Prof. Gavin H. Thomas
BSc(Hons), PhD, FRSB, FHEA
Gavin Thomas is a microbiologist at the University of York and has worked for over 20 years on bacterial transport systems and other aspects of microbial physiology, biochemistry and genetics. His research, primarily funded by the BBSRC, has revealed fundamental information about an important class of bacterial transporters called TRAP transporters, particular in the context of their function in human pathogens. More recently the lab has focussed on more diverse families of transporters related to industrial biotechnology and bioenergy through work with Green Biologics, Glycom, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, and Unilever.
He was the co-director of the BBSRC Network in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy, CBMNet, which focused in building strong interactions between academics and industry to optimise cell membrane processes, including transporters. He also led between 2015 to 2021 Project DETOX, a £3.5M BBSRC IB Catalyst to help companies improve the productivity of their bacterial chassis, from which a spin-in company MORF was created.
His group also has a long-standing interest in the model Gram-negative organism Escherichia coli and have characterised a number of transporters and enzymes from this organism although now use a wide range of Gram +ve bacteria also. The EchoBASE post-genomic E. coli database was created and is maintained by his lab. He also uses whole genome metabolic modelling to understand how intracellular bacterial symbionts of insects, which are 'reduced' E. coli, function in their hosts, including symbionts of aphids and the tsetse. The groups also collaborate with colleagues in the department of Chemistry in the design and testing of new antibiotic conjugates specifically targeting bacterial transporters as a delivery route.
Gavin initially trained as a microbiologist at the University of Bristol, working with Prof. Peter Bennett for his final year project, followed by PhD training at the University of Birmingham under the supervision of Prof. Jeff Cole. During his PhD work he characterised the periplasmic nitrate reductase, NapA, from E. coli and also and also contributed to the initial work on the Tat (or Mtt) system (with Prof. Raymond Turner & Prof. Joel Weiner, Alberta Canada). He moved to a postdoctoral position at the John Innes Centre to continue work on E. coli and here started a project in the lab of Prof. Mike Merrick on the E. coli ammonium transporter AmtB. His interest in solute transporters continued with his move to Sheffield to work on tripartite ATP-independent periplasmic (TRAP) transporters in the lab of Prof. David J Kelly before moving to a faculty position in York in 2002.
Education and training
Teaching and admin
From October 2018 Prof. Thomas is the new Director of Postgraduate Research for the Department of Biology and member of the Departmental Management Team (DMT). He was until 2015 the Chair of the Biochemistry Board of Studies & later the Biochemistry Program Committee at the University of York and during this time he oversaw the design, teaching and assessment for this degree program. He has taught at all levels in the undergraduate curriculum. He has completed the York Certificate in Academic Practice and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He was awarded the Vice-Chancellor's Teaching Award in 2013 for his consistent excellent teaching. He has also been an adviser for the York iGEM teams in 2013, 2014 & 2015.
Prof. Thomas has had a long-standing involved with the leading European Microbiological Society, the Microbiology Society (formerly the Society for General Microbiology). He was appointed to their Council in 2003 and served for a three year period to 2006 while he served as the Editor of their quarterly magazine Microbiology Today (MT). In 2015 he was appointed as a senior editor of the their leading primary research journal Microbiology. From July 2020 he will take over as Editor-in-Chief of Microbiology.
He sat on their Communications committee & served on the editorial board of MT. He also was a founding member of their Equality & Diversity working group which ran between 2012-2015.
He presented a lecture to the Yorkshire Philosophical Society entitled “The Science of Biofuels: From Paris to Hull” in 2014. He gave a public lecture on Microbiology at the start of the 20th century in September 2013 entitled "Bombs, bacteriophage and Bartonella" and assisted in the curation of the exhibition "Victorian Medicine: Kill or Cure". He has also written about some aspects of microbiology for a more general audience including articles Frederick Twort, John Tyndall and his role in the spontaneous generation debate and the role of disease in the Napoleonic Wars. He has just published a short biography of the bacteriologist Frederick Griffith for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Measures of Esteem