Biochemistry, biophysics and biotechnology research
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Find programmes with a research element, including the PhD.
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Biohydrogen from agroindustrial waste
This research project worked to convert agroindustrial waste into a fuel that both solves a biomass waste disposal problem and provides a useful product.
Agroindustrial waste from the palm oil industry was used. For each metric ton of crude palm oil produced, roughly four metric tons of dry oil palm waste is generated. Massey University’s Professor Yusuf Chisti worked with Walailak University in Thailand to identify how to recover and break down the cellulose and hemicellulose components of this biomass waste to produce simple sugars and other organic molecules. The simple organics obtained by breaking down the oil palm waste were then used to produce hydrogen via a type of photosynthesis, using an anaerobic purple bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides.
Finding the Achilles’ heel of breast cancer
APOBEC3 proteins provide a key part of our defence against viral pathogens. They act by attacking single-stranded viral DNA (ssDNA) and destroy their genetic information by mutating the cytidines to uridines. For this defence to work, it is essential to distinguish between pathogen DNA and our own genetic information. How A3 proteins recognize specific ssDNA and specific pathogens, but neither double-stranded DNA nor RNA, remains unknown. The study aims to identify this recognition strategy and help develop a compound to mitigate this issue. The work is being done in collaboration with University of Minnesota.
Manawatū Microscopy and Imaging Centre
The MMIC facility is available for use by organisations such as researchers, Crown Research Institutes, other teaching institutions, hospitals and commercial clients. We offer transmitted light and fluorescence microscopy, electron microscopy and image analysis and have a professional team of specialists to help you with your microscopy needs.
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.
The Laser Laboratory includes optical tweezers, light scattering, and Raman spectrometer.
This laboratory includes equipment for molecular biology, protein expression and purification.
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
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.
Meet our graduates
My supervisor, Professor Stowell, was brilliant throughout my PhD. She gave me all the support I needed and helped me find solutions for the various problems we ran into during my time at Massey. She had an open door policy and I was always able to discuss issues when needed.Cornelia Roesl
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh
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.
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.