Dr Blair Nield began her science career in the realm of biotechnology and molecular biology, studying genes encoding natural snake venom inhibitors. After a short foray into environmental science and ecotoxicology, Blair combined her interest in the environment with molecular biology and moved onto research of horizontal gene transfer in soil bacteria; and this was her launching pad into protein chemistry as she studied novel proteins encoded by gene cassettes. Blair began her position at UTS in Spring semester of 2008, working with students in Cell Biology, Biochemistry, Pathophysiology, Microbiology, and Pharmacology, as well as maintaining her links with the environment via the subject, Environmental Forensics. Blair is also the subject coordinator of Professional Experience in Biomedical Science (91552 - 91558), helping students gain real-world, industry-based, work experience as part of their undergraduate studies. Blair’s research is in diverse areas of pedagogy, including, use and benefits of feedback, work-integrated-learning and graduate employability, knowledge retention and recall, and use of the blended-learning environment to enrich student education.
Blair won the UTS Individual Teaching Award in 2017 (joint winnder with Dr James Wakefield from Business) for Inspiring students in the biological sciences with a focus on clear learning outcomes, interactive classes, and development of independent learners who are employment-ready graduates. Blair addressed all four of the selection criteria: (i) Approaches to learning that inspire and motivate students; (ii) Development of learning resources that show a command of the field; (iii) Evalution practices that drive improvement; and (iv) Innovation and leadership that enhances the students' learning experience.
Blair won a UTS Teaching and Learning Citation in 2012 for her work Use of new technologies, research integrated learning materials, and development of clear marking criteria, in order to enrich the student experience and improve student engagement. This work involved creation and incorporation of a research-inspired and integrated multi-week practical on the biochemistry and genetics of cancer; as well as the introduction of the online feedback tool, REVIEW, and Graduate Attribute aligned marking criteria and rubrics for written reports.
Blair's research focuses on education and learning, leading to graduate employment success. Areas of interest include:
- Work-integrated learning and employability skills
- First year transition
- Graduate attribute aligned marking criteria and rubrics
- The blended learning environment
- Use of digital resources to support student learning, memory formation, and knowledge recall
Blair is the subject coordinator for the Professional Experience Programme (91552 - 91558), a series of elective subjects in which students have the opportunity to go out into industry to gain real-world, on-the-job work experience.
Blair is involved with teaching across the degrees of Medical Science, Biomedical Science, Biotechnology and Forensic Biology. The main subject in which she is part of the education team is Cell Biology and Genetics (91161 & 91161a).
Nield, BS, Guzowski, R, Nassif, N, Simpson, AM & Martiniello-Wilks, R 2014, 'First use of Re: View: A tool to combine assessment tasks, marking criteria and graduate attributes for biochemistry students', International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, vol. 22, no. 7, pp. 49-64.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
In order to improve clarity of the link between assessment tasks and graduate attributes to students, Re:View was introduced across three undergraduate biochemistry subjects. Re:View is an online assessment tool which provides a direct visual link between graduate attributes and marking criteria. It also provides students with an easy access portal to retrieve their grade and assessor feedback on assessment tasks. Our aim was to improve the second and third year biochemistry student laboratory-based learning experience by developing and clarifying the link between assessment tasks, marking criteria and graduate attributes, using Re:View as the assessment tool. Student opinion showed Re:View was of benefit to align marking criteria with graduate attributes, and provided easy access to feedback which could be used to improve future work. This first use of Re:View, with development of criterion-referenced marking criteria and rubrics, has revolutionised assessment in the three biochemistry subjects under study. With the use of Re:View we have clarified the link between assessment tasks and marking criteria, and enhanced student engagement with laboratory-based assessment tasks, which has improved their written assessment performance.
