Single Molecule Microscopy

I design and build new optical microscopes which can image the individual molecules of life at work in living cells. These single-molecule microscopes utilise high contrast fluorescence techniques to label different molecules in cells. The videos and images require a lot of computational image analysis to try to understand what they mean so I also write a lot of software. I’ve applied these techniques to many life and health science problems. Working with many excellent collaborators, I have investigated transcription factors in yeast (eLifeFaraday Discussions, FEMS letters), DNA replication in E.coli (eLife), division in S. Aureus (eLifePhysical Biology), the Epidermal Growth Factor (bioArXiv), human immune signalling (Frontiers of Immunology) and toxins (FASEB) and more

For microscopists, I utilise many super resolution and other techniques including: Narrowfield/Slimfield, TIRF, FRAP, PALM, STORM, confocal, EM, Optical and magnetic tweezers.


Nature invented nanotechnology. The proteins in our cells are nanomachines which use energy to do useful work like copying DNA, metabolising nutrients or transporting important cargo. My research has focused on trying to harness these nanomachines. With Prof. Andrew Turberfield at the University of Oxford and Prof. Rob Cross at the University of Warwick, I programmed natural motor proteins using DNA nanostructures to assemble a network of tracks and transport and release cargo in response to signals. It was published in Nature Nanotechnology. It was also nicknamed a ‘Nanoscale railway’ and was featured in the press, including the Guardian, Independent and Vice.

Centre for Future Health Fellowship

Project: ‘Nanosensors to understand glucose metabolism and disease, towards biomedical application’

Glucose fuels the human body and if not regulated correctly, as in diabetes, causes serious health problems. Over 400 million people have diabetes and it is now one of the leading causes of death worldwide. My research has tried to understand these basic mechanisms using yeast cells as a model organism and imaging them with a novel fluorescence microscope, which I designed and built, and is capable of imaging the individual protein molecules that sense and respond to glucose.

To better understand glucose metabolism, I propose to develop a new glucose nanosensor which can enter the cell and measure, for the first time, the amount of glucose taken up by a living cell. This sensor technology could also have a more direct clinical application as the greater sensitivity would allow glucose monitoring from saliva, sweat or tears rather than the current more invasive blood sampling that is required.

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