Dr Steven Hussey

Department of Genetics, Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute, University of Pretoria

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Dr Steven Hussey is a Lecturer in Genetics and group leader for research in the transcriptional and epigenetic regulation of wood development in the Forest Molecular Genetics Programme at FABI. His group uses transcriptomics, DAP-seq, transgenesis, transient protoplast transfection and bioinformatics to functionally characterize key Eucalyptus transcription factors.  Currently, they are exploring cutting-edge high-throughput techniques for rapid reconstruction of secondary cell wall transcriptional networks in Eucalyptus using cell-free expression systems and in vitro binding assays (DAP-seq). They are also interested in understanding the role of chromatin architecture in shaping transcriptional responses and their differences between tissues. In addition to understanding the fundamental biology of wood formation, they hope to enhance economically important woody traits through manipulation of transcription factors regulating particular aspects of wood formation.

A Mandela Rhodes Scholar, Steven has served as the instructor of the 2015 and 2016 Pretoria_UP iGEM teams and is helping to develop synthetic biology education and research at UP. He is the recent recipient of a US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute DNA synthesis community grant to synthesize several hundred secondary cell wall-related Eucalyptus transcription factors and promoters as standardized DNA parts.

What will make your time feel well spent?

I'd like to build new networks that would complement the work we're doing in woody biomass improvement through downstream applications of biomass in biorefineries and chemical products. Since we operate on the scale of long-term GM product development, finding ways of using short-term synthetic biology techniques for our research would be beneficial for us.

What would you like to share during the meeting?

The main contributions from me would be my experience with iGEM as 2015/2016 Pretoria_UP instructor, as well as my recent work in developing a panel of synthetic transcription factors and promoters in Eucalyptus that was funded by the DOE JGI.