• Room 01.023 - Biological Sciences

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am always interested to hear from potential PhD candidates with a good Honours degree in a molecular bioscience subject and who have an interest in membrane proteins, particularly those that function in transport processes and those that offer potential as drug targets for neglected tropical diseases.


Research activity per year

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Personal profile


After graduating from University of Stirling with an Honours Degree in Biochemistry I subsequently obtained a PhD in Biochemistry and Biophysics from University of Glasgow. I held several postdoctoral research positions in the USA and UK before becoming a Lecturer in Biochemistry at Queen's University in 2009. My research track record includes several major and significant findings in the globally competitive field of membrane protein biology: I was part of the team at Glasgow University that solved the X-ray crystal structure of the purple bacterial reaction centre-light harvesting 1 complex (work that was published in Science) and at the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at New York University Medical Center, USA, I was a member of the team that solved the high-resolution X-ray crystal structure of the LeuT transporter bound to the tricyclic antidepressant desipramine (work that was also published in Science), revealing for the first time the structural basis of how antidepressants block neurotransmitter reuptake. An extension of this ground-breaking work provided insight into the antidepressant specificity of the human serotonin transporter (published in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology). Recently, my group published papers that illuminated the structural basis of antibiotic recognition in a multidrug efflux protein, and reported for the first time on the overexpression, purification and characterisation of a recombinant membrane transporter protein involved in iron homeostasis in the parasite that causes malaria in humans.

Research Statement

My research is multi-faceted and combines interests in: (i) fundamental studies of the structure, mechanism and physiological roles of integral membrane transporter proteins (primarily those that function in multidrug efflux in bacterial pathogens and in iron homeostasis in parasites like those that cause malaria); (ii) structure and function studies of the capsid proteins of avian astroviruses; and (iii) industrial applications of proteins. This research has important implications for human and animal health, global food security, and development of the local economy in Northern Ireland, and involves collaboration both with colleagues across the university and with external researchers at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in Belfast and with local industrial partners such as Almac Sciences Ltd. The latter collaboration forms part of the £2m IN Silico Informed metaGenomic Harvesting Technology (INSIGHT) enzyme discovery programme and involves development of a novel system for the overproduction of economically important biocatalysts for use in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, life sciences and fine chemicals sectors. My research has been supported by funding from a variety of sources including BBSRC, Royal Society and Invest Northern Ireland.

My laboratory utilises a comprehensive range of sophisticated and state-of-the-art technologies, such as X-ray crystallography, fluorescence spectroscopy and computer-based molecular modelling to help deliver answers to research questions. 


BIO3034 Biomolecular Structure - Module Coordinator

BIO2102 Experimental Biochemistry - Module Co-coordinator

BIO3308 Honours Project

BIO4301 MSci Research Project

BBC8046 Advanced Molecular Biology

BIO8306 MSc Literature Review

BBC8001 MSc Research Project: BMSF/Biotechnology

BBC8003 MSc Research Project: Molecular Pathways




External examiner for UG Biology degree pathway, NUI Galway (2019-2023)

Chair, Exceptional Circumstances Committee

School of Biological Sciences Disability Adviser (2011-2021)

Member of Faculty Postdoctoral Committee

Deputy University Biological Safety Officer (2016-2017)

Biochemistry Degree Programme Director (2015-2018)

Journal Peer Review

I am regularly invited to referee manuscripts for scientific journals including Nature, Nature Communications, Science, Scientific Reports, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, RSC Advances, Structure, Research in Microbiology, WIREs Membrane Transport and Signaling, Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, and Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology.

Grant Peer Review

Member of the College of Reviewers for the Canada Research Chairs Program.

Reviewer for national and international funding bodies including BBSRC, MRC, Wellcome Trust, Leverhulme Trust, French National Research Agency (ANR), National Science Foundation (USA), Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation), National Research Foundation (South Africa), and United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Devlopment Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being


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