I am a plant cell biologist and protein biochemist at Oxford Brookes University with expertise in the structure and function of the plant endoplasmic reticulum (ER), membrane proteins and auxin biosynthesis using biochemical techniques as well as high-resolution live cell imaging.
Over the last 10 years I have developed a research pathway in auxin biosynthesis going back to my degree and PhD work at the Technical University of Munich where I studied the nitrilase pathway in maize auxin biosynthesis and maize tryptophan synthase complex.
A short-term position at Oxford Brookes just after my PhD allowed me to expand my expertise to ER and Golgi as well as acquiring skills in live cell imaging.
I further investigated membrane proteins and the targeting of tail-anchored proteins at Sheffield Hallam University. Here I pursued my scientific interests in subcellular protein localisation, bioinformatics, and mathematical modelling. My additional independent research on ER localisation and splicing in auxin biosynthesis showed for the first time ER-localisation for an auxin biosynthetic protein. Based on this work I won a fellowship from the Korean Federation of Science and Technology Societies to investigate the subcellular localisation of maize auxin biosynthesis at Dankook University in Seoul which lead to a publication that showed for the first time that both steps of the TAA/YUC pathway of auxin biosynthesis can be ER-localised. I am committed to interdisciplinary research, and an example of the successes gained from this approach is the project with Prof A Nabok (Engineering Sheffield Hallam University) using total internal reflection ellipsometry to quantify protein-membrane interactions on native plant membranes and human cell lines.
I took up a position at Oxford Brookes University in 2012 investigating the role of reticulon proteins in ER tubulation and viral trafficking in order to develop my international reputation in ER research and advanced imaging. I published the first report of plant ER reticulon protein interactors by Co-IP and FRET-FLIM. Through this I established important collaborative links with physicists at the STFC Lasers for Science Facility at the Harwell Campus.
As I have a strong interest in translational research I wrote and lead a Leverhulme research grant (“pMMO in plants”) with senior Brookes staff (Dr Deborah Pearce) and in collaboration with Prof Tom Smith from Sheffield Hallam University. Here I aim to engineer plants to convert methane into carbon dioxide. Due to my interest in linking academia and industry I am part of the Faculty Innovation Team at Oxford Brookes and Innovation Forum Oxford as an Oxford Brookes representative. I am also a member of BBSRC Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy: C1Net, Plant to Product Network, and High Value Chemicals from Plants Network.
My current research aims to link the structure and function of the plant endoplasmic reticulum with auxin biosynthesis.
Research grants and awards
-Leverhulme Trust “pMMO in plants” with D. Pearce and C. Hawes (Dec 2015 to Nov 2017).
-STFC Harwell access grant with C. Hawes (Jan to March 2017).
-Fellowship Korean Federation of Science and Technology Societies (March to June 2013).
-Engineering for life Feasibility Study Grant with A. Nabok, D. Smith and B. Abell 2011 “Visualising the interaction of proteins in biological membranes for diagnosis of diseases”.
-Engineering for life pump prime funding with A. Nabok and B. Abell 2010 “Visualising the interaction of proteins in biological membranes for diagnosis of diseases”.