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Prof John Helliwell (DSc) - research

Research interests

Crystallography is the major technique for elucidating structure-function relationships and from which altered molecular specificities can be designed. The results find wide reaching applications in chemistry, biology, physics, materials and eg specifically in pharmaceutical design. Specific themes include carotenoid binding proteins, protein saccharide recognition, enzyme substrate structures and catalysis, metal aluminophosphates and organic/inorganic structures. One project, that has excited wide media interest, is on crustacyanin from lobster carapace.

A special feature of PhD training here is the interplay between large protein molecule and smaller molecule crystal structure studies forming an across-the-disciplines research environment. Technique developments have been a distinctive feature over the years in Manchester; metal anomalous scattering of metalloproteins and MeAPOs as well as time-resolved Laue and temperature-resolved structural studies of enzymes and liquid crystals respectively are examples. There is a synergy of the methods developments aspects between synchrotron radiation X-ray and neutron reactor or spallation white beam emitting sources especially involving white beam Laue crystal diffraction. A current project in time-resolved crystallography involves freeze trapping of an enzyme structural intermediate and detailing key changes in the positions of key hydrogen atoms (as deuterums). This project is using the Institut Laue Langevin's DLAB for deuterated protein production as well as the neutron LaueDIffractometer 'LADI III' jointly with SR X-ray very high resolution data. New and upcoming sources and apparatus are the UK's new 3rd generation SR X-ray source diamond at the Rutherford Lab, the X-ray laser in Hamburg, the Energy Recovery Linac Project ('ERLP') in Daresbury and the ESRF nanofocus X-ray beams initiative in France. New neutron sources and greatly enhanced apparatus at the Rutherford Lab in the UK and the Institut Laue Langevin in France are coming on line.

In the University of Manchester we link with colleagues in Life Sciences, the Photon Science Institute, MIB, Physics and Materials in our research and teaching. The Structural Chemistry staff directly involved in the supervision of PhD students are Professor John R Helliwell, Dr Madeleine Helliwell and Dr James Raftery.

Our past students include chemists, physicists, biochemists, molecular biologists and mathematicians. Destinations of our former PhD students include:- Australian National University Canberra; Yale University; Institut Laue Langevin, Grenoble; Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lab; University of New South Wales; NASA Huntsville, Alabama; EMBL Hamburg PETRA III project; St Andrews University; STFC, EPSRC, science teaching, software & computer systems and project management.

Our research funding includes or has recently included:- EPSRC, BBSRC, The Leverhulme Trust, The Wellcome Trust, STFC and The Royal Society. Recent publications are in Nature, PNAS, Acta Crystallographica, Crystallography Reviews, Journal of Synchrotron Radiation, Journal of Applied Crystallography, Journal of Molecular Biology, JACS etc, some of which are Open Access others require a Journal subscription. A new book that we have published is:- N E Chayen, J R Helliwell and E H Snell Macromolecular Crystallization and Crystal Perfection IUCr Monographs on Crystallography Oxford University Press and IUCr