Dr Barbara Ciani

Department of Chemistry

Lecturer in Biophysical Chemistry and Departmental BSO

Departmental BSO

Barbara Ciani
+44 114 222 9438

Full contact details

Dr Barbara Ciani
Department of Chemistry
Dainton Building
13 Brook Hill
S3 7HF

Dr. Ciani obtained a Laurea in Chemistry at University "La Sapienza", Rome in 1997. This was followed by a DPhil in Biochemistry at the University of Sussex in Brighton in 2001, after which she became a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Nottingham (2001-2003) and subsequently at the University of Manchester (2004-2008). In 2008 she was appointed as a Lecturer in Biophysical Chemistry at the University of Sheffield.

  • FHEA
  • MSRC
Research interests

How is function encoded in protein self-assembly?
Compartmentalisation of chemical reactions is fundamental for the function of any biological cell. The confinement provided by membrane interfaces in intracellular organelles allows their contents to carry out specific tasks without the interference from other processes. 

In our laboratory, we study the mechanisms at the basis of protein self-assembly and how proteins shape lipid membranes in vitro and in vivo. Specifically, we focus on the biochemical and biophysical mechanisms of cellular membrane repair. Remodelling of phospholipid membranes underpins most cellular functions from membrane trafficking to viral infections and genome compartmentalisation.

STED imaging of membrane repair proteins ESCRT-III accumulating at a micronucleus in a HeLa cell (red:CHMP7; green:CHMP4B; blue:DAPI). Willan J, et al Oncogenesis. 2019 Apr 15;8(5):29. doi: 10.1038/s41389-019-0136-0.
STED imaging of membrane repair proteins ESCRT-III accumulating at a micronucleus in a HeLa cell (red:CHMP7; green:CHMP4B; blue:DAPI). Willan J, et al Oncogenesis. 2019 Apr 15;8(5):29. doi: 10.1038/s41389-019-0136-0.

Scientific Questions we are addressing –
•    What are the signals that lead proteins to assemble into larger structures to sculpt phospholipid membranes?
•    How does membrane integrity maintain the healthy state of a biological cell?
•    Can we repurpose these biological processes for novel functions?

We tackle these questions with a combination of biochemistry, cell biology and protein design approaches.

Our lab has expertise in:

  • Protein engineering and high-level recombinant peptide and protein expression for structural studies
  • De novo and rational design of peptides and proteins
  • Protein stability and protein-protein interaction measurements
  • Characterisation of self-assembly and aggregation of proteins
  • Characterisation of protein-membranes interactions
  • Mechanisms of nuclear envelope membranes repair
  • Endosomal membrane trafficking

Journal articles

Teaching interests

Thermodynamics; Biological chemistry; Bioinformatics; Toxicology; Protein design and Structural Biology

Teaching activities

Undergraduate and postgraduate taught modules

  • Thermodynamics, Equilibria and Electrochemistry (Level 1)
    This course introduces quantitative description of chemical and electrochemical equilibria and their energetics.
  • Skills for Success (Level 3)
    The Skills for Success Project aims to ensure that students identify and develop skills that will be of use to them in life, future study and employment and provide a basis from which they can undertake further training of a professional nature.
  • Biophysical Chemistry (Level 4)
    This lecture course provides a background to protein design and an overview of the classical methods employed to investigate the structure of biopolymers and their interactions.
  • Toxicology (MSc Drug Discovery Science)
    This segment concerns with basic concepts and methodology in Toxicology as applied to drug development. part of the Pharmacology, Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Design core module.
  • Bioinformatics (MSc Drug Discovery Science)
    This segment concerns with the use of online databases to retrieve genetic and structural information on protein targets. It also introduces the students to basic homology modelling of proteins using specialised software and servers.

Support Teaching:

  • Tutorials: Level 1 General Chemistry, Level 2 Physical Chemistry
  • Level 3 and MSc Literature Review

Laboratory Teaching:

  • Level 1 Chemistry Laboratories
  • Level 2 Physical Laboratories
  • Level 4 Research Project
  • Level 6 Drug Discovery Science project
Professional activities

Active member of the RSC Biophysical Chemistry Interest Group.

Full member of the EPSRC review college.