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Melissa Mather

Professor in Biological Sensing and Imaging, Faculty of Engineering

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Biography

Melissa Mather carried out a Bachelor of Applied Science (Hons), majoring in physics, at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane, Australia. This was followed by a PhD (2003) studying the evaluation by ultrasound of radiation sensitive polymer gels, carried out in the Centre for Medical, Health and Environmental Physics at QUT. In May 2003 Melissa took up an appointment as research fellow in the Applied Ultrasonics research group in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Nottingham. This post involved the development of ultrasonic techniques for characterisation of industrially relevant solid-in-liquid suspensions and the detection of phase transitions in supercritical fluids. In October 2005 Melissa was appointed as research fellow in the Applied Optics group as part of the 'remedi' EPSRC Grand Challenge in Regenerative Medicine. In this role she worked closely with industry to develop non-invasive characterisation techniques for application in regenerative medicine. In 2008 Melissa was awarded a 3 year National Physical Laboratory (NPL) Strategic Fellowship. In this post her research work centred on the development of novel acoustic methods to investigate the complex mechanical properties of hydrogels on a mesoscopic scale. Melissa also took a leading role in the development of an ASTM International standard guide on hydrogel characterisation which will assist in the regulation of hydrogel products. This involved co-ordinating a working group containing members from industry, academia and the United States Food and Drug Administration. In 2011 Melissa joined the Institute of Biophysics, Imaging and Optical Science (IBIOS), University of Nottingham to take up the award of an EPSRC Career Acceleration Fellowship to develop a new class of ultrasonic transducer based on self-assembling liposomes. During this time she also led a major research activity in IBIOS centred on label-free, multi-modal optical microscopy for characterisation of live cells in culture. The downstream applications of this novel optical imaging platform lie in cellular therapies used in Regenerative Medicine. Significant findings from this work include acquisition of label-free images of live cells with unprecedented high spatial resolution. The multi-modal aspect of the instrument has also enabled early prediction of stem cell differentiation which is of tremendous value to not only those developing new therapies but also in relation to end product regulatory safety and efficacy tests. In 2014 Melissa was invited to take the role of Deputy Director and Engineering lead of IBIOS. In August 2015 Melissa was appointed Professor of Biomedical Imaging in the Institute for Science and Technology in Medicine, Keele University. In this role she continued to pursue research in the discovery and development of optical, ultrasound and opto-acoustic techniques for non-invasive monitoring of lipid membranes, cells, tissue and biomaterials. Melissa was awarded a five year fellowship from the European Research Council in 2016 to fund her project entitled "TransPhorm - Single molecule imaging of transmembrane protein structure and function in their native state". This project aims to pioneer new technology to enable the proteins found in the membrane of cells responsible for the regulation of cell function and communication to be studied in their natural environment with unprecedented sensitivity and resolution. An understanding of these proteins, called ion channels, is of immense importance to obtain new insight into numerous physiological processes including electrical signalling in the heart and nervous system, hormone secretion, the role of nutrient transporters in cancer growth, endocytosis and gene expression. This work will help to reveal how the dysfunction of these proteins leads to disease and downstream will accelerate drug discovery as ion channel modulators represent an extremely important class of pharmaceuticals. In 2018 Melissa returned with her whole research group to the University of Nottingham as a full professor in the Faculty of Engineering. She is continuing her ERC funded work employing Nitrogen Vacancy defects within diamond as quantum sensors. Her current portfolio of research includes grants from UKRI for the investigation of mitochondrial function using diamond quantum sensors and correlative electron microscopy and optically detected magnetic resonance for characterisation of nanoscale materials.

Expertise Summary

Optical microscopy, quantum sensing, multi-modal microscopy, Nitrogen vacancy defects, biological imaging, biosensing, ultrasonics, metabolic imaging and sensing, biofluid analysis.

Research Summary

I am currently funded by the European Research Council through a Consolidator grant. This work is establishing NV based measurement schemes to deliver new breakthroughs and paradigm shifts in the… read more

Current Research

I am currently funded by the European Research Council through a Consolidator grant. This work is establishing NV based measurement schemes to deliver new breakthroughs and paradigm shifts in the understanding of transmembrane proteins, critical to cellular function. Funding from Cancer Research UK has enabled nanoscale electron paramagnetic resonance studies of disease markers in biofluids using NV sensing schemes. An award from the BBSRC Transformative Research fund is enabling the development of NV sensing schemes to detect reactive oxygen species produced by mitochondria to detect their function and dysfunction in situ. Via an EPSRC New Horizons grant, research is underway to develop a new form of microscopy that will integrate quantum microscopy based on diamond sensors within experimental platforms used in electron microscopy providing unique contrast to correlate nanoscale structure and chemical composition with magnetic, oxidation and electronic states of matter with unprecedented detail.

Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

The University of Nottingham
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telephone: +44 (0) 115 95 14081