Interdisciplinary Prize 2017 Winner
University of Cambridge
Awarded for solid-state NMR spectroscopy and computational methods applied to the elucidation of structure and molecular interactions in calcified tissues
About the Winner
Professor Melinda Duer took her first degree in Natural Sciences, specialising in Chemistry, at the University of Cambridge in 1985. She completed her PhD with Dr Malcolm Gerloch, also in the Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge in 1988, working on the electronic and magnetic properties of transition metal complexes. She then took up a temporary appointment as a lecturer in the same department, during which time she became fascinated with the then relatively new technique of solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.
Four years as a Royal Society Research Fellow followed, where she focussed on developing new solid-state NMR experiments to examine molecular structures and dynamics, particularly for complex systems. Ten years ago, then a Senior Lecturer, a chance conversation with a colleague in Veterinary Medicine started her interest in the molecular structure of tissues, specifically the extracellular matrix of tissues. She began to develop and apply solid-state NMR methods to study the molecular structure of bone and other biological tissues, and more conversations with a wide diversity of colleagues from the biological and medical sciences broadened her interest from simply the structural and mechanical properties of tissues, to how those factors impress themselves on cell behaviour, and ultimately determine our health.
Her work is totally underpinned by those colleagues, their willingness to engage in interdisciplinary research and to enthusiastically critique her developing hypotheses. That the work has happened at all is down to all the outstanding graduate students and postdocs who have worked alongside her. Today she is Professor of Biological and Biomedical Chemistry and has a broad range of research interests from the development of tissues, especially calcified tissues like bone, the molecular structure of both the organic matrix and mineral components of these tissues, to how and why the molecular structure of tissues changes in degenerative diseases and ageing - and utilises every possible physical characterisation technique from NMR, to advanced optical imaging methods and to high-resolution electron microscopy.
Professor Duer's Webpage
University of Cambridge
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