Students in a lecture

We host an exciting and engaging research seminar programme throughout the year. The CBE Seminar Series sees guest speakers from around the world come to Sheffield to share their insights, offering the chance to hear about cutting edge research across a range of topics. Our seminars are open to all.

Professor Lorna Dougan (University of Leeds)

Multiscale mechanics of protein networks: From bionanomachines to biomaterials

2 December


Proteins are bionanomachines. These workhorses of the cell are responsible for a vast array of biological functions. Acting in isolation or as part of complex machinery, they perform their function through structural and mechanical changes. Inspired by their specific mechanical properties and diverse functionality, globular folded proteins are versatile nanoscale building blocks for creating responsive biomaterials. However, a major challenge is to construct a theory that connects the mechanical properties of an individual protein and the collective response of a protein network.

Here, I will describe our recent efforts to modulate the nanoscale mechanics of single proteins to control their unfolding during protein network formation. We exploit the chemical and mechanical responsiveness of single functional proteins to provide an important route to finely tune the architecture, mechanics, and dynamic relaxation of protein networks. Such predictive control will be advantageous for future biomaterials for applications which require responsive and dynamic modulation of mechanical properties and biological function.


Prof. Dougan is a professor of physics and director of research and innovation in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds. She is an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) fellow and an EPSRC public engagement champion. Prof. Dougan is a physicist by training (MPhys and PhD, University of Edinburgh). In 2020 she was awarded the Water Woman award for Research Excellence. In 2018 she was awarded the British Biophysical Society Young Investigator Medal for her research on the physics of living systems, including single molecule manipulation, life in extreme environments and the physics of cryopreservation. She was awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry MacroGroup UK Young Researchers Medal in 2013 and the Medical Research Council and Royal Society Suffrage Science Award in 2015.

Prof. Dougan currently leads an Engineering Physical Sciences Research Council Fellowship to explore multiscale biomechanics, and previously led a European Research Council Fellowship in extreme biophysics. Prof. Dougan's current research interests span hierarchical biomechanics, extreme biophysics, liquid structure, life in extreme environments and (bottom-up) synthetic biology. She is passionate about science communication and active in arts-science collaborative opportunities.

Register for the event here 

Dr Lucia Marucci (University of Bristol)

27 January 2023


After completing her studies in Mathematics, Dr Marucci started a PhD in automatic engineering, focused on the design of synthetic gene network (University of Naples, Italy, PhD award 2010). She then moved to the Centre for Genomic Regulation (Barcelona, Spain) where she was awarded an EMBO Long term fellowship to study gene expression dynamics in pluripotent stem cells.

Dr Marucci moved to Bristol in 2013, where she is currently an associate professor in systems and synthetic biology, and an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) fellow. She co-directs the Bristol BioDesign Institute, a specialised research institute in synthetic biology.

Dr Marucci's research is focused on developing quantitative tools to understand cell dynamics and engineering-inspired methodologies for controlling living system functions, with the final aim to both disentangle and reprogram the complexity governing life.

Her approach combines tools from different disciplines: control engineering, systems and synthetic biology, and computer science. 

The interdisciplinary research group Dr Marucci leads works on 3 main research areas:

1. Synthesis of controllers which can robustly engineer novel cellular functions while expanding the repertoire of redesigned phenotypes across organisms; 

2. Implementation of pipelines that can support whole-cell design and make synthetic biology design-build-test-learn cycles more predictable and efficient;

3. Understanding of the endogenous processes which regulate higher organism gene expression in space and time for superior, nature-inspired design aims.

Steve Ferguson

24 February 2023

Gianvito Vilé

Single-atom catalysts for a new generation of industrial chemical processes

24 March 2023


New catalytic processes are urgently needed to drive the transition to a cleaner and more sustainable future. Single-atom catalysts represent the new frontier of catalyst design and can accelerate the shift to a greener future due to their groundbreaking reactivity and ability to economize the amount of critical raw materials.

This lecture will present Vilé's groundbreaking contributions to this emerging field, from discovering these new catalysts, to the possibility of studying their reactivity under continuous-flow conditions. Specifically, by focusing on coupling reactions, Vilé will demonstrate that single-atom catalysts can provide unprecedented degrees of activity and selectivity compared to state-of-the-art catalysts. With the help of density functional theory calculations and operando characterization studies, Vilé will also elucidate the active sites and describe the reaction mechanisms. Finally, Vilé will demonstrate how the catalysts can be nanostructured in flow reactors to obtain novel structured films and foams with integrated single-atom functionalities.


