Kevin Mehr

 
Stephen Withers
Kamloops
Canada
 

Research Topic

Development of high-throughput functional metagenomic screens for glycosyltransferases

Research Group

Withers Group

Research Description

Over the past five years, metagenomics, or the study of environmental DNA (bacteria, achaea, viruses) has provided an enormous amount of genomic information about previously unstudied organisms. This has opened up a world of possibilities when it comes to unique enzymes of importance to desired biotechnological applications. While the technologies for acquiring this genomic information have continued to improve quickly, the technology for screening of these metagenomic libraries for enzymes and proteins of interest has lagged behind. My research is focused on the development of ultra-high-throughput screening technologies for isolating and identifying unique sugar-altering enzymes from environmental organisms.

What do you hope to accomplish with your research?

I hope to identify new families of glycosyltransferases while discovering more about the sugar metabolism within specific environments. With the development of these screens, I can also apply the same technology to perform directed evolution of enzymes of desired activities to create biotechnologically useful enzymes.

What has winning a major award meant to you?

It was a really nice validation of the effort I have put into my work. It also motivates me to make sure I continue to work at the level expected by my award.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

Mostly the independence with my research work was a great/challenging surprise for me. UBC has a lot to get involved with, which has kept me busy. Vancouver has more fun things to do than I ever expected.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I love living in BC. I was born here and I have grown up here, so I'll stay as long as they let me.

 

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I did a research project in my final year of undergraduate school and loved it so much that I decided to keep going. Also, I've always wanted to go as far as I can academically before settling into a career.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Make it a mission to appreciate something great about Vancouver every weekend. There's so much to do here, so make the best of it before you have to leave.