Nield, BS, Willows, RD, Torda, AE, Gillings, M, Holmes, A, Nevalainen, K, Stokes, H & Mabbutt, BC 2004, 'New enzymes from environmental cassette arrays: Functional attributes of a phosphotransferase and an RNA-methyltransferase', Protein Science, vol. 13, no. 6, pp. 1651-1659.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
By targeting gene cassettes by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) directly from environmentally derived DNA, we are able to amplify entire open reading frames (ORFs) independently of prior sequence knowledge. Approximately 10% of the mobile genes recovered
Holmes, A, Gillings, M, Nield, BS, Mabbutt, BC, Nevalainen, K & Stokes, H 2003, 'The gene cassette metagenome is a basic resource for bacterial genome evolution', Environmental Microbiology, vol. 5, no. 5, pp. 383-394.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Lateral gene transfer has been proposed as a fundamental process underlying bacterial diversity. Transposons, plasmids and phage are widespread and have been shown to significantly contribute to lateral gene transfer. However, the processes by which disp
Holmes, AJ, Holley, MP, Mahon, A, Nield, BS, Gillings, M & Stokes, H 2003, 'Recombination Activity of a Distinctive Integron-Gene Cassette System Associated with Pseudomonas stutzeri Populations in Soil', Journal Of Bacteriology, vol. 185, no. 3, pp. 918-928.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Class 1 integrons have strongly influenced the evolution of multiple antibiotic resistance. Diverse integrons have recently been detected directly in a range of natural environments. In order to characterize the properties of these environmental integrons, we sought to isolate organisms containing integrons from soils, which resulted in the isolation of Pseudomonas stutzeri strain Q. Further isolation efforts targeted at this species resulted in recovery of two other strains (P and BAM). 16S rRNA sequences and chromosome mapping showed that these three strains are very closely related clonal variants in a single genomovar of P. stutzeri. Only strains Q and BAM were found to contain an integron and an associated gene cassette array. The intI and attI components of these strains showed 99 and 90% identity, respectively. The structure of these integrons and their associated gene cassettes was similar to that reported previously for other integron classes. The two integrons contained nonoverlapping sets of cassette-associated genes. In contrast, many of the cassette-associated recombination sites in the two integrons were similar and were considered to constitute a distinct subfamily consisting of 59-base element (59-be) recombination sites (the Pseudomonas subfamily). The recombination activity of P. stutzeri integron components was tested in cointegrate assays. IntIPstQ was shown to catalyze site-specific recombination between its cognate attI site and 59-be sites from antibiotic resistance gene cassettes. While IntIPstQ did not efficiently mediate recombination between members of the Pseudomonas 59-be subfamily and other 59-be types, the former sites were functional when they were tested with IntI1. We concluded that integrons present in P. stutzeri possess recombination activity and represent a hot spot for genomic diversity in this species.
Hains, PG, Nield, BS, Sekuloski, S, Dunn, R & Broady, KW 2001, 'Sequencing and Two-Dimensional Structure Prediction of a Phospholipase A2 Inhibitor from the Serum of the Common Tiger Snake', Journal of Molecular Biology, vol. 312, pp. 875-884.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
A phospholipase A2 inhibitor has been identi®ed in the serum of the common tiger snake (Notechis scutatus). The inhibitor is composed of two chains, an a-chain and a b-chain, that form a non-covalently associated complex capable of inhibiting the enzymatic activity of all phospholipase A2 enzymes it was tested against. The a and b-chains have been puri®ed to homogeneity, digested and sequenced. From the peptide sequence generated, degenerate PCR primers were designed and used to elucidate the complete cDNA sequence of the chains using 50 and 30 RACE PCR. A total of three a-chain isoforms were identi®ed, only one isoform of the b-chain was detected. The two-dimensional structure of the three a-chains and one b-chain were predicted using ®ve prediction programs (discrimination of secondary structure class; nearest neighbour secondary structure, pro®le network from Heidelberg; self-optimised prediction method from multiple alignment, SSPAL). For each protein chain a consensus prediction was generated. Results are discussed in relation to the function of the protein, and how they may in¯uence the three-dimensional structure of the inhibitor. Additionally, the sequences of several snake phospholipase A2 inhibitors were used as the input for a motif prediction algorithm (MEME). The results are discussed in relation to the activity of these proteins.
Nield, BS, Holmes, AJ, Gillings, M, Recchia, G, Mabbutt, BC, Nevalainen, HK & Stokes, H 2001, 'Recovery of new integron classes from environmental DNA', FEMS Microbiology Letters, vol. 195, no. 1, pp. 59-65.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Integrons are genetic elements known for their role in the acquisition and expression of genes conferring antibiotic resistance. Such acquisition is mediated by an integron-encoded integrase, which captures genes that are part of gene cassettes. To test whether integrons occur in environments with no known history of antibiotic exposure, PCR primers were designed to conserved regions of the integrase gene and the gene cassette recombination site. Amplicons generated from four environmental DNA samples contained features typical of the integrons found in antibiotic-resistant and pathogenic bacteria. The sequence diversity of the integrase genes in these clones was sufficient to classify them within three new classes of integron. Since they are derived from environments not associated with antibiotic use, integrons appear to be more prevalent in bacteria than previously observed.
Stokes, H, Holmes, A, Nield, BS, Holley, MP, Nevalainen, K, Mabbutt, BC & Gillings, M 2001, 'Gene cassette PCR: Sequence-independent recovery of entire genes from environmental DNA', Applied and Environmental Microbiology, vol. 67, no. 11, pp. 5240-5246.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
The vast majority of bacteria in the environment have yet to be cultured. Consequently, a major proportion of both genetic diversity within known gene families and an unknown number of novel gene families reside in these uncultured organisms. Isolation o
Through the Professional Experience Programme (91552 - 91558) Blair has close ties with industry, with a current focus on the (bio-)medical industry, including research and pathology laboratories. If you would like to know more, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.