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Rideal Travel Bursary Winner, Calum Ferguson, reports from the 8th Biennial Australian Colloid and Interface Symposium

Calum Ferguson

6 Mar 2017

Calum Ferguson is a third-year PhD student at the University of Leeds working at the interface between the departments of Chemical Engineering and Biological Sciences. In 2017, Calum was awarded the Rideal Travel Bursary in order to attend the 8th Biennial Australian Colloid & Interface Symposium. The conference was held in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, from 29 January to 2 February 2017, where Calum presented an oral contribution titled ‘Targeted delivery of bioinsecticides to control an invasive pest’.

‘My research aims to develop novel delivery vectors for biopesticides used to control an invasive pest, Drosophila suzukii. Specifically, I am looking toproduce a protective microcapsule in which we can encapsulate peptide mimetics that can be used as a species-specific biopesticide. These alternatives to common chemical pesticides have numerous positive attributes, including their biodegradability, reduced mammalian toxicity and specificity for a target. However, they are generally delicate and degrade rapidly upon application to a plant substrate and upon ingestion into the pest. To combat this rapid degradation, my research focuses on encapsulating these water soluble species in a water continuous phase, via a multiple emulsion template. Furthermore, the microcapsules I have produced have a responsive nature that enables triggered release of the contents at a specific target, the midgut. I have shown, using a multiple emulsion templated synthesis, that we can efficiently encapsulate and store a model biopesticide. Moreover, I have shown that we can induce the release of a model biopesticide from the microcapsules at a critical pH, analogous to the changes in the pest species.

‘Recently, I attended ACIS 2017 in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia. This is a biennial conference that was attended by roughly 200 delegates from a number of different countries, bringing together a broad range of expertise. This conference covered a wide range of topics in colloid and interface science, with seven different themes over four days. I found the following themes of particular interest: ‘Scattering and Self-Assembly’, ‘Frontiers in Colloid and Interface Science’, and ‘Controlled Release of Bioactives’, where I presented. Throughout the conference, there was a large focus on the application of light scattering techniques in colloidal systems. As this is an area in which I lack knowledge, it was extremely useful to see the capabilities of this technique in a wide range of systems. This conference had a multitude of stimulating talks, and I will utilise some of the concepts discussed in my current research. In particular, the plenary lecture by Professor Millicent Sullivan in the ‘Controlled Release of Bioactives’ theme described a method for producing polysomes to complex and deliver siRNA. This is an area I am currently investigating for the delivery of dsRNA to specifically control D. suzukii. Constructive discussions with Prof Sullivan after her talk have helped focus the direction which my research will take.

‘Attending ACIS 2017 has helped develop both my professional and personal network. The attendees of the conference had a diverse range of backgrounds, which facilitated a broad range of ideas. As I am coming to the end of my PhD, the ‘Student and Early Career Researcher’ panel session provided important information on the processes required to acquire funding and how to secure a post-doctoral position.

‘I would like to take this opportunity to thank my co-authors, Professor R Elwyn Isaac, Dr Neil Audsley and Dr Olivier J Cayre, for their input into the research. I would also like to thank the DROPSA consortium for continuing knowledge transfer on D. suzukii. Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to the SCI/RSC Rideal Trust for their contribution that enabled my attendance at this conference. It was a great opportunity to present my findings and expand network.’

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