We are currently
hunting the structure of a human chloride ion channel protein-
are still at the cloning stage, using bacteria to produce
foreign proteins from their genes. We aim to understand
the physical mechanism of several "chaperones":
proteins that assist other proteins to adopt their correct
investigating the physical basis for fundamental asymmetries
in proteins and are examining beta-structures at ultra high
resolution. We have also recently devised a novel enzyme
mechanism for rubisco-the world's most abundant enzyme.
This mechanism is based on electrostatic transitions and
is likely to have general implications for a large class
Membrane Biophysics Group
This group studies
transport systems in plant cell membranes and their role
in salt tolerance. The electrical characteristics of single
living cells are measured by voltage clamping giant-celled
charophytes (models for higher plants) and Ventricaria (marine
algae). Single channels are characterised by patch clamp
technique. Ions responsible for various currents are identified
using vibrating, ion-sensitive electrodes.
This group studies
the electrical impedance and concentration changes associated
with the flow of electrical current through electrodes,
electrolytes and membranes. Current projects include characterisation
of the depletion layer that can form between artificial
membranes containing fixed charges of opposite sign, and
examination of the concentration changes that can occur
around implanted neural electrodes.
and Anhydrobiology In collaboration with biologists and
physicists from other universities, we study the damage
produced by freezing and drying in cells
and tissues .
with biologists and physicists from other universities,
we study the damage produced by freezing
and drying in cells and tissues. One area is the cellular
effects of freezing
and cryopreservation . Another is the environmental influences on
frost in alpine forests.
Two academic staff
members are jointly in the Biophysics Department and theAcoustics
Group. They research the acoustics of the vocal tract and some aspects of
implants (see under
Staff and Research Fields
Mary J. Beilby BSc. PhD. UNSW, MAIP, Grad. Cert.
I study electrical properties of membranes surrounding
living plant cells. Potential difference (p. d.) across
the membrane can be measured and controlled.The ionic
currents flowing through a multitude of specific transport
systems (protein molecules imbedded in the lipid bilayer)
show characteristic p.d. dependencies. Such current-voltage
curves allow characterisation and modelling of different
transporters. My new project investigates the role some
of these transporters play in the cell response to varying
salinity of the environment. The experiments are performed
on giant-celled algae characeae (single cells up to
1 mm in diameter and several cm in length), which allow
extensive manipulation on the single cell level.
Paul M. G. Curmi BSc. PhD. Sydney
My research is aimed at understanding life processes
at a molecular level. Our main focus is on the structure
and function of proteins, in particular, those that
act as molecular machines. My group uses an array
of techniques, especially: x-ray crystallography,
recombinant DNA technology, protein chemistry, biophysics
and bioinformatics. Current projects include: the
CLIC chloride ion channels, serpins, RNPs, light-harvesting
proteins, tumour suppressors, archaeal evolution and
protein structural transitions.
John Smith BSc. Sydney, PhD. UNSW
My research interests are focussed on studying various
electrodiffusion problems that involve determining how
ions move through materials under the influence of gradients
in electric potential and concentration. This has led
to the detection of the depletion layer that can form
between artificial membranes containing fixed charges
of opposite sign. The concentration changes that can
occur around implanted neural electrodes or plant cells
are also under investigation.
Krystyna E. Wilk MSc. Cracow PhD. UNSW MAIP
Following my interest in the light harvesting proteins
I became interested in how the proteins are targeted
to the membranes and how they are inserted or translocated
across membranes. For this project I will continue towards
the structure determination of light harvesting membrane
proteins using X-ray crystallography methods.
Joe Wolfe BSc. Qld, BA. UNSW, PhD. ANU.
My main research in biophysics is in thermal physics,
with particular application to the damage produced by
freezing and/or desiccation. I collaborate with biophysicists,
physiologists and ecologists on problems including the
ultrastructural damage produced by the large anisotropic
stresses induced by freezing and/or dehydration and
the analysis of heat exchange and ice nucleation. I
also work on bioacoustics, which is listed under acoustics
in the Department of Environmental and Applied Physics.