Personal profile

Biography

Julea is Professor of Biophysical Chemistry at UEA. Her research has provided fresh insights into the mechanisms used by infectious bacteria to survive in the intestinal tract, by ‘electric’ bacteria to produce green electricity from resources typically considered as waste, and by environmental bacteria for nitrogen-cycling. Julea’s present work provides fundamental insight into the coupling of enzymes to electrodes and synthetic light-harvesting materials with the aims of inspiring new biotechnology including sustainable electronic materials and approaches to semi-artificial photosynthesis. A range of methods are employed including molecular biology, protein engineering, electrochemical, voltammetric and spectroscopic characterisations. In recognition of her achievements Julea received the 2021 Katsumi Niki Prize for Bioelectrochemistry from the International Society of Electrochemistry, a Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship in 2015 and the inaugural Young Investigator Medal from the British Biophysical Society. Previously, Julea pioneered the study of adsorbed electroactive proteins for novel perspectives of their biochemistry with Professor Fraser Armstrong, FRS (University of Oxford). This approach, adopted by groups around the world, has become known as protein-film electrochemistry (PFE). Julea is the Biocatalysis theme lead for the UK Solar Chemicals Network and a member of UKRI-funded multi-institution research consortia addressing fundamental and applied aspects of biocatalysis.

Julea contributes to teaching in the Schools of Chemistry and Biological Sciences through lectures, seminars and laboratory classes with a focus on topics in biochemistry, reaction kinetics, spectroscopy, electrochemistry and protein structure. She is the current Director of Research in the School of Chemistry. Previous roles have included Deputy Head of the School of Chemistry (2011-2015), Associate Dean for Post-Graduate Research in the Faculty of Science (2011-2014), Director of the Biochemistry Degree Programmes (2006-2011) and a member of the team that launched the School of Pharmacy at UEA.

Find out more about Julea's research here: Research Group Website

Enquiries from potential postgraduate and post-doctoral scientists interested in our lab are always welcome ([email protected]). Studentship and employment opportunities will be advertised via the usual channels and UEA website. You can also click here for current PhD opportunities in the Schools of Chemistry and Biology.

 

Selected Recent Publications:

Do multiheme cytochromes containing close-packed heme groups have a band structure formed from the heme π and π∗ orbitals?
van Wonderen JH, Morales-Florez A, Clarke TA, Gates AJ, Blumberger J, Futera Z, Richardson DJ, Butt JN, Moore GR.
Curr. Opin. Electrochem. (2024) DOI: 10.1016/j.coelec.2024.101556

Engineering of bespoke photosensitiser–microbe interfaces for enhanced semi-artificial photosynthesis
Bishara Robertson IL, Zhang H, Reisner E, Butt JN, Jeuken LJC.
Chem. Sci.(2024) DOI: 10.1039/d4sc00864b

Protein film electrochemistry
Butt JN, Jeuken LJC, Zhang H, Burton JAJ, Sutton-Cook AL.
Nature Reviews Methods Primers (2023) DOI: 10.1038/s43586-023-00262-7

Rational design of covalent multiheme cytochrome-carbon dot biohybrids for photoinduced electron transfer
Zhang H, Casadevall C, van Wonderen JH, Su L, Butt JN, Reisner E, Jeuken LJC.
Adv. Funct. Mater. (2023) DOI: 10.1002/adfm.202302204 

Photocatalytic removal of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide by liposomal microreactors
Piper SEH, Casadevall C, Reisner E, Clarke TA, Jeuken LJC, Gates AJ and Butt JN.
Angew. Chemie. Int. Ed. (2022) DOI: 10.1002/anie.202210572

Career

  • Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellow 09/2015 to 09/2016
  • Professor of Biophysical Chemistry, University of East Anglia 09/2010 - present
  • Reader, University of East Anglia 09/2004 to 08/2010
  • Lecturer, University of East Anglia 09/2001 to 08/2004
  • Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellow, University of East Anglia 09/1997 to 08/2001
  • Post Doctoral Research Fellow, University of Wageningen, NL 05/1995 to 07/1997
  • Post Doctoral Research Fellow, National Institutes of Health, USA 09/1993 to 03/1995
  • PhD, University of California Irvine, USA 1993
  • BA Natural Science - Chemistry, First Class Honours with Distinction in Quantum Mechanics, University of Oxford, 1989

Key Research Interests

 

Located at the University of East Anglia in Norwich in the School of Biological Sciences and the School of Chemistry, we use a diverse array of tools including molecular biology, synthetic biology, optical spectroscopies, electrochemistry, mass spectrometry and protein engineering for our research. Our focus is the interface of chemistry and biology as we study metalloproteins to resolve their structures and function and inspire the development of biohybrid materials for light-driven production of electricity and fuels.

Photochemistry: Light-Activated Molecular Wires and Solar Fuels. Many metalloproteins resemble molecular wires. Chains of redox active transition metal containing cofactors conduct electrons through poly-peptide matrices. Labeling such proteins with synthetic photosensitisers allows light-driven electron injection into the proteins. We are using this strategy to gain fundamental insight into electron transfer in multiheme cytochromes and to inspire approaches to solar fuel production. Collaborators: Steve Meech and Tom Clarke (UEA), Erwin Reisner (Cambridge), Lars Jeuken (Leiden), Jochen Blumberger (UCL).

Biochemistry Underpinning the Biogeochemical Cycling of Fe, S and N. Bacteria live in amazing and often apparently hostile environments. This is possible because they gain energy from redox transformations of inorganic forms of nitrogen, sulfur and iron that are present in those environments. We purify the proteins that catalyse these reactions. We define their structures and electron transfer properties to better understand how these proteins contribute to bacterial metabolism related to health and infection, electricity production by microbial fuel cells and mineral/nutrient cycling in anoxic sediments. Collaborators: Tom Clarke, David Richardson and Myles Cheesman (UEA), Lars Jeuken (Leiden), Erwin Reisner (Cambridge), Christiane Dahl (University of Bonn).

Protein Film Electrochemistry and Spectroscopy. Exquisite insights into electron transfer properties of purified metalloproteins are available when they are adsorbed as electro-active films on electrode materials. A defined voltage is applied to the electrode and the resulting flow of current quantified that electron transfer providing unique insight into redox catalysis, inhibition, activation and reduction potentials. Simultaneous spectroscopy of the adsorbed protein provides direct insight into the identity of the redox active cofactors.

 

Further details can be found here.

 

Research Group

Post-Doctoral Research Associates: Colin Lockwood

PhD Students: Alex Sutton-Cook, Rachel Chiu

MRes Students: Keir Whiting

Final Year Project Students: Lili Featherstone, Lucy Marsden 

Enquiries from potential postgraduate and post-doctoral scientists interested in our lab are always welcome ([email protected]). Studentship and employment opportunities will be advertised via the usual channels and UEA website. Click here for current PhD opportunities in the School of Chemistry and School of Biological Sciences.

 

 

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or