BSc (Nanotechnology) (Honours) from Curtin University, 2003-2007. PhD in chemistry from the University of Western Australia, 2008-2011. Postdoctoral research associate, the University of Nottingham, 2011-2013. Postdoctoral research associate, the University of New South Wales, 2013-2016. NHRMC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellow, 2016-current.
My research program encompasses both practical and fundamental aspects related to short peptide hydrogels. Within this framework, I am seeking to address fundamental questions about the mechanism behind hydrogel formation, which will lead to the improved and rational design of future gelators. I am developing structure-property relationships between families of gelators related either through their N-terminal capping group or amino acid sequence. This will allow for the evaluation of a number of factors including hydrophilicity, charge and hydrogen bonding potential, on the structure and function of short peptide hydrogels, again leading to shift away from empirical design of these molecules towards rational design strategies tailored for end-stage applications.
I also examine the applications of these functional materials, with a specific focus on using them for three dimensional cell culture. These short peptide hydrogels have a nanoscale structure which mimics the extracellular matrix (ECM), and their tuneable nature means that properties such as stiffness, mesh size and functionality can be controlled. This is especially important, as it has been shown that the nature of the ECM plays an important role in a number of processes, including stem cell differentiation. The homogeneity and self-assembled nature of short peptide hydrogels offers them advantages over current cell culture materials such as MatriGel, which is known for batch-to-batch variation. Within my research framework, short peptide hydrogels are used as three dimensional cell culture materials to study the effect of the ECM on the progression of Alzheimer's disease. The homogeniety and tunability of these hydrogel materials allows the early stages of plaque and tangle formation to be probed, and new diagnostic techniques developed.