Research groups

Research at RCaH makes use of the power of the Harwell Oxford large research facilities to probe the structure and behaviour of matter at the level of atoms and molecules. It is largely organized in four themes: Imaging, Structural Molecular Biology, Dynamic Processes & Catalysis, and Materials.


Imaging in biological and physical sciences is a major focus of RCaH research, making use of Diamond as well as in-house facilities, such as the Octopus cluster of advanced optical microscopes in the LSF. Diamond has capabilities unique in the UK in X-ray micro-tomography, X-ray microscopy and lens-less diffractive imaging. RCaH researchers use these for a wide range of projects in biology, including chromosome structure, structure of marine coatings used on boat hulls, geological samples, engineering components and biomaterials such as bone implants. In-house research on the Octopus national imaging facility centres on single-molecule imaging of live biological cells during receptor activation, DNA damage and the fate of drug compounds in target cells.

Structural molecular biology remains a major research theme, anchored by the presence of the OPPF-UK allowing the rapid production of proteins, and the proximity of Diamond for structure determination by X-ray crystallography. RCaH structural biologists study membrane protein structure, both of transporters and GPCRs, proteins important as drug targets, antibiotic resistance proteins and DNA recombination and repair. Many of these proteins are important in disease processes, for instance membrane proteins are responsible for transmitting signals or chemicals into and out of cells, a process that can go wrong in cancers, and antibiotic resistance proteins allow bacteria to evade antibiotic treatment. Knowledge of their structures is a first step towards designing new drugs.

Dynamic processes and catalysis research aims to follow changes in chemistry or structure in real time. Catalysts speed up chemical reactions and are widely used in industry to make useful materials or break down waste products. RCaH researchers use high-speed techniques to watch changes as they happen, for instance inside batteries as they charge or discharge, in order to understand the chemical processes and develop new materials. The fastest processes, such as electron transfer in photosynthesis, fast chemical reactions and the dynamics of DNA molecules can be observed on femtosecond time-scales in the ULTRA ultrafast spectroscopy facility in the LSF.

Materials science at RCaH is very diverse and also benefits from the proximity of Diamond and ISIS. In energy research, fuel cells have been directly imaged while in operation, and new hydrogen storage materials are prepared for analysis at ISIS and Diamond. Materials are also studied under extreme conditions, such as intense heat, cold or pressure, which would be found in planetary cores of deep space, and physicists work on quantum materials that have unusual electronic properties.


A great strength of RCaH is its multidisciplinary nature, where scientists from many different fields can work together and share their experiences to tackle new challenges. Detailed examples of these research areas can be found in the research group pages below:

PI Name

Group Name

Ray Owens

Oxford Protein Production Facility UK

Dave Clarke

Lasers for Science Facility

Eugene Krissinel
Martyn Winn

Collaborative Computational Project No. 4

Simon Phillips

Structure and function of protein-nucleic acid complexes

So Iwata

Structural Biology of Membrane Proteins

Iain Robinson

London Centre for Nanotechnology

Richard Catlow

UK Catalysis Hub

Philip Withers

Structural evolution across multiple time and length scales

Konstantinos Beis

Structural and functional studies of the SbmA microcin transporter

Simon Newstead

Structural and functional studies of peptide transporters involved in drug and peptide uptake

Thomas Sorenson

Structural studies of primary transporters and calcium sensing proteins

Martin Walsh

Structural studies of bacterial respiratory pathogens

Dave Scott

Cloning, expression, purification and characterisation of bacterial silver resistance proteins

Jose Brandao-Neto

Structural characterization of enzymes from nucleotide metabolism from blood fluke Schistosoma mansoni

Paul Raithby

Dynamic Structural Science Consortium (DySS)

Alexander Korsunsky

Centre for In situ Processing Studies (CIPS)

Bill David

Energy Materials Research Facility (EMReF)

Thorsten Hesjedal
Paolo Radaelli

The Oxford MBE Group: Growing Tailored Structures to Probe Quantum Effects

Malcolm McMahon
Richard Nelmes

Fundamental Systems at Extreme Conditions

Peter Lee

The Manchester Diamond Collaboration and Manchester X-ray Imaging Facility