16 Feb 2011
Mark Burton has been a member of SCI since 2009. He is a member of the BioResources Group's Early Career Network and a PhD student at the University of Nottingham. Here he shares an insight into his research into the function of chemical insecticides as well as his career aspirations.
What is the primary focus of your research?
My research primarily focuses on physiological resistance to pyrethroid and DDT insecticides. I’m interested in mutations of the target site: the voltage gated sodium channel (VGSC) identified in a number of field pest insect species which confer potentially high levels of resistance to these compounds. Understanding how single point mutations can confer high levels of resistance is key to improving insecticide biochemistry already used in the field. Additionally, my interests also encompass the effects and interaction of natural toxins upon the physiology of the VGSC and neuronal transmission. While there are many potential commercial applications, I would say that my work does not focus on immediately bringing a commercially viable product to the table. Rather the science enables us to try and find out why insecticide compounds are becoming redundant in controlling different species. This information is important for regulatory bodies which can save time and money by implementing the use of alternative compounds and strategies for insect pest control.
What (if any) are the barriers to finding commercial applications for your research?
The opportunity for commercial application of this type of research has long-term and short term foresight. The science undertaken aims to gain an understanding of the function of chemical insecticides and improve the efficacy of such compounds through analysis of the molecular and genetic detail of individual species. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t offer immediate ‘wow’ solutions such as development of new compounds with potential commercial success. Instead it builds an in-depth knowledge surrounding these compounds and resistance observed in the field which can eventually be applicable to the development of new compounds. It is a long winded but necessary approach if we want to maintain the use of current compounds acting upon a limited number of ‘target sites’ for insect specificity.
What are your career goals?
I would like to follow up my work with a post-doc within a similar field. Doing a PhD with Rothamsted Research and the University of Nottingham has enabled me to have the freedom and opportunity to explore different career avenues including industry, research and academia. A real drive for this type of work has to be working within a team to be the first to find a solution to a problem which has befuddled others. I am also hoping to take the opportunity to contribute to the development of SCI’s BioResources Early Career Network. I am keen to work within SCI’s BioResources’ Early Career Network committee to develop young researchers’ interests in all aspects of BioResources and help to showcase new work and business innovation.
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