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Prof Geoff Jameson staff profile picture

Contact details +64 (06) 356 9099  ext. 84626

Prof Geoff Jameson PhD, BSc(Hons)

Professor in Structural Chemistry and Biology

School of Fundamental Sciences

I received BScHons (1974) and PhD degrees (1977) from the University of Canterbury under the mentorship of Ward Robinson and the late Gordon Rodley. After a post-doctoral fellowship with Jim Ibers at Northwestern University in bioinorganic chemistry, I took up a research associate position in solid-state chemistry at the University of Zürich. In 1982 I returned to the USA to Georgetown University in Washington DC earning tenure in 1987, as well as securing NIH and NSF grants. After a sabbatical in NZ with Ted Baker at Massey University 1989-1990, I finally returned to New Zealand in 1994, moving into structural biology.

Since 2001 I have been Professor in Structural Chemistry and Biology. Awards and honours include: election as Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand (2003), the SGS Prize by the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry, the Massey University Research Medal (Individual) (2010), the Marsden Medal of the New Zealand Association of Scientists (2011). In 2005, I travelled widely in Pakistan, as a guest of the Pakistan Higher Education Commission. Along the way, I have published over 160 papers and book chapters, helped with NZ's investment and access to the Australian Synchrotron (on-going), secured funding for NZ's highest field NMR spectrometer, the Bruker 700 MHz with Cryoprobe, advised on the MacDiarmid Institute-funded acquisition of Massey University's unique capability for chemical crystallography, and contributed fully to teaching.

I am an Associate Investigator in the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology and the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular BioDiscovery, and a Principal Investigator in the Riddet Institute and holds an Adjunct Professorship and Associate Investigator position in the Biomolecular Interactions Centre.

I serve on Academic Board and as a Director of the New Zealand Synchrotron Group Ltd and chair of its Access Committee.

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  • Doctor of Philosophy - University of Canterbury (1977)
  • Bachelor of Science (Honours) - University of Canterbury (1974)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

My research interests span solid-state chemistry to enzyme structure and function to origin of life studies. Much of this research is underpinned by use of X-ray diffraction techniques as the ultimate "microscope" into the structure of matter. I am increasingly interested in the role that entropy, the "dynamics of thermodynamics", plays in protein structure and function. NMR techniques give insight into this fourth dimension of time.

We are using our 0.90 Ã structures of manganese superoxide dismutase, a key enzyme of biological defences against reaction oxygen species that arise from living with and using molecular oxygen, to uncover how this enzyme couples proton transfer to electron transfer as superoxide anion-radicals are alternately reduced to hydrogen peroxide and oxidised to molecular oxygen. By means of site-directed mutants, we are also uncovering the origin of metal specificity that has pairs of near-identical enzymes, where one is active with manganese and the other with iron but not with the "wrong" metal ion.

With Barry Scott, we are pursuing structural genomics on fungal gene clusters of secondary metabolism to understand substrate trafficking. With Ren Dobson, Juliet Gerrard and Emily Parker (both at the University of Canterbury), we are looking at structure-function relationships in enzymes that come from metabolic pathways found in pathogens but not found in humans not only to understand the biophysics of enzyme regulation but also to design inhibitors as potential drugs.

In collaboration with Gill Norris, Pat Edwards and the Riddet Institute, we are investigating the dynamics of a key protein from milk whey that is involved in fouling milk-processing equipment, beta-lactoglobulin, by both X-ray and NMR techniques.

I am also interested in the evolution of protein structure and the role that the quaternary structure of proteins plays in controlling protein dynamics to optimise substrate specificity and activity, a role quite different to the cooperative functions generally associated with multi-subunit protein structures.

Our origin of life studies, with Pat Edwards and David Penny, focus on the chemical and physical behaviour of RNA and its components at extremes of pressure and temperature. This latter research is concomitant with the development of high-pressure/high-temperature NMR capability at Massey University.

Finally, I have a long-standing interest in solving the challenges posed by twinned and other pathological crystal structures, of both protein and small molecules.


Health and Well-being, Future Food Systems

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Biochemistry and Cell Biology (060100):
Bioinorganic Chemistry (030201):
Biological Sciences (060000):
Chemical Science (030000): Chemical Thermodynamics and Energetics (030602):
Enzymes (060107):
Inorganic Chemistry (030200): Macromolecular and Materials Chemistry (030300): Nanochemistry and Supramolecular Chemistry (030302): Physical Chemistry (incl. Structural (030600):
Structural Biology (incl. Macromolecular Modelling) (060112):
Structural Chemistry and Spectroscopy (030606): Theoretical and Computational Chemistry (030700)


Protein structure and function, including milk proteins (especially β-lactoglobulin and lactoferrin), proteins of fungal secondary metabolism, biological defences against reactive oxygen species (especially iron and manganese superoxide dismutases, enzymes from metabolic pathways of microorganisms and plants not shared by vertebrates (especially shikimate, bacterial cell wall and lysine biosynthetic pathways, 3-deoxy-D-arabino-heptulosonate 7-phosphate synthase, 3-deoxy-D-manno-octulosonate 8-phosphate synthase and dihydrodipicolinate synthase),

Pectin methylesterases as molecular motors, including application of molecular dynamics to enzyme mechanism.

Evolution of protein structure and function, enzyme allostery, protein dynamics,

Protein structure determination by X-ray (especilly ultra-high resolution protein structure) and NMR methods.

Bioinorganic chemistry.

X-ray crystallography, especially crystal twinning and pathological structures in both protein and chemical crystallography (including polyoxometallates).

Applications of thermodynamics into protein and RNA folding, ligand binding and RNA stability; optimal conditions for origin of life, including development of capability for high-temperature/high-pressure nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC).

