Aline Saiani

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Biography

Aline F. Miller is a Professor of Biomolecular Engineering in the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science at the University of Manchester having previously been Reader (2013), Senior Lecturer (2007) and Lecturer (2002) within the University. Prior to this she held a New Hall College Junior Research Fellowship at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University working with Professor Dame Athene Donald FRS. She is a chemist by training (B.Sc. and Ph.D.) and during this time gained several awards, including the Sir George Beilby Medal and the Hackman Research Fellowship. She has also gained several awards while in Manchester including the Exxon Mobil Teaching Fellowship in 2004 and in 2008 was awarded The Royal Society of Chemistry MacroGroup UK Young Researchers Medal and also The Institute of Physics, Polymer Physics Group Young Researchers Lecture Award for her work on self-assembling materials. More recently she won the 2014 Philip Leverhulme Prize for Engineering and was shortlisted for the 2014 WISE Research Award. Aline’s current research interests lie at the life-science interface with emphasis on applying physical principles to mimic, manipulate and improve biomolecular self-assembly. In this area she has published over 100 refereed papers, authored 5 patents and has won > £8M from research councils, EU, charities and industry to support her research group. Some of this work is now being commercialised through PeptiGelDesign Ltd which she co-founded in 2014. Aline is also Research Director for her School and leading Gender Equality and Athena SWAN activities within the University.

Qualifications

1997 - 2000    PhD in Polymer Science, Durham University. Viva date 18.12.2000.
Thesis title: Organisation and Dynamics of Well-Defined Graft Copolymers at the Air-Water Interface. Supervisor Prof. Randal Richards.
 
1993 - 1997    B.Sc. First Class Honours in Chemistry, Strathclyde University.
Awarded 14.06.1997.
 
1995 - 1996    Undergraduate exchange year, Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA.

Prizes and awards

2014    Philip Leverhulme Prize for Engineering

2008    Royal Society of Chemistry Macro Group UK Young Researchers Medal.

2008    Institute of Physics PPG / American Physical Society DPOLY Young Researchers Award.

2004    Exxon Mobil Teaching Fellowship.

2001    New Hall Junior Research Fellowship.

2000    First prize for oral presentation at the Young Persons Macro Group conference.

1999    ICI-Dupont Prize.

1999    D. H. Richards Award.

1997    Sir George Beilby Memorial Medal.

1996    Hackman Scholarship Research Award.

1996    Dean’s Honours Award.

1995    William Marr Dux Award.

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

Research interests

Work is currently split into three themes as described below:
Understanding and Exploiting Protein Self-Assembly

We are exploring the specific rules and general paradigms that govern protein self-assembly. In particular we are concentrating on how proteins un-fold, and self-assemble into fibrillar structures, and subsequently into an array of higher ordered supramolecular structures on the micro, meso and macroscopic length-scales. We are mapping out the phase behaviour of such systems to understand the influence of concentration, pH, ionic strength, temperature and presence of the denaturing agents such as sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS). This has particular relevance for biopharmaceutical applications and we are also using the knowledge to design novel biomaterials for therapeutic and tissue engineering applications.

The organisation and dynamics of such systems at the air-water interface are also of interest.

From Fibres to Networks Using Self-Assembling Peptides.

Molecular self-assembly is a powerful tool for the preparation of materials with a wide variety of properties. This is illustrated by the abundance of self-assembled proteins and polysaccharides encountered in nature. In particular peptide materials are attracting increasing attention as small peptides are easy to design and synthesise with defined structure and function that self-assemble into 3D structures that are able to support the growth of a wide of variety of cell types. However their effective design and application is currently limited as the fundamental link between building block structure, mesoscopic structure, material properties and cell response has yet to be elucidated.

Our group is working towards addressing this by focussing on a number of key-issues to enable understanding and control of peptide self-assembly. Consequently we will be able to direct the morphology (e.g.: fiber size, porosity, roughness) and mechanical properties (e.g.: modulus, viscosity) of our materials and tailor them to specific application needs. In particular we are elucidating the molecular drivers for peptide self-assembly across the length scales by synthesising octa peptides with different amino acid sequences to systematically examine the effect of hydrophobicity, charge distribution and amino acid size/type. We are also fully characterising the structure and properties of the functional self-assembled networks and exploring their potential for therapeutic and clinical application.

Surfaces and Interfaces:
We are interested in understanding and manipulating molecular behaviour at the air-liquid and liquid-liquid interfaces. One avenue we are exploring focuses’ on the ability of surfactants and polymers to promote, or inhibit, crystallization of small molecules. For example we are using surfactant and hydroxyl based polymers to promote ice crystallisation at the oil-water and air-water interfaces which has implications for the ice-cream industry. This work will be extended to investigate the effect of antifreeze proteins on ice crystal morphology

My group

Teaching

CH20141 Second Year Chemical Reaction Engineering

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Regenerative Medicine Network
  • Advanced materials
  • Advanced Materials in Medicine
  • Sustainable Futures
  • Christabel Pankhurst Institute
  • Manchester Institute of Biotechnology

Keywords

  • polymer
  • hydrogel
  • interface.
  • biopolymer
  • peptide protein
  • self-assembly

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