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Latest News from the Biopolymers Group...



Biopolymer Group & Friends: End, 2011:

Back: Allan, Brad, Marjorie, Steve, Jess

Front: Lisa, Rob, Bill, Jean-Pierre, Chantelle, Ian

The group finished the year in fine style with Rob succesfully defending his PhD thesis entitled "Development and Applications of a Low Field Portable NMR System" . Very well done dude - this was an excellent job! Here he is singing Kum-By-Ah, while Bill backs him up with some wicked satanic licks.....



Parts 1, 2 and 3........and 4.!!

Congratulations to Marjorie who won a prize for the best talk at the Massey-Victoria Postgraduate Symposium Day; she gave an awesome overview of our progress using the optical tweezers for trapping emulsion drops. Good job!

Also a big well done to Abdenor, who finally overcame a good number of obstacles to successfully defend his PhD thesis, which was entitled "Physical and Chemical Attachment of Pectins to Substrates:Methods, Characterization and Application" .

A congratulations to Lisa too this month who I'm extremely glad to say managed to secure a further two year contract partly funded by The Riddet Institute, to carry on working the group.

...and last, but by no means least, well done to Jessie Owen on gaining an IFS Summer Scholarship and welcome to the Biophysics and Soft Matter for the next few months! Jessie has just finished her 2nd year undergraduate and is interested in how plants get it on .....Watch this Space for cool pollen tube movies.....!!





Congratulations to Erich who successfully defended his thesis entitled "Hierarchical Structure Function Models of Biopolymer Networks" and has already taken up a postdctoral position at SIK in Sweden where he is working on modelling diffusion in networks and FRAP measurements. Well done dude! Hope that your vision improved after a few beers at the Celtic left it somewhat impaired it seems.....


Erich and Bill made a brief trip over the ditch to present our modelling work to CSIRO in Melbourne , and to discuss potential further collaborations around the excellent TEM tomography they have been doing on biopolymer networks. Prof Lundin also cornered the Midnight Oil lead-singer in an outback park who clearly didnt want to be photographed.....

It was an exciting month for arrivals as well as departures. It was a great pleasure to welcome Dr Allan Raudsepp back to NZ, and in particular to work in our group on a Royal Society of New Zealand funded Marsden Proposal with Dr Andrew Sutherland-Smith,"Stretching protein springs: How do cells respond to force?" . Allan did his PhD in rheo-optical studies of worm-like micelles with Prof Sir Paul Callaghan down at Victoria University of Wellington and has just returned from a postdoctoral postion in at ESPCI in Paris. Welcome home dude !!!! Great to have you working with us.

It was also a pleasure to welcome Jean-Pierre Robo-Jaw Oudsen from the University of Applied Sciences, Fontys Hogescholen, Eindhoven, who will be working with us in collaboration with Dr Gareth Rowlands and his group until July, pursuing some novel labelling and coupling strategies for polysaccharides.

Bill also made a swift trip to the 17th International Biophysics Congress in Beijing at the end of the month. It was an awesome meeting - protein folding, single-molecule sequencing, the ribosome, ATP synthase and other cool molecular motors were highlights - and Bill was honoured to represent New Zealand and to be voted onto the Council of the International Union of Pure and Applied Biophysics (IUPAB).




Congratulations to Brad, not just for ruling the European summer with the Foos, but also finding time to officially obtain his Masters in Physics with fist class honours. "Awesome"....Brad has now officially become a MacDiarmid funded PhD student in the group and will be continuing to work on microrheology and force measurements using the optical tweezers.

On that front it also seems that Lisa has made progress towards the reproducible generation of a well-behaved 25 kb piece of DNA, and with a new EM-CCD due in the next two-months things are looking exciting for our single molecule biophysics experiments...

Check Out the Master .......of Muppets...






Great to have Marjorie back in Palmy for a few days working on moving the emulsion-drop force measurements into a microfluidic format....much was learned!....and much promise demonstrated....cool data was obtained using the tweezers to hold emulsion droplets against a serious imposed flow....


Well done to Davide who gave a talk on the MD work he has run on PME at the Queenstown Molecular Biology Conference where it was very well recieved...Belisimo!

and finally a big hello...and goodbye again....to Jonny who was back in NZ, after submitting his PhD thesis at the Queensland Brain Institute;he gave us an thought-provoking talk on how the primary visual cortex processes representations of the visual field........... and will now be pursing a career with his own start-up in the pet-fashion industry....







After catching up with Anna Strom in Rotterdam, and a couple of weeks of Anarchy in the UK it was back to NZ and a presentation to the MacDiarmid Institute Board. Despite a tad of jet-lag it went well and the Board recommended the funding of a joint project involving Bill, Kate McGrath and Juliet Gerrard to the tune of NZ $500 K. Ths is joint funded by the MacDiarmid and Riddet Institutes...and we will shortly be looking to appoint two postdoctoral and two postgraduate researchers......

Opportunities in Soft Biomaterials Engineering. Biomaterials have the propensity to exhibit hierarchical structures organized on multiple length-scales, which emerge from molecular and supra-molecular self-assembly. While in order to progress structure-function understanding information at a number of scales is required, the mechanical characterization of mesoscale structure-elements has been particularly challenging. We are seeking two postdoctoral and two postgraduate researchers to join a team undertaking an exciting project funded by The MacDiarmid and Riddet Institutes; New Zealand’s Centers of Research Excellence in Physical and Food science respectively. The project aims to change the way in which soft materials & biopolymer engineering is done, using world-class physical sciences to build structure-function understanding. This will be achieved by putting in place a framework for quantitatively investigating the mesoscale elements of such materials and using the results to enable multi-scale modeling to be exploited. The interdisciplinary team will interact extensively; but broadly the responsibilities will be divided as:

Postdoctoral Fellow 1 will be based in Christchurch at the University of Canterbury, and will be responsible for the development of an array of techniques and protocols for the controlled growth of functionalized protein fibrils.

