Biochemistry, biophysics and biotechnology research

Research expertise

Biochemistry

Biochemistry research at Massey University studies the structure, function and chemistry of molecules that comprise the living world. Our research allows us to understand cellular mechanisms of information transfer (chemical and genetic), bioenergetics, the regulation of biological activities and provides mechanisms to understand how biological systems respond to their environment both in immediate and evolutionary time scales.

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Bioprocess engineering and biotechnology

Massey University scientists have expertise in the use of microorganisms, cells and enzymes to produce products and services. We are actively researching genetic testing, display technologies and vaccine development. We use scientific fundamentals to design, engineer and scale-up the operation of bioprocesses. Examples are the production of biopharmaceuticals, biofuels, biopolymers and nanomaterials and the bioengineering of sustainable environmentally-friendly processes.

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Environmental engineering

All engineers in New Zealand have an ethical duty to avoid, mitigate or remedy environmental impacts of human activities. We have expertise in environmental microbiology, biotechnology, process engineering design, modelling and scale-up.

We have extensive experience in wastewater systems, in removing pollutants from wastewater with a focus on algal-based wastewater treatment in ponds (e.g. wastewater stabilization ponds, and high rate algal ponds). We are investigating new methods for pathogen treatment and phosphate removal including algal phosphate uptake from effluent (RC3). This includes pathogen treatment as well as solutions for community wastewater upgrades.

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Microbial biotechnology

Particular research is being undertaken in the areas of methanogens and greenhouse gas mitigation. Other specialities include prokaryotic evolution and bacteriocins.

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Molecular biophysics

Our research in molecular biophysics combines state-of-the-art biophysical approaches to study biomolecular structure, dynamics and interactions. Research interests include polysaccharides, proteins, and nucleic acids, and stretches from single molecule work using AFM and optical tweezers, to investigating the properties of macromolecular assemblies.

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Structural biology

Structural biology combines state-of-the-art crystallographic, NMR, computational, biochemical, and biophysical approaches to study biomolecular structure, dynamics and interactions. Research interests cover a wide range of systems, including proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates and ligands.

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Research projects

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Facilities

    Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Laboratory

    Equipment in this laboratory includes a

    • 700 MHz spectrometer with a cryogenically-cooled probe; 60-place sample changer and autotune and match module for high throughput
    • 500 MHz spectrometer
    • 400 MHz spectrometer
    • 200 MHz horizontal widebore spectrometer, with high resolution imaging capabilities.

    Optical Laboratory

    The Laser Laboratory includes optical tweezers, light scattering, and Raman spectrometer.

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    PC2-certified Laboratory

    This laboratory includes equipment for molecular biology, protein expression and purification.

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    Spectrometers

    There are a wide range of spectrometers as part of the equipment on the Manawatū campus including

    • Applied Photophysics Chirascan CD spectrometer (new in 2008)
    • ThermoElectron Nicolet high-resolution FT-MIR/FT-FarIR
    • UV-Vis spectrometers
    • Raman spectrometers
    • Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) spectrometer
    • Fluorimeter
    • Polarimeter

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    X-ray Diffraction Laboratory

    The X-ray Diffraction Lab houses a Bruker D8 Venture diffractometer. X-rays are generated by a microfocus diamond (IuS) source with Cu radiation. X-rays are detected by a noiseless Photon III detector. The diffractometer is set up for small molecular and protein crystallography on small and weakly-diffracting samples. Powder X-ray diffraction patterns are also easily measured. An Oxford Cryostream 800 provides cooling down to 80 K. An ISX stage for protein plates, microscopes, cameras and many other accessories are available.

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    Meet our graduates

    Research centres

      Centre for Structural Biology

      The Centre combines state-of-the-art crystallographic, NMR, computational, biochemical, and biophysical approaches to study biomolecular structure, dynamics and interactions.

      The centre houses New Zealand's finest collection of NMR spectrometers (700, 500, 400 and 200 MHz) along with a a new Xray diffraction suite.

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      New Zealand Biochar Research Centre

      The Centre is internationally-recognised, working to advance the understanding of biochar for mitigating global climate change. We also work to enable its use in New Zealand, particularly by the agricultural and forestry sectors.

      New Zealand Biochar Research Centre