Boden Lab

Research Laboratory of Dr Rich Boden, University of Plymouth, UK

Official website of the Boden Lab - research group of Dr Rich Boden, University of Plymouth UK. Dr Boden is Lecturer in Environmental Microbiology & Biotechnology and Communications Officer in the School of Biological Sciences. He also lectures students in the School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences and the School of Marine Science & Engineering, as well as training students in the Graduate School and early-career research staff. He performs consultancy for a number of different industries, from chemical manufacturers to mineral companies.

The Boden Lab is a team of interdisciplinary bacteriologists, physiologist, biochemists and geochemists working on a range of pure and applied research projects with the overarching themes of microbial sulfur and metal metabolism with particular focus on enzymology and bioenergetics, as well as the more applied areas of biorefinery and biohydrometallurgy. 

Nothing Comes Without Going

Halfway through Induction Week and I'm pretty exhausted - such is the folly of working all weekend to be ready and I'm now on my 10th working day in a row - nearly the weekend though! Monday morning was our graduation ceremony for the School of Biological Sciences and School of Biomedical & Healthcare Sciences - formerly School of Biomedical & Biological Sciences until 1st August 2013, when we got divorced, but we're happily divorced and have joint custody of the children and property to think about so it's not been a clean divide, there's a lot of overlap and that is A Very Good Thing in my book - we don't have enough cross-department collaboration in the UK, other than a current trend for a very inorganic, forced "interdisciplinarity" that is done to attract funding and which I hate - it's contrived.  

Anyway, the ceremony! The weather was awful all weekend and on Monday morning and I felt awful for the students as one of the wonderful things we have is that they get their final "Class of [Year]" photo taken with the Plymouth Sound and English Channel as their backdrop and it's really very beautiful. Throughout the ceremony itself, the wind was pretty high which kept making the beautiful solid-sided marquee we have on the Plymouth Hoe for the week of ceremonies and I was marginally concerned that the place was going to collapse but it was fine in the end, of course. As well as our own students being awarded qualifications ranging from DipHE to BSc to MSc to PGDip to PGCert and PhD on the day, the artists Gilbert & George were awarded Doctorates of Arts on Monday too, which was interesting as we don't usually get to interact too much with the arts, as scientists, and their perspective was interesting during their speech - within which they read out their 10 Commandments, most of which apply to all disciplines and certainly do to biology:

Thou shalt fight conformism
Thou shalt be the messenger of freedoms
Thou shalt make use of sex
Thou shalt reinvent life
Thou shalt create artificial art
Thou shalt have a sense of purpose
Thou shalt not know exactly what thou dost, but thou shalt do it
Thou shalt give thy love
Thou shalt grab the soul
Thou shalt give something back

It's always nice at Graduation to see students do well - I was particularly proud of one of my project students who had done exceptionally well and it was lovely to meet his parents (always interesting to see how different people act around their families!) - but it's also nice to see students who've managed to get to the end of their programme against the odds. I spent the best part of a decade managing Halls of Residence at two universities in the UK and saw a lot more of the dark underbelly of universities than many academics ever do and I think it's made me appreciate just how difficult some peoples' lives can be.

Dr Rich Billington inducts some undergraduates (he's not quite that small in real life!). Copyright © 2013 University of Plymouth (Dr Rich Boden). All rights reserved.

Dr Rich Billington inducts some undergraduates (he's not quite that small in real life!). Copyright © 2013 University of Plymouth (Dr Rich Boden). All rights reserved.

On Tuesday, we met our new undergraduates - the first class of the School of Biological Sciences - all four of our degree programmes met together for a welcome by the Head of School and a quick word from me about websites and Twitter and then we took the BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences cohort off for a separate welcome talk in detail, which I live-tweeted. It's great when you've worked with someone enough to know what they're going to say before they say it - I managed to post everything he was about to say before he'd even said it and a lot of our students have started to interact with us on Twitter which is a new way for us as a School to communicate with our students formally so it's a bit of an adjustment on both sides, I think, but we're going to keep the momentum up as it's clearly a useful platform for this. 

Tom's enrichment cultures, looking for moderately thermophilic lithoautotrophs growing on (as two groups): thiosulfate (left), tetrathionate (middle) and elementary sulfur (right). The left-hand group and right-hand group were inoculated from different locations and all were incubated at 50°C - the left-hand group have grown more, based on the presence of visible biomass and a yellow-ish colour. The right-hand group are purple-ish - this is due to a pH indicator, which changes from purple (pH 6.73) to yellow (pH 4.50) when the pH falls due to sulfuric acid production during growth. Copyright © 2013 University of Plymouth (Dr Rich Boden).

Tom's enrichment cultures, looking for moderately thermophilic lithoautotrophs growing on (as two groups): thiosulfate (left), tetrathionate (middle) and elementary sulfur (right). The left-hand group and right-hand group were inoculated from different locations and all were incubated at 50°C - the left-hand group have grown more, based on the presence of visible biomass and a yellow-ish colour. The right-hand group are purple-ish - this is due to a pH indicator, which changes from purple (pH 6.73) to yellow (pH 4.50) when the pH falls due to sulfuric acid production during growth. Copyright © 2013 University of Plymouth (Dr Rich Boden).

After that, meetings, meetings, meetings and then managed to spend a few hours in the lab yesterday teaching Tom (Research Assistant) how to perform a cerimetric titration of ferrous iron in a culture of Leptosprillum ferrooxidans , which we are using as a control for some bioleaching work. I then spent a bit of today managing to do some reading on co-oxidation of metals alongside ferrous iron in what we now call Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans , which I have a project student this coming term working on for his dissertation.

Tomorrow is my joint postdoc with Dr Mick Hanley's last day - Dr Liz Franklin is moving on to a technical post in Bournemouth after an eclectic time doing a PhD in ant behaviour at Bristol then spending time with myself and Mick on two projects - firstly looking at how bioenergy crops effect farmland, basically, and then working for me helping to get the groundwork done for MAsC, showing amazing dedication to finishing it all off ready to hand over to her replacement shortly. 

Background image Woodbine Beach, Toronto, Canada. Copyright © 2008 Benson Kua (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Photograph of Dr Rich Boden, Copyright  © 2013 University of Plymouth. Post-production editing by Dr Jamie Caryl.