Prof. Dr. Gianvito Vilé studied Chemical Engineering at Politecnico di Milano and received his PhD from ETH Zurich. He is currently a tenure-track assistant professor at Politecnico di Milano. His research focuses on the understanding of the structure and reactivity of new single-atom catalytic systems, and on the design of sustainable chemical processes. He has received numerous awards for his research, including the ETH Zurich Medal for outstanding doctoral thesis, the Dimistris N. Chorafas Award from the Weizmann Institute of Sciences in Israel, the Felder Award, and the Alfredo di Braccio prize for Chemistry from the Academia dei Lincei, the Italian National Academy. He was also selected among the most influential researchers by leading journals of the American Chemical Society, Royal Society of Chemistry, and Institute of Physics.

Qiong Cai

12 May 2023

Past Seminars

Dr Malin Johansson (Uppsala University)

Metal halide perovskite solar cell properties: From macro to nano scale

30th September 2022


Availability and intensity of solar radiation varies by location and time. However, solar energy is free of cost and most abundant of all renewable energy sources. Photovoltaics can convert the solar energy directly into electrical energy with low environmental impact during operation. The current manufacturing routes and the recycling conflicts with many of the environmental goals. Therefore, more detailed studies to avoid negative environmental impact are of importance to find sustainable solutions for future energy conversion.

Metal halide perovskites are semiconductors that have attracted much attention because of their high absorption, efficient charge separation and long charge carrier lifetime. Despite high defect levels, in the order of 10 15 cm -3 in polycrystalline metal halide perovskite thin films, perovskite solar cell devices operate remarkably well, now reaching 25.7% efficiencies. Perovskite can also be grown as single crystals and used as they are, or then being re-dissolved to form a thin film as a component layer in a solar cell device. The trap density in single crystals varies, among the lowest reported being 2∙10 11 cm -3 and most of the deep trap states are located at crystal surfaces.

To improve the performance of the solar cell it is important to reduce the trap states as much as possible to avoid charge recombination, which lowers the efficiency. In this talk, an approach to improve crystal quality will be presented, specifically described from observations at the nanoscale. The presentation will cover the material formation procedure, characterization and photovoltaic performance.


"My research interests are on synthesis and characterization of new solar cell materials. I investigate structural, optical and electronic properties by combining different experimental techniques. The more understanding of the material will open up the opportunity to tailor the functionalities both in small scale and as a solar cell system. An important part of the research is the design of hybrid organic/inorganic solar cells with both specific microstructures and as thin film
devices." - Dr Malin Johansson

Read a blog detailing the key takeaways here.

Dr Amit Bhave (co-founder and CEO of CMCL Innovations and research fellow at the University of Cambridge's CoMo Group)

The World Avatar: Enabling cross-sector data interoperability

21 October 2022


Problems such as achieving net zero in energy, materials and sustainable smart cities transformations are intrinsically dynamic, multidomain and need to be addressed at multiple levels of granularity and scale. CMCL is developing The World Avatar (TWA), a dynamic Knowledge Graph approach that accounts for the aforementioned requirements as well as the context and meaning of the heterogenous data across domains.

The digital ecosystem enables cross-sector interoperability and covers three selected use cases: i) a combination of chemical reasoning with spatial thinking for formulation of new materials, for example, metal organic polyhedra; ii) chemistry laboratory automation; and iii) a cross-sector climate resilience digital twin for some of the critical industrial infrastructure assets in the East of England.


Dr Bhave is the CEO and co-founder of CMCL Innovations, a digital engineering company that offers products and technical services to the chemical, materials, automotive, and energy industries. For over a decade he has been responsible for business development and for establishing research partnerships with industry and academia worldwide.

He is also an affiliated research fellow with the CoMo Group at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at The University of Cambridge. His research interests include digital engineering, smart infrastructure, technology commercialisation, negative emissions technologies, carbon abatement, low-emission energy conversion and nanomaterials. Dr Bhave is currently an industrial supervisor for two PhD studentships at the department in the field of artificial intelligence and industrial decarbonisation.

Dr Bhave joined The University of Cambridge as a PhD student at Hughes Hall, where he went on to be a research fellow and now an associate. As a CTES fellow, he completed the Technology Enterprise and Commercialisation programme led by the London Business School. A chemical engineer by profession; Dr Bhave graduated with a PhD degree from the University of Cambridge and gained his master’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pune, India.

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