photo of me

Dustin Chen

I am a PhD research student at the University of Glasgow, supervised by Christopher Quince and Bill Sloan. My project subject is “An Integrated ‘Omics Approach to the Study of Microbial Fuel Cells”.

Contact Information

School of Engineering,
Rankine Building,
University of Glasgow,

Phone: +44 (0) 141 330 6311

Current Research


Microbial Fuel Cells (MFC) : microorganisms degrade (oxidize) organic matter (electron donor) producing electrons which travel through a series of respiratory enzymes in the cell. The electrons are then released to a terminal electron acceptor producing electric power and current.

Energy and pollution are two of the most significant global challenges. MFC has been proposed as one possible technology for tackling these two problems at the same time. MFCs can degrade organic environmental pollutants, such as those in wastewater, converting them to less harmful chemicals or biomass whilst providing an alternative source of electricity.

Experiment Design and Objective

In my MFC research project, 8 single chamber MFCs will be inoculated with temperate soil, Himalaya soil and arctic soil respectively. They will be operated in batch mode. Stress tests will be conducted by switching the MFCs quickly between 5 °C and 30 °C then operating them for a week., The performance of eight single-chamber MFCs, and the adaption of the bacterial consortia at the anode and cathode to psychrophilic (5°C) and mesophilic (30°C) conditions, will be monitored along with their enzymes and metabolites using: Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (DGGE), qPCR, high-throughput sequencing, Stable Isotope Probing(SIP) and Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry(GC-MS). They will help to understand the microbial community abundance and richness of MFC.

DGGE provides a genetic fingerprint of the microbial community in each sample and allows temporal comparative analyses. It cannot, however, identify the main players in generating electricity. Neither can it identify syntrophic interactions.

We will combine a range of techniques to link MFC performance and stability with population dynamics and community responses.

Another major focus of my research is metagenomics and microbial biodiversity. The study of microbial biodiversity is still in its infancy and metagenomics will reveal new insights into the microbial world, which is still largely unknown. In the past, cultivable bacteria were studied with the help of PCR, but it is estimated that 99% of all bacteria are not cultivable. Thus the vast majority is still unexplored since classical methods cannot be applied. Metagenomics provides a new approach to this problem. The recent advances in sequencing technologies have produced huge metagenomic data sets. My PhD project focuses on developing mathematical methods and bioinformatic tools and techniques for the analysis of these data sets.

Traditional Medicine

I studied Traditional Chinese Medicine at the Xinjiang Medical University (China) with my first degree. After that I worked for a Chinese Medicine research institute in China for 2 years, collected and collated data for clinical drugs experiments; collected and analysed clinical data for senior researchers. Then I changed my career working in internet industry in China for 8 years, including 4 years working for, the internet giant company in China, which Yahoo owns 40% of its shares, where I gained lots of internet marketing and e-commerce experiences and knowledge. In 2007 I came to Glasgow to study pharmaceutical analysis MSc course at Strathclyde University, where I gained my merit degree without any background knowledge. From March of 2010, I got my PhD studentship at University of Glasgow. My hobbies are traveling and watching movies, through which I can learn a lot of different cultures and histories.