Through involvement in capability building for synchrotron science in New Zealand, associated with investment in the Australian Synchrotron, broad knowledge of synchrotron techniques and expert knowledge of synchrotron diffraction techniques.



Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 6 10
Team Member 0 2

Current Projects

Project Title: Pectin methylesterases: tuning pectin function with complex variations upon a single theme

Date Range: 2019 - 2022

Funding Body: Royal Society of New Zealand

Project Team:

Completed Projects

Project Title: Optimal chemical and physical conditions for the origin of RNA life forms

What are the environmental, chemical and physical requirements for the evolution of stable, selfreplicating, chemical systems of increasing complexity, that is, of life? There is now a general acceptance that RNA preceded DNA and encoded proteins in the origin of life, performing the functions of both. That is, RNA molecules stored genetic information and functioned as catalysts (ribozymes). There has been much interest in the possibility that life began at high temperatures near chemically and energy rich 'black smokers'. However, this poses problems for RNA-based life forms, as at high temperatures and low pressures RNA is known to unfold and decompose. In this project we aim to provide the first chemical and physical studies examining the role of both pressure and temperature on chemical and physical stability of RNA and its constituents to answer the fundamental question: Can high pressure and the molecular crowding of cellular soups offset the destabilising effects of high temperature on RNA and its constituent nucleotides?
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Date Range: 2010 - 2013

Funding Body: Marsden Fund - Full

Project Team:

Research Outputs

Teaching and Supervision

Teaching Statement

My teaching currently spans first year biological chemistry to third year thermal physics.

I am course controller for and teach into the following courses:

123.220 Advanced Chemistry for Technology (hosted by Singapore Polytechnic)

123.311 Advanced Physical and Analytical Chemistry

I currently teach or have have recently taught into the following undergraduate courses:

123.172 Chemistry for Biological Systems 2

123.201 Chemical Energetics

123.271 Molecules to Materials

123.326 Advanced Chemical Biology

124.230 Biophysics

124.327 Modern Statistical Physics and Thermodynamics

236.301 Advanced Nanoscience

and from time to time into:

123.203 Inorganic Chemistry and Modelling

At the postgraduate level I teach modules on X-ray Crystallography and Statistical Thermodynamics

Courses Coordinated

  • 123.271 Molecules to Materials
  • 123.712 Advanced Nanoscience and Physical Chemistry

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Supervisor 1 3
Co-supervisor 5 10

Current Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • Jatnika Hermawan - Doctor of Philosophy
    1. The Elucidation of Proton-Coupled Electron-Transfer Mechanism in MnSOD through Structural Analysis of MnSODs 2. The Analysis of the Process of Inquiry based Learning from Students' Conversations in a Biochemistry Labs

Co-supervisor of:

  • Ruby Roach - Doctor of Philosophy
    Untangling protein- G-quadruplex interactions in heterochromatin formation
  • Nimisha Nimisha Mohan Das - Doctor of Philosophy
    Biophysical studies of an important processive enz yme of the plant cell wall
  • Harikrishnan Mohana Kurup Harikrishnan M - Doctor of Philosophy
    Reducing the mutational load in cancers: RNA-based inhibitors of APOBEC3 proteins
  • Seok June Lee - Doctor of Philosophy
    Photophysical Properties of Multicomponent Metal-Organic Frameworks
  • David Perl - Doctor of Philosophy
    Partial interpenetration and secondary growth in metal organic frameworks

Completed Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • 2015 - Christopher Lepper - Doctor of Philosophy
    Effects of High Pressure on DNA and its Components
  • 2009 - Simon Oakley - Doctor of Philosophy
    Crystallographic Determination of Wild Type, Mutant and Substrate-Analogue Inhibited Structures of Bacterial Members of a Family of Superoxide Dismutases
  • 1999 - Bin Qin - Doctor of Philosophy
    Structure determination of bovine B-lactoglobin variants A and B.

Co-supervisor of:

  • 2018 - Pablo Hernandez Cerdan - Doctor of Philosophy
    Biopolymer networks: Image Analysis, Reconstruction and Modeling
  • 2015 - Lujia Liu - Doctor of Philosophy
    Multi-Component Metal-Organic Frameworks
  • 2013 - Osman Doluca - Doctor of Philosophy
    Twisted Intercalating Nucelic Acids (TINA) in Guanosine-rich Oligonucleotides
  • 2009 - Leonardo Negron - Doctor of Philosophy
    Synthetic targets as mechanistic probes for the key biosynthetic enzyme, dehydroquinate synthase
  • 2009 - Benjamin Mulchin - Doctor of Philosophy
    Synthesis of substrate analogues and inhibitors of phosphoribosyl anthranilate isomerase and indole-3-glycorolphosphate synthase
  • 2008 - Jacobus Evers - Doctor of Philosophy
    Novel Analytical Techniques for Studying the Milk Fat Globule membrane
  • 2007 - Mee Ahn - Doctor of Philosophy
    Sustrate Analogues As Mechanistic Probes For 3-Deoxy-D-Arabino-Heptulosonate 7-Phosphate Synthase And 3-Deoxy-D-Manno-Octulosonate 8-Phosphate Synthase
  • 2004 - Paul Gardner - Doctor of Philosophy
    Simulating the RNA-World and Computational Ribonomics.
  • 2003 - Andrew Sutherland-Smith - Doctor of Philosophy
    X-Ray Crystallographic Analyses of the Structures of Two Heme Proteins.
  • 1999 - Xiaolin Sun - Doctor of Philosophy
    Crystallographic Studies of Folylpolyglutamate Synthetase and Recombinant Human Lactoferrin.

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