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Tom Finn

B.Sc., Higher Diploma
Ph.D. co-supervised with Dr. Christina Moon (AgResearch)


physical: AgResearch Grasslands Research Centre // Palmerston North
tel: +64 6 351 8325 // email: tom.finn(at)


I completed my honours degree in BSC Genetics in University College Cork, Ireland. I then went on to do a Higher Diploma in Bioinformatics and Systems Biology. Following this, I came to New Zealand to undertake my PhD studies.


I am interested in how life adapts with and without oxygen.

Life has existed on Earth for over two billion years. During this time, Earth’s atmosphere has changed dramatically, and yet life has always prevailed. One of the biggest challenges came from a gas commonly thought of as essential for life; oxygen. When it first appeared on the planet, a period of mass extinction followed. Through evolution, some organisms not only overcame this new challenge, but even used it to their advantage. In time, this lead to the incredible biodiversity we see on Earth today. The goal of my PhD is to understand this amazing biological feat; how life can evolve with and without oxygen.

To understand how evolution occurs with and without oxygen, I am currently investigating how the facultative organism E. coli adapts during prolonged exposure to aerobic and anaerobic environments. To do this, I have experimentally evolved E. coli lineages under aerobic and anaerobic environments for 4,000 bacterial generations. I have identified mutations that have arisen in these lineages during the adaptive process with next generation sequencing tools.

A summary of my PhD can be seen in my 3 Minute Thesis presentation here. This presentation won the Massey competition and because of this was selected as the Massey entry to the Trans-Tasman final, in which I was among the final 8 contestants in University of Western Sydney in October 2013.

Currently, I am in the final year of my PhD which is a Marsden funded project, which is being carried out in collaboration with the New Zealand Institute of Advanced Studies, AgResearch Ltd, and the University of Ottawa, Canada.

Tom Finn