BD Accuri News

Tim Overton, BSc, PhD, Discusses the BD Accuri™ C6 with BD Biosciences

Tim Overton, BSc, PhD, is a lecturer in the School of Chemical Engineering and director of the MSc program in biochemical engineering at the University of Birmingham, UK. As winner of a 2011 BD Accuri Creativity Award, he was awarded a BD Accuri™ C6 flow cytometer. He uses it to monitor bacterial bioprocesses in the manufacture of products such as protein-based drugs and small molecules, and assess bacterial responses to stress encountered in such processes.

Q: How do you use the BD Accuri C6 in your work and for what type of applications?

Dr. Overton: My research focuses on the use of flow cytometry to analyze bacteria and yeast. The creativity award application focused on teaching, which I discuss below. In addition, my PhD students use the instrument for their projects on a variety of topics spanning recombinant protein production and food microbiology. Generally, we use fluors such as GFP, propidium iodide, and oxanols, and study viability, physiology, and gene expression during microbial bioprocesses.

Q: What makes the BD Accuri C6 a valuable tool in your institution?

Dr. Overton: It is both simple enough for a novice to use and sophisticated enough to do most of the types of experiments I need. It is also easy for multiple people to use on the same day, such as taking samples every hour.

Q: For educational purposes, what value will the BD Accuri C6 have to you?

Dr. Overton: I teach microbial fermentation to Masters students in Birmingham, and the students will be using it as a hands-on analytical tool to follow the progress of fermentations. I have taught flow cytometry in previous years, and sometimes offered it as a demonstration technique in practicals, but have not let students do it themselves due to the complexity of my old instrument. With the BD Accuri C6, the MSc students will be monitoring viability and physiology, cell shape and size, and cell counts, both in laboratory-scale fermentations and at pilot scale (100 litres). They will also be using it in their research projects—in fact, some of last year’s students have already used it in this context.

Q: What does BD Accuri’s motto, “Flow cytometry within reach™,” mean to you? Why is it important?

Dr. Overton: I am passionate about flow cytometry as a research tool in microbiology, and collaborate with process engineers, microbiologists, and microbial cell biologists to utilize the technique in new ways and in new areas. So the concept of “flow cytometry within reach” is familiar to me and is what I am aiming to do. However, more complicated instruments can present a bit of an access barrier, so the BD Accuri C6 is ideal as it is very simple to understand and use. After an hour or two of introduction, most people can understand how the theory relates to the practice and start generating really good data. If flow is to proceed in the microbial research arena, I think this is the approach that is needed—microbiologists designing and doing the experiments for themselves, rather than giving samples to someone else and using the technique as a “black box.”