Postdoctoral Fellow 2 will be based at Massey University in Palmerston North, and will use a suite of state-of-the-art biophysical tools, including Holographic Optical Tweezers, to apply and measure forces on systems ranging from single molecules to assembled fibrils.

Postgraduate 1 will be based at Massey University in Palmerston North, and will work towards a PhD degree pursing methodologies for the computational modeling of biopolymeric networks; being informed by the measured mesoscale parameters and predicting the bulk properties of assembled soft materials.

Postgraduate 2 will be based at Victoria University in Wellington and will work towards a PhD degree developing experimental tools appropriate for the measurement of the emergent bulk mechanical properties of assembled networks, providing tests of the predictions generated by the project.

The postdoctoral fellow positions offer a competitive salary and relocation assistance and are for two years. The PhD projects will suit students with a good background in physics or physical chemistry, and like working at the interface between different areas of science. The scholarships are for three years and provide a generous living allowance of NZ$27,000 per annum plus the PhD tuition fees.



Bill took a couple of weeks out in Europe this month to give the Pilnik Lecture at this years Food Hydrocolloids meeting in Wageningen. Was great to meet up with Erich and get inspired in the ambience of Amsterdam.....here (left) is an old building...and we also went shoe-shopping(?) well it seemed like an idea at the time.....and we put the final touches to a paper on his simulation results on the quantitative bottom-up prediction of strain-hardening biopolymer matrices over a beer or two. Sweet as.

Was great to catch up with biopolymer friends and in particular to hear Leif's intriguing new idea for a strain-hardening demonstration....and to recharge the batteries with a little lakeland fare.....



A student project allowed us to go back and play with growing pollen tubes again, and see some lovely videos of organelle transport. Some of that cargo is the purest Golgi-synthesised pectin...!

And while we we're on about the Heebie Jeebies; Haiku Salut have invited Bill to be roadie next month when the Indie-Pop sensations, who played with our tweezers and wrote songs about the quadratic formula (?!), play a gig in London with My Physcoanalyst.....(not really my physcoanalyst ....thats the name of the band...) ...

In other news Ian completed his first year confirmation, and Erich and Rob both submitted their PhD thesis. Awesome going!





We finalised our analysis of single polysaccharide strectching using AFM this month, allowing Abdenor to get his thesis finished and showing some interesting effects of the covalent attachment of one end of the polymer....paper should appear soon in Carb. Polym..



Romaric "Boule" Vincent was back in NZ over February and March, having completed his first postdoctoral position with Peter Schurtenberger's group. It was great to have him back and we managed to take a few days out to the group retreat, up the Mohaka river. He spent much of the rest of the time travelling round (and testing his allergenicity to various insects); returning to Palmy a number of times to visit the Celtic Inn. He gave talks at IFS, IRL and Fonterra and it was great to hear about his Peanut Butter Metallurgy work, which I know he has been thinking about for many years. We also discussed pectin-gels with Erich and Brad and planned out some experiments based on some of Romarics unpublished work that he carried out during his PhD. He is back in Europe now, about to start a second postdoc in Barcelona, where he will be arranging Camp Nou tickets for Bill to visit....and for those who know him .....I think the final count was....credit card lost once, mobil phone lost twice, and passport lost once......Boule!!.



It's been great to get down to Wellington a few times this month. Firstly for the AMN5 conference, which was excellent both scientifically and socially. Bill gave a talk in the soft matter session, Brad presented a poster on microrheological techniques, and many interesting scientific discussions were held in many a varied venue. It was great to catch up with the MacDiarmid family, and as usual catch some great live music.

Then at the end of the month, on the 28th, Bill dared to take part in a Pecha Kucha Science Session at Downstage Theatre: for those who have never heard of it speakers show 20 slides, each for 20 seconds: Bills first eight are here...you can make up your own wonderous stories..Thanks to Christine Harper and our good friend Elizabeth Connor for organising it, and to all the other presenters who made the night so awesome....scientists rock!

February also saw a brief visit to Palmy from Davide who showed us exciting work on the Molecular Dynamics simulations of everyones favourite enzyme PME. He presented to the Riddett Institute Scientific Advisory Panel and did a great job....



Steve will be leaving us at the beggining of next month to take up a position on a teacher training course. Good luck dude! Steve has done sterling work getting our optical tweezers system up to spec. Luckily he will still be based in Palmy for at least another year, and will be continuing to help us out part time as his efforts start to come to fruition on a number of projects.


A big welcome to Marjorie Griffiths who came up to work with us at the end of January. Marjorie is undertaking a PhD with Kate McGrath based at Victoria University down in Wellington and will be collaborating heavily with us, using optical tweezers to probe the interactions between emulsion drops. She studied in North Carolina, with among others Allen "Pass the Bourbon" Foegeding: I have fond memories of the Hydrocollids conference Allen hosted there....its a small world!! Marjorie has already had some success optically trapping emulsion drops and we are very optimistic about improving this with the continued devlopment of our microfluidics cell. Here she is showing Steve how to work a computer. ....












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