School of Molecular Sciences

Molecular structure

The study of molecular structure supports our research programs across the chemical and biological sciences.

Bioinformatics and computational biology: Professor Michael Wise
Research in the Bioinformatics and Computation Biology Lab. boils down to the application of computational techniques to investigate biological questions. Current application domains include:
  • Bioinformatics of anhydrobiosis (species’ ability to survive with minimal water)
  • Microbial bioinformatics
  • Low complexity/natively unfolded proteins
  • Computational evolutionary biology
Carbohydrate chemistry and chemical glycobiology: Dr Keith Stubbs
Glycobiology is the study of the structures and roles of carbohydrates in biology. Carbohydrates are present in every living system and traditionally, have been known for their role in structural integrity and as energy sources.
Human Lactation Research Group: Dr Donna Geddes
Human milk is diverse fluid containing macronutrients, vitamins, hormones and live cells uniquely tailored for the human infant. A myriad of health benefits, both short and long term are conferred to both the mother and infant via human milk and lactation. Further early nutrition is implicated in the Developmental origins of Health and Disease (DoHaD).

This large research group combines a number of modalities including biochemistry, metabolomics, molecular biology, physiological measurements and ultrasound imaging to understand milk synthesis, milk removal from the breast, the effect of milk composition on both term and preterm infant gastric emptying, breastfeeding behaviour, appetite control and body composition.

Computational biology and genomics for sustainable agriculture: Dr Laura Boykin
We are a group of scientists using genomics and supercomputing to help smallholder farmers around the globe.
We study insect pests, including whiteflies that are transmitting viruses leaving many resource-limited famers food insecure. We identify insect pests and viruses utilizing traditional sequencing methods and also next generation sequencing technologies.
Our ultimate goal is to provide solutions to farmers to increase food security by controlling pests and viruses.

Other lab group members: Mr James Wainaina and Solomon Maina
Crystallography and theoretical chemistry: Professor Mark Spackman
Our research investigates in detail the structure of crystals, in particular the electron distribution and properties related to it, such as electric moments of molecules (dipole, quadrupole, etc.), electrostatic potential and electric field, and also measures of its response to external perturbations, including polarizability and hyperpolarizability.

All research projects in this area incorporate different aspects of physical and theoretical chemistry. They utilise ab initio computational methods along with some computer programming and computer graphics and, where applicable, measurement and detailed analysis of high-resolution, low-temperature X-ray diffraction data.

Other lab group members: Dr Michael Turner and Mr Sajesh Thomas
Laser spectroscopy and computational chemistry: Dr Duncan Wild
Our work is aimed towards finding a deeper understanding of how molecules interact with one another. This has a profound impact in the areas of chemical reactivity, dissolution of species in solution, and even in furthering our understanding of the shapes and behaviours of biological macromolecules such as proteins. We are able to experimentally observe the complexes formed between individual molecules that are tethered together via intermolecular interactions such as hydrogen bonding. We use laser spectroscopy to ‘shine a light’ on the structures and binding energies for the complexes and back it up with high level computational chemistry. 
Metals in chemistry and nanochemistry: Professor George Koutsantonis
Our group is interested in the role of metals in functional materials. While the role played by metals in materials is still evolving and there is an increasing effort to incorporate redox-active centres into many materials, for example conducting polymers, in an effort to create highly efficient redox conductivity for sensor, catalytic, photochemical and photoelectronic applications. We are participating members of the WA Centre of Excellence in Nanochemistry.
Mitochondrial Medicine and Biology: Aleksandra Filipovska
We investigate the genetic causes of diseases caused by mitochondrial dysfunction, analyse the molecular mechanisms that cause pathology in the diseases and develop therapeutics to combat mitochondrial dysfunction in disease.
Molecular Steroidogenesis: Associate Professor Robert Tuckey
Current research involves the metabolism of vitamins D2 and D3 by cytochrome P450scc, and the activation and inactivation of vitamin D by other mitochondrial-type cytochromes P450 including CYP27A1, CYP27B1 and CYP24. With collaborators we are trying to develop new forms of vitamin D which are non-toxic and have therapeutic potential for the treatment of immune disorders and cancer.
Plant Biology and Biochemistry: Dr Joshua Mylne
Plants have much more to offer us than solutions to our agricultural challenges. Plants provide an untapped resource of peptides and information relevant to human drugs.
Protein structure by X-ray crystallography: Professor Alice Vrielink
The studies in my lab focus on crystallographic analysis of a variety of proteins with the aim of using structural analysis to better understand their biology. The structural biology laboratory is well equipped with state of the art robotic crystallization equipment, X-ray diffraction equipment and computational facilities for structure solution and analysis. Cloning, expression and purification resources are also available in the laboratory in order to obtain sufficient quantities of protein for crystallographic studies. In addition we carry out kinetic and spectroscopic analyses to establish the quality of protein and pursue biochemical and biophysical studies to better correlate function with structure.
Reactive oxygen species and oxidative stress: Dr Peter Arthur
Our research focuses on how oxidative stress caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS) alters protein function.
Spectroscopy of reactive intermediates: Professor Allan McKinley
My research interests involve: applications of spectroscopy for the detection and characterization of reactive intermediates, theoretical modelling of the bonding in radicals, analysis and remediation of contaminated groundwater, and biological applications of Electron Spin Resonance spectroscopy.
Structural biology: Professor Charles Bond
Structural Biology research involves building a three-dimensional picture of biological molecules to shed light on the molecular interactions and events which drive many of the fundamental processes of life.

Investigations in my lab address proteins of relevance to human health, including nucleic acid processing proteins involved in regulating gene expression, and enzymes essential to the survival of life-threatening microbes, which may be drug targets. Recent research from the Bond lab has received media attention locally, nationally and internationally.
Structure and function of enzymes: Professor Paul Attwood
My research is generally focused on the investigation of enzyme action and regulation at the molecular level. The two major aspects of my research are:
  1. the mechanism of catalysis of pyruvate carboxylase and its allosteric regulation
  2. the structure, function and mammalian cell biology of histidine kinases.
Synthetic Biology: Associate Professor Oliver Rackham
Synthetic biology is a burgeoning new field focused on designing and building new biomolecules, biological networks and systems for useful purposes. Our research focuses on re-engineering bacteria and yeast for use as microscopic drug factories, and the manipulation of mammalian gene expression.
Theoretical and computational chemistry: Associate Professor Dylan Jayatilaka
I am interested in a number of areas, including:
  • Quantum chemistry
  • Chemical concepts from quantum mechanics
  • Crystallography and diffraction
  • Development of reusable software
  • Visualisation of complex chemical data