Dr Tobias von der Haar received a Diploma in Biology from the University of Bielefeld (Germany) in 1994. He received his PhD on the regulation of protein synthesis in baker’s yeast from UMIST (Manchester, UK) in 1998. Tobias established his own lab in the School of Biosciences at the University of Kent in 2005 under a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship. He is currently Reader in Systems Biology, a member of the Kent Fungal Group and of the Industrial Biotechnology research group, and serves as Director of Research for the School of Biosciences.
His research interests include the mechanism of protein synthesis in eukaryotic cells, and how protein synthesis can be manipulated for the production of useful proteins.
Ribosomes and tRNAs are the central molecules required for protein synthesis to work. Ribosomes have the interesting feature that they are both catalysts (they make peptide bonds in the new protein) and molecular motors (they move along the mRNA in order to read the genetic code). One of the central areas of interest in my lab is how the movement along the mRNA and the catalysis of peptide bond formation interact. Our main tools to study this are computational models which enable us to predict ribosome movement, reporter assays which allow us to test predictions from the computational models, and genome-wide omics approaches which enable us to ask questions about the regulation of individual genes in great detail.
In addition to ribosome activity, we also study how proteins are activated in a number of post-translational processes including disulfide bond formation and the introduction of iron sulfur clusters. For all these processes, we want to understand the basic biology of organisms, but also to exploit this understanding for generating useful applications. Examples of such applications include the making of protein-based drugs, the reprogramming of metabolism for synthetic biology, and the degradation of problematic materials like plastics.
MSc-R projects available for 2020/21
Towards the biological degradation of plastic materials Plastic materials are a ubiquitous environmental problem, in part due to their strong resistance to biological degradation. However, organisms that can degrade plastics to a small extent are known. This project will aim to improve the natural plastic degrading activities by applying biological engineering strategies in a number of microbial host species.
Additional research costs: £1500
Genes, health, disease and ageing: a data science approach Current biological research is generating relentless data streams, which could yield deep insights into our biology - unfortunately, such insights are usually hidden deep within the complex data structures. This has opened the field of biological data science, which uses computational and related methods to derive insights from biological data. This project will use publicly available data to investigate how protein synthesis is altered in the contexts of healthy development, disease, and ageing. Additional research costs: £1500
Tobias has a strong interest in the development of practices and policies relating to postgraduate study. He recently served as Director of Graduate studies for the School of Biosciences (2013-2016), is external examiner for postgraduate degrees at other universities, and is currently a member of the Bioscience Skills and Careers advisory panel of the BBSRC.