Microbial Biofilms

The transition from 2D to 3D

Through a long-running collaboration with Prof. Nicola Stanley-Wall at the University of Dundee, we study the structure of Bacillus subtilis biofilms, from the molecular to the macroscopic.
An image of a highly water repellent microbial biofilm, with water droplets sitting on top.
An image of a highly water repellent microbial biofilm, with water droplets sitting on top.

Why do Biofilms matter?

Microbial biofilms are everywhere, and impact all aspects of our day-to-day life

Building a biofilm

An animation showing how to build a microbial biofilm "raincoat".

Protein Structure and Function

When protein folding goes wrong

My research interests focus on the behaviour of proteins: the molecules that are responsible for the vast majority of functions in living organisms. The controlled self-assembly of proteins into well-defined structures and functional assemblies is essential to our well-being, however occasionally protein self-assembly takes place inappropriately. When this happens in the body it typically causes disease, and familial diseases as well as diseases of ageing (such as Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, cataract and type II diabetes) are all recognised to be the result of improper protein self-assembly.
Molecular structure of an amyloid-type fibre
Molecular structure of an amyloid-type fibre

Impact and Engagement

Why our work is relevant

Protein self-assembly can also cause havoc in industrial processes including the production of biopharmaceuticals (e.g. insulin). When this occurs, the pharmaceutical is often lost as an irretrievably tangled mass of gelled protein. All is not lost, however: the self-assembly of proteins also underpins the texture of foodstuffs including egg, meat and milk products. It is understanding this process of self-assembly - to prevent or reverse disease, or to drive the development of new materials and foodstuffs - that forms one focus of my research efforts.
Microbial biofilms impact every industrial sector from food and drink to oil and gas. They are both detrimental and beneficial: they cause hospital acquired infections and dental caries, but are also essential to food production, water treatment, and bioremediation.
gray commercial machine
gray commercial machine