Separovic Group

“With the increase in antibiotic resistance, antimicrobial peptides that target bacterial membranes have become an area of significant research for development as therapeutic agents against infections.” - Frances Separovic.

Research

The Separovic laboratory is studying the structure-function relationships of biomolecules in membranes at the atomic level using primarily nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR). The group's main research interest is the determination of the structure and dynamics of the components of biological membranes in situ using solid-state NMR techniques. The molecular structure of the antibiotic gramicidin A and the bee toxin melittin within phospholipid membranes have been determined and the techniques used to study these polypeptides are being extended to membrane proteins. Together with a team of collaborators, insight into the structure-function relationships of membrane-active peptides and proteins relevant to disease states and treatments is gained. Projects include studies of antimicrobial peptides, amyloid Abeta, protein toxins, antibiotics, lipid phases and ionic liquids.

Techniques

Biophysical chemistry and NMR of model membrane systems, including powder samples, hydrated dispersions and aligned samples; both static and magic angle spinning (MAS) solid-state NMR techniques.

Group Members

Group Head

Frances Separovic, FAA - Professor of Chemistry

Research Fellows

Marco Sani – Research Fellow

Graduate Students

PhD Students

Elaheh Jamasbi
John Karas
Wenyi Li
Thomas Meikle
Anna Mularski
Nitin Patil
Behnoosh Tajik
Emmy Wijaya

Masters Students

Siobhan Carne
Miriam Kael
Ramin Sharifi

Biography

Professor Frances Separovic is a Biophysical Chemist who specializes in NMR spectroscopy. After 23 years working at CSIRO,and post-doctoral at National Institutes of Health (USA), Frances joined the University of Melbourne in 1996.  She has developed solid-state NMR techniques to determine the structure and dynamics of membrane components in situ, specializing in peptide antibiotics and toxins within phospholipid membranes. Frances was President of the Australian Society for Biophysics and the Australian New Zealand Magnetic Resonance Society  (ANZMAG) and a member of Council of the Biophysical Society (USA) and IUPAB. She has successfully organized over 35 national or international scientific conferences and published more than 170 refereed papers in international journals.

Professor Separovic headed the School of Chemistry from 2010 to 2016. In 2011, Professor Separovic was awarded the ANZMAG Medal and in 2012 became a Fellow of the Biophysical Society, ISMAR Fellow and admitted as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.

Read Professor Separovic's reflections on being Head of the School of Chemistry.