.  I’m from a small town in Donegal in the Northwest of Ireland called Ballyshannon.  Every year, my town hosts an annual blues festival celebrating the music of Rory Gallagher; the festival is without a doubt my favourite time of the year and brings together such a diverse and beautiful group of people.  Aside from my research at Atlantic Technological University Sligo, I love playing guitar, chess, the sea, and of course anytime I get to spend with my friends.

Could you explain your last discovery?

Microalgal biodiversity represents a sustainable untapped reservoir of high-value products.  Microalgae synthesise a range of compounds that display pharmacological properties including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiproliferative activities.  My recent research has investigated both microalgal-derived extracellular production and nutraceutical bioaccumulation within the chlorophyte genus Tetraselmis, with a focus on the biosynthesis of the high-value metabolites; lutein, β-carotene and the omega-3 lipid eicosapentaenoic acid.  Moreover, the work examined the facultative mixotrophic properties of Tetraselmis chuii and its capacity to synthesise nutraceuticals and nanoalgosomes by employing both autotrophic and heterotrophic nutritional mechanisms.

Which is the advancement for science and technology that you are currently studying?

My research provides a small contribution to the valorisation of microalgae-based biotechnology which requires the systematic profiling of species within individual microalgal lineages to identify candidates for cultivation upscaling and exploitation.  Moreover, the work identifies cultivation optimisation strategies that enhance T. chuii biomass generation and the accumulation of high-value products.

Which would you say are the possible impacts on society?

Given the current drive toward a circular bioeconomy and the valorisation of natural resource initiatives heralded by major research funders worldwide; microalgae represent a sustainable source of novel natural products.  Furthermore, potential biotechnological applications may be bolstered by a merge with industrial-based microalgae CO2 fixation technologies, thus contributing to carbon neutrality in tandem with sustainable product development.

Is there someone you want to acknowledge?

First and foremost, I want to acknowledge my family for their unwavering support and encouragement. I would also like to acknowledge Dr. Nicolas Touzet, all the members of his team, both past and present, and the BOWers. I am very fortunate, and it has been a privilege and joy to meet every one of you.