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Dr Laura Newsome

Dr Laura Newsome

Lecturer in Geomicrobiology

 01326 259018

 Environment and Sustainability Institute ESI 02.02


Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK


I am a geomicrobiologist interested in understanding the behaviour of contaminants and metals in the environment, and how microorganisms can be used for bioremediation and bioprocessing applications. My research is interdisciplinary and incorporates microbiology, mineralogy and geochemistry to develop new insights into biogeochemical metal cycling in natural and engineered environments.

My research interests range from the nanoscale to the field scale. I use cutting edge microscopy and spectroscopy techniques to investigate the mechanisms by which microorganisms interact with metals and minerals. I work with samples that are naturally rich in metals and samples from metal-impacted environments, characterising their microbial communities and investigating how microbial processes can mobilise, redistribute and sequester metals. I’m also interested in exploring how we can use microorganisms to help recover metals from ore deposits.

I am a member of the Environment & Sustainability Institute and the Camborne School of Mines in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences.


2015 PhD Geomicrobiology & biogeochemistry (University of Manchester, UK)

2005 MGeol Environmental geology (University of Leeds, UK)


2017 – 2018 Research fellow, University of Manchester

2015 – 2017 Research associate, University of Manchester

2009 – 2011 Radioactive substances & chemicals scientist, Environment Agency

2008 – 2009 Environmental consultant, WYG

2005 – 2008 Environmental consultant, URS


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Research interests

  • Bioremediation of contaminated groundwater
  • Characterisation of the mechanisms by which microbes interact with metals and minerals
  • Development of new biological techniques to process ores and mine wastes

Research projects

Understanding the geomicrobiology of UK groundwater and its impact on geoenergy

Geothermal energy is a low carbon energy source, not only is it beneficial for limiting climate change, it also enhances energy security. Microbes are present in most subsurface environments and microbial metabolism influences the environmental conditions via biogeochemical cycling of metals, sulfur, carbon and nitrogen. However, little is known about the effect of geothermal energy production on microbial communities, nor on how microbial processes might impact on the performance of geothermal systems. This research project will study how subsurface microbial communities respond to drilling, as well as addressing fundamental questions regarding the influence of geology and hydrogeology on microbial communities. More information about the UKGEOS programme:

Does microbial community functioning control the success of mine waste rehabilitation?

Waste materials abandoned from historic metal mines sometimes hundreds of years old are polluting our environment today.  Toxic metals are eroded from mine waste by wind and water then transported into the environment as dust or washed into rivers and estuaries.  Plants can be grown on mine waste to minimise this erosion, but we don’t fully understand why in some cases plants thrive, but in other cases their growth suffers. In all soils microorganisms play a crucial role in providing the essential elements that plants need to grow. This project will investigate how soil microorganisms help plants to grow in wastes at an abandoned metal mine site, and whether microbial activity might help to protect the plants from the impact of toxic metals.

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External Engagement and Impact

Committee / panel membership

  • Royal Society of Chemistry Environmental Chemistry Group - committee member and web editor (
  • Mineralogical Society of UK and Ireland Environmental Mineralogy Group - committee member and early career representative (
  • PhD committee/examiner: Isobel Stanton, University of Exeter, 2019, internal examiner; Matthew Kirby, Imperial College London, 2019, external examiner


  • 'Life at the Extremes' at Bluedot festival, Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, 2017 & 2018
  • 'Cobalt is Critical' at Science Uncovered, Natural History Museum, Tring, 2017
  • 'Making Microbes Work for Us' public lectures, Manchester, 2016 & 2017
  • 'Alienated Life' at Manchester Science Festival, Manchester, 2015 & 2016
  • 'How to Build a Nuclear Repository' at Science Uncovered, Manchester Museum, Manchester, 2015

Conference organisation

  • Session on 'Minerals and Our Living World; Biogeochemical Cycles, Environmental Challenges and the Origin of Life', European Mineralogical Conference: emc2020, Krakow, 2021
  • ‘Minerals in a Sustainable Future’, British Geological Survey, 2019
  • 'Clay Minerals in the Natural and Built Environment: Formation, Chemistry & Applications’, Newcastle University, 2019
  • ‘21st Century Chemistry: Disposing our Nuclear Legacy’, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2019
  • ‘The Geochemistry and Mineralogy of Contaminated Environments’, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2018
  • Session on ‘The Geochemistry of Metal Deposits’ at the Goldschmidt Conference, Paris, 2017

Editorial responsibilities

  • Guest editor for Frontiers in Earth Sciences special issue

Professional body memberships

  • Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Mineralogical Society of Great Britain and Ireland
  • Microbiological Society
  • British Ecological Society

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I teach/have taught on the following modules

Year 1

  • CSM1031 - Earth & Environmental Chemistry
  • BIO1425 - Microbes

Year 2

  • CSM2184 - Geological Mapping Techniques

Year 3

  • CMS3039 - Safety & Sustainable Development
  • CSM3042 - Industrial Placement & Project
  • CSM3049 - Contaminated Land Management & Remediation (module lead)
  • CSM3379 - Summer Vacation Project (research projects)

Year 4

  • CSMM441 - Mine Waste Characterisation, Prediction and Treatment
  • CSMM047 - Project and Dissertation (research projects)

I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

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Supervision / Group

Postgraduate researchers

  • Jody Grassby

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