Dr David Ackerley

David Ackerley

Dr David Ackerley

Professor of Biotechnology, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington
FOCUS: Microbial Biotechnology


I am a microbiologist and enzyme engineer, with a primary focus on discovery, characterisation, engineering and application of useful bacterial enzymes, and of novel antibiotics to counter the spread of multi-drug resistant bacteria. My particular speciality is in tailoring enzyme activities by directed evolution - a powerful approach for enzyme engineering that applies Darwinian evolutionary principles at a single-gene level, using iterative rounds of focused mutagenesis followed by artificial selection of enhanced variants to improve desirable activities. One of the coolest things about that approach is that if you have designed your system sufficiently well, you don’t necessarily need to understand how your enzyme works to achieve some very useful outcomes, which can in turn shed light on key mechanistic details. One of the less cool things is that, as with Aladdin’s genie, you need to be very precise about what you wish for – if things can go wrong, they probably will! But they say we learn more from our mistakes than our successes, so there’s that. Other than research, my main role at VUW is as the Biotechnology Programme Director. I have played a primary role in designing and running the programme since its inception in 2006, and am the main course lecturer for BTEC101 and BTEC201. Biotechnology at VUW is a “science first” course that emphasises problem solving inmolecular biology, and the impact of the solutions on society. The VUW Biotechnology Programme is particularly strong in areas of Microbial Biotechnology, Reproductive Biotechnology, and Drug Discovery.

 

DEGREES

  • BSc (Hons), Biochemistry

          University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

  • PhD, Biochemistry

    University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

 

AVAILABILITY

  • Masters Research or PhD student supervision