I am a Professor of Molecular Biophysics and the Director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at the University of Portsmouth.  My principal research interest is the relationship between structure, flexibility and function in enzymes that degrade challenging natural and man-made polymers, such as plastics and collagen.

My expertise covers all aspects of enzyme engineering and analysis, from the recombinant expression of proteins in microbial hosts (e.g. fermentation in Pichia pastoris) and their subsequent purification, through assays of enzyme activity (e.g. with isothermal titration calorimetry), stability (e.g. differential scanning calorimetry) and interactions (e.g. surface plasmon resonance analysis), to characterisation of enzyme structure and dynamics (e.g. by small-angle x-ray scattering (SAXS)).  I have served as a panel member, and most recently as chair, of the Diamond Light Source soft condensed matter beamtime awarding committee, assessing proposals for access to the SAXS and circular dichroism (CD) beamlines.

Within the CEI, I collaborate closely with Prof John McGeehan and Prof Anastasia Callaghan.  Externally, my collaborators include Dr Gregg Beckham (NREL, Colorado), head of the US BOTTLE organisation of which the CEI is the sole international member. BOTTLE is focused on developing new chemical upcycling strategies for today's plastics and redesigning tomorrow's plastics to be recyclable-by-design.

I graduated from the University of Oxford in 1993 with a BA (Hons) degree in Biochemistry. I went on to complete a DPhil in Biochemistry (1997) in the laboratory of Prof Iain Campbell in Oxford, and continued there as a Research Associate studying the structural biology of the extracellular matrix using NMR spectroscopy as my principal research tool.  In September 2005, I joined the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Portsmouth as a Senior Lecturer in Biological NMR, and was promoted to Reader in 2016, and to Professor of Molecular Biophysics in 2020.  From 2012 to 2018, I served as Associate Head (Research) in the School.

From my time as an undergraduate (UG) biochemistry student at Oxford, I clearly recall the enthusiastic and inspirational teaching that I received at such a formative time in my academic life.  I delight in passing on that enthusiasm to my own UG students in lectures, tutorials and the laboratory, in the hope that it will inspire them to pursue a career in biological science, in the same way it did me. Indeed, many of my post-graduate research (PGR) students are former UoP graduates, and all of my PGR students have gone on to careers in academia or bio-based industry.

Research interests

  • Engineering enzymes for plastic depolymerisation
  • Enzyme durability under stress
  • Biophysical analysis of enzyme-substrate interactions
  • Enhancing efficiency of enzyme production in bacteria and yeast
  • Structural, dynamic and functional analysis of collagen-degrading enzymes

Media availability

I am happy to take calls and emails from media on the research from my group. Initial requests should be directed to CEI Centre Manager, Jacky Dillon, -

Interested journalists can also contact the University's Media and Communications team for support and advice on all media engagement, including out of hours.