Former Access to Science and Engineering Student Harry Austin leads the charge in the fight against plastic, with a discovery of an enzyme that can digest most commonly polluting plastics

UCD graduate and former UCD Access & Lifelong Learning student Harry Austin, is a member of team of scientists who have engineered an enzyme which can digest some of our most commonly polluting plastics. By tweaking the enzyme, first discovered in a waste dump in Japan, the team discovered that the enzyme now had the ability to break down PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic, often used in the production of soft drink bottles. This discovery has the potential to provide a solution to a leading environmental issue.

Austin commenced his studies in UCD as an Access to Science and Engineering student in 2010, before graduating from UCD in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science (Major in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology). He embarked on a PhD in 2015 and is the lead author on a paper documenting this research. The project is jointly funded by the University of Portsmouth and NREL.

During his time in UCD, Austin proved to be an exemplary student, winning the President’s prize in 2013, who was highly regarded by staff and students alike. He is an advocate for UCD’s access programmes, he was a mentor and strong supporter to his peers. He also volunteered to work with children in Tanzania.

Read more about the discovery here: What is Stem and why is it important

Or watch the RTÉ News Report here: RTE News Report: Plastic Eating Enzyme Could Revolutionise Recycling

During his time in UCD, Harry was kind enough to lend his voice and experience to promote widening participation in UCD: