Metals in Biology Group

The Metals in Biology Group is a dynamic multidisciplinary research unit comprising researchers from groups across UQ and other research institutions.

Our members share a common interest in the role of metal ions in biological systems.

Our research themes cover a broad spectrum and include enzyme catalysis and mechanism, metalloprotein structure and function and the role of metals in the environment, medicine and diseases.


Contact us

Email your enquiry to our Leader, Associate Professor Ulrike Kappler, at or contact one of our members, below.

Our people

CMB Group Leader

Member group leaders


Our members are involved in collaborative research projects with the following Australian and international research groups:

  • Dr Rachel Codd, the University of Sydney, Australia
  • Professor Christiane Dahl, the University of Bonn, Germany
  • Emeritus Professor John H. Enemark, the University of Arizona, US
  • Professor Graham George, the University of Saskatchewan, Canada
  • Professor F. Peter Guengerich, Vanderbilt University, US
  • Professor Silke Leimkuehler, the University of Potsdam, Germany
  • Dr Megan Maher, La Trobe University, Australia
  • Professor Ademir Neves, the Federal University of St Catarina, Brazil
  • Professor Paul Ortiz de Montellano, the University of California San Francisco, US
  • Professor Chris Orvig, the University of British Columbia, Canada
  • Dr Joanne Santini, University College, UK

Annual symposium

Our annual symposium provides an opportunity for researchers and research students to network and exchange ideas.

Held each September or October, the event includes presentations from early-career researchers and a poster session.

The next event will be held in October 2019, and we will display event details in the coming months.

Keynote speakers

2019 keynote speaker:

  • Professor Ralf Mendel, Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany

Previous keynote speakers:

  • 2018: Professor Elizabeth Gillam, UQ
  • 2017: Associate Professor Chris McDevitt, the University of Adelaide
  • 2016: Associate Professor Anthony White, the University of Melbourne/QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute
  • 2015: Dr Simon Drew, Florey Institute, Melbourne
  • 2014: Professor Anthony Wedd, the University of Melbourne

Equipment and instrumentation

Successful Australian Research Council major equipment and UQ internal research infrastructure bids have enabled us to purchase major equipment that is vital for our research.

Molecular structure determination

Small-molecule X-ray crystallography (Paul Bernhardt)

  • An Oxford Diffraction Gemini S Ultra Single Crystal CCD Diffractometer (with a dual Mo/ultra-brilliance Cu radiation source) is available for 3D structure determination of small and intermediate molecular weight compounds.
  • Two Enraf Nonius CAD4 diffractometers (with point detectors) are available.
  • An Oxford Cryostream low-temperature unit is used for low-temperature structure determinations (to 80K).

Macromolecular X-ray crystallography (Luke Guddat)

  • Members have access to the following X-ray and crystallization facilities: 
    • Fr-E X-ray generator with Cu Kalpha radiation, 2 Raxis4++ imaging plate detectors + Cryocooling
    • RU200 X-ray generator with Cr Kalhpa radiation, 1 Raxis2++ imaging plate detector + Cryocooling
    • Crystallization - 1. Mosquito, 1. Topaz.
  • Synchrotron data collection facilities at the Advanced Photon Source, Chicago, US can be accessed via Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) funding. 
  • The Australian Synchrotron, Melbourne, offers protein X-ray data collection facilities.

Extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) spectroscopy (Mark Riley)

EXAFS measurements are currently undertaken using synchrotron radiation at the Australian National Beamline Facility (ANBF) in Tskuba, Japan. It houses sensitive ion chamber and solid-state germanium detectors to acquire EXAFS in transmission or fluorescence excitation modes at sample temperatures between 15K–300K.


Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy (Jeffrey Harmer)

A world-class facility in EPR and END(T)OR spectroscopy is housed in the UQ Centre for Advanced Imaging. It features multi-frequency CW and pulsed EPR spectrometers that are used for EPR investigations of small molecules and proteins at all temperatures from liquid He to room temperature.

Magnetic circular dichrosim (MCD) spectroscopy (Mark Riley)

Our MCD spectrometer was built in collaboration with Lastek Pty Ltd and is based on a high-throughput/high-resolution Jobin Yvon 750s monochromator and an Oxford Instruments SpectroMag superconducting magnet. A number of different light sources, detectors and gratings makes the instrument very versatile, with a wavelength range of 220nm–3000nm. The spectra can be measured between 1.6K–300K in magnetic fields of +/- 7.0 Tesla.


Electrochemistry (Paul Bernhardt)

  • Innovative electrochemistry equipment (Bioanalytical Systems) is available for both protein and small molecule electrochemistry (voltammetry).
  • A Belle Technology anaerobic box is used for all work requiring an inert atmosphere.
  • As a complement to our electrochemistry studies, we routinely perform optical and EPR redox potentiometry (in an anaerobic environment) on redox active protein samples.

Potentiometric (pH) autotitrator (Paul Bernhardt)

A Metrohm 796 Titroprocessor is available for routine determinations of protonation and complex formation equilibrium constants.

Rapid kinetics

Rapid kinetics (Gary Schenk)

An Applied Photophysics SX18 Stopped flow spectrometer enables the measurement and analysis of rapid chemical reactions (on the millisecond timescale). A freeze quench attachment is available as an accessory to this instrument.

Physiological studies

Biolog Omnilog system (Ulrike Kappler)

The Omnilog system can be used in the physiological and metabolic characterization of bacterial as well as mammalian cells through phenotypic microarrays.

Seahorse Bioanalyzer (Ulrike Kappler, Alastair McEwan)

The Seahorse bioanalyzer allows direct determination of toxicity effects in mammalian cells that affect, for example substrate utilization or mitochondrial function.