Separovic Group

“With the increase in antibiotic resistance, antimicrobial peptides that target bacterial membranes have become an area of significant research for development as therapeutic agents against infections.” - Frances Separovic.​

Research

The Separovic laboratory is studying the structure-function relationships of biomolecules in membranes at the atomic level using primarily nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR). The group's main research interest is the determination of the structure and dynamics of the components of biological membranes in situ using solid-state NMR techniques. The molecular structure of the antibiotic gramicidin A and the bee toxin melittin within phospholipid membranes have been determined and the techniques used to study these polypeptides are being extended to membrane proteins. Together with a team of collaborators, insight into the structure-function relationships of membrane-active peptides and proteins relevant to disease states and treatments is gained. Projects include studies of antimicrobial peptides, amyloid Abeta, protein toxins, antibiotics, lipid phases and ionic liquids.

Techniques

Biophysical chemistry and NMR of model membrane systems, including powder samples, hydrated dispersions and aligned samples; both static and magic angle spinning (MAS) solid-state NMR techniques.

Biography

Contact: 

Email: fs[@]unimelb.edu.au

Tel: (03) 9035 7539

Professor Emeritus Frances Separovic is a Biophysical Chemist based at the Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne, Australia. Frances grew up in Broken Hill and, after the birth of her son, did a BA at Macquarie and a PhD at UNSW while working full-time at CSIRO, Sydney. Following a post-doctoral fellowship at National Institutes of Health (USA), Frances joined the University of Melbourne in 1996, where she became the first woman professor of chemistry (2005) and Head of School (2010). Frances has developed solid-state NMR techniques to determine the structure and dynamics of molecules in biological membranes with a focus on peptide antibiotics and toxins within phospholipid membranes.
Frances is currently Secretary of the Biophysical Society (USA), Council member of International Union of Pure & Applied Biophysics (IUPAB) and Division I member of IUPAC. Frances has had several senior roles in professional societies, including President of Australian New Zealand Society for Magnetic Resonance, ANZMAG; General Treasurer of Royal Australian Chemical Institute, RACI; and President of Australian Society for Biophysics, ASB. She was awarded the ASB Robertson Medal (2009), ANZMAG Medal (2011), Fellow of the Biophysical Society (USA) and ISMAR Fellow (2012). Frances is the first female chemist elected to the Australian Academy of Science (2012); an IUPAC Distinguished Women of Chemistry or Chemical Engineering; received an UNSW Alumni Award - Science & Technology (2017); and was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women (2018).  In 2019 Professor Emeritus Frances Separovic was honoured with the appointment as an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia (General Division) announced in the Queen's Birthday 2019 Honours List on 10 June 2019. Please follow the link for laboratory page in the School of Chemistry.

Awards and Recognition

2012 – Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science

2017 - IUPAC Distinguished Women of Chemistry/Chemical Engineering

2017 - UNSW Alumni Award: Science & Technology

2018 - Victorian Honour Roll for Women 

2019 - Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia (General Division)

Read Professor Separovic's reflections on being Head of the School of Chemistry.

Read Pursuit piece about Frances being a trailblazer for women in science.

Read Pursuit piece 'Don't ask women leaders to act like men'.

Group Members

Group Head

Dr Frances Separovic, FAA - Professor of Chemistry

Research Fellows

Dr Marc-Antoine Sani – Senior Research Fellow

Dr Graham Jackson - Visiting Professor

Dr Vinzenz Hofferek – Research Fellow

Dr Fazel Shabanpoor – Visiting Researcher

Graduate Students

PhD Students

Shiying Zhu

Haoning Gong

Masters Students

Hugh Phillips – Visiting MSc student

Dean Sheard – PGDip student