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Scarlet Hao

Scarlet standing at the riverside holding her hat

Scarlet Hao is the 2020 recipient of the Brewster Scholarship, which is awarded to an SLS PhD student in their second year of research whose work relates to crop improvement.

The scholarship is funded by a generous donation in memory of Dr Jim Brewster, a former member of Wellesbourne staff.

Project summary

Fatty acids secretion by fungus

There is an increased desire by society to move away from fossil based fuels due to our rising awareness of their carbon footprint and also in an attempt to make our fuels more sustainable. The consequence is that there is a demand for novel sources of oils. Some oils are also nutritionally important due to their requirement in a healthy diet. Fungi can acquire and store nutrients through decomposing and converting organic matter into fatty acids.

My project has shown that the white rot fungi, T. versicolor has the ability to secrete extracellular droplets, which were found to contain a high concentration of polyunsaturated long chain fatty acids, unsaturated fatty acids, polysaccharides and monosaccharides. It is observed that droplets can promote fungal growth and improve resource competitiveness. The ability to convert waste agricultural biomass such as wheat straw into oil offers potential new income stream for farmers. Developing a simpler harvesting method is being investigated to provide the possibility of expanding production. Further studies are also needed to determine the change in composition of these droplets with time and substrate used.

The process of fungal extracellular droplet appearance changing over time.
The first line is real photos from drop appear to disappear over time (left to right).
The second line is a cartoon picture to show what happened and changed in this process by time (left to right). Pictures are drawn by Scarlet HAO.