Matthew Robert Goddard

Why I am a research biologist...

I find the workings of the natural world wonderfully curious and am constantly amazed by the adaptations that organisms display. I find studying biology from the population perspective to be very informative since one can simultaneously consider both the ecological and evolutionary forces which shape a population's genetic pool. The corner-stone of ecology and evolution is Natural Selection. Ecology attempts to determine how and why there is differential survival within and between populations while evolution attempts to predict the consequences of this differential survival and how this in turn effects a population’s genetic structure. One of the things I am interested in is trying to understand the underlying biological rules that apply to all populations, the forces that shape all populations, in a sense I am keen to approach the subject from a general perspective. For this reason I mostly work with microbes, yeasts to be exact (Ascomycetes, mostly Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Large populations can be maintained within the laboratory and one may pass them through many generations before the experimenter dies of old-age! Yeasts have the advantage of being eukaryotic, which means their cellular structure and DNA are organised in the same way as all higher organisms; yeast even have sex. One of the massive advantages of working with yeast is that a huge amount is known about the molecular biology of the yeast cell. The whole genome has been sequenced, we know the function of over one third of its genes, and we are beginning to understand how the 6,000 plus genes interact. These facts, to my mind, make yeast an excellent model organism for population genetic studies.

I am also interested in the ecology of natural yeasts and especially yeasts involved in winemaking. I find this interesting for at least two reasons. Firstly, this subject captures my interest because of the long and close association between humans and the fermentation process and my enjoyment of wine. Secondly, a large amount of our understanding about the way cells are constructed and work has been elucidated using yeast, yet we know little of the every day ecological forces which subtly shape the yeast genome.