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Faculty Focus

Five Questions for Patrick Gibney

Patrick Gibney Patrick Gibney joined the Department of Food Science in August 2017 as an assistant professor of wine microbiology, and as the E&J Gallo Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow. Patrick completed his Bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry at the University of Northern Iowa, and his Ph.D. in microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston.  He then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University and as an associate scientist at Calico Life Sciences.  He studies interactions between yeast metabolism and stress resistance, and brings expertise in yeast biology, microbiology, genetics, molecular and cellular biology, and systems biology to this new role.

What inspired you to work with wine?
Yeast!  I have worked with yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) for about 15 years, primarily as a model to understand fundamental eukaryotic cell biology.  I have also had the opportunity to do a little bit of applied yeast research, and also worked with yeast when brewing beer.  This position will give me the opportunity to learn about yeast from another perspective.

What is your vision for your position within the E & V program?
I enjoy the three main roles of an academic faculty position: research, teaching in the classroom, and mentoring in the laboratory.  I plan to develop a research program that includes a mix of both applied research and basic research.  For applied research, I intend to develop projects through interactions with the wine and fermented beverage industry that help solve microbiological problems.  For the basic research, I plan to investigate how metabolic pathways regulate cell physiology.  As an educator, I expect to develop wine microbiology classes to give students the information and skills that they need to be successful in their chosen careers, while also helping students develop critical and creative thinking skills.  As a mentor, I plan to help my students build their scientific skill set so that they can use scientific thinking and approaches to answer research questions.  Additionally, I want to help my students identify their career goals and achieve them.

What do you hope students take away from your class?
I am still developing classes, and I will start teaching next year.  My classes will focus on wine microbiology.  I hope that students will be able to develop the basic microbiology skills that are useful in a winery for interpreting the health of their fermentations, and diagnosing microbiological issues that arise.  I also want them to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate current research and product claims related to wine microbiology.  Finally, I want them to have a clear sense of the types of wine microbiology research that are being done so that they would feel confident reaching out to an academic microbiologist to propose research questions/collaborations that could solve problems or drive innovation.

How will your research benefit the wine industry?
My applied research program will have two main benefits.  First, I want to develop applied projects by working with people in the wine industry to help solve microbiological problems.  The results of this work will be published so that any benefit from the work can be shared with the entire industry.  Second, I will be training future generations of people who pursue careers within the wine industry.

What is the best piece of research advice you have received?
Teach.  My postdoctoral mentor, David Botstein, has said many times that much of his success in research is due to teaching.  He found that by teaching, he would re-examine and discuss concepts that would lead to new insights and new directions for his research.