Interdisciplinary Prize 2011 Winner

Carol Robinson
Carol Robinson
University of Oxford

Award for her development of a new area of research, gas-phase structural biology, using highly refined mass spectrometry techniques.

About the Winner

Carol Robinson received her first degree while working in industry as a technician and later completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Professor Dudley Williams.  After an eight year career break, to begin raising her three children, she returned to science at the University of Oxford as a post doctoral research assistant.

Carol's return to research coincided with the discovery of electrospray mass spectrometry and she begun to develop methods for analysing protein folding, first of individual protein molecules and later within the context of molecular chaperones.  She became frustrated with the limitations of commercial mass spectrometers and collaborated with industry to design mass spectrometers that would enable access to higher mass to charge ratios.  With these prototype mass spectrometers she was able to demonstrate that megaDalton particles, including intact ribosomes and viruses, could traverse the mass spectrometer and remain intact. More recently she was able to demonstrate, using ion mobility mass spectrometry, that these complexes retain a native-like collision cross section in the gas phase.

A significant limitation for the mass spectrometry of intact complexes has been its inability to study membrane protein complexes. Very recently her research team have overcome this obstacle and were able to show that membrane protein complexes, introduced in detergent micelles, can be released intact into the gas phase. The resulting mass spectra of these membrane complexes reveal the consequences of lipid and small molecule binding in both transmembrane and soluble subunits. Her work has therefore opened new avenues of research, at the interface of chemistry and biology, by enabling structural biology investigations of protein complexes in the gas phase. 

Related Links

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Carol Robinson's page

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