johnsonmDr Matt Johnson

Room: E6a
0114 222 4418

Johnson Lab Website


Career History

  • 2015 - present: Lecturer, Dept. of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, The University of Sheffield
  • 2012 - 2015: Leverhulme Research Fellow, Dept. of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, The University of Sheffield
  • 2011 - 2012: Project Sunshine Research Fellow, Dept. of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, The University of Sheffield.
  • 2007 - 2011: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Queen Mary University of London.
  • 2003 - 2007: PhD ‘The role of the xanthophyll cycle in photoproection in Arabidopsis thaliana’, Dept. of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, The University of Sheffield.

Honours and Distinctions

  • 2018: Biochemical Society Colworth Medal
  • 2017: MBB Teaching Prize
  • 2016: Society for Experimental Biology President’s Medal in Plant Science

Research Keywords

Plant science, photosynthesis, thylakoid membranes, high-resolution microscopy


My research is focused on the role of thylakoid membrane organisation in photosynthesis, the process that uses solar energy to transform water and carbon dioxide into the energy we consume and the oxygen we breathe. The enzymatic fixation of carbon dioxide into carbohydrate in the chloroplast stroma requires energy in the form of ATP and reducing power in the form of NADPH, which are provided by photosynthetic electron transport in the thylakoid membrane. The thylakoid membrane houses several major pigment-protein complexes involved electron transport including photosystem II, the water splitting enzyme, cytochrome b6f, photosystem I and ATP synthase. The efficiency of photosynthesis depends upon the rate of excitation energy transfer, the diffusion of electron carriers and the effectiveness of regulatory and repair processes, which in turn depend upon the spatial organisation of the pigment-protein complexes in the membrane.

I use a multidisciplinary approach combining high resolution imaging techniques such as atomic force microscopy, time-resolved fluorescence microscopy and structured illumination microscopy with membrane biochemistry and spectroscopy to elucidate how these complexes are spatially organised within the membrane. These state-of-the-art techniques allow me to gently image the membranes in their natural liquid environment thus preserving the native organisation of the pigment-protein complexes within. Armed with the complete picture of how the protein complexes of photosynthesis fit together in the membrane we can identify new genetic targets for improving the efficiency of photosynthesis for increased food and biofuel production. Understanding natural photosynthetic membrane organisation will also allow us to better imitate nature and so improve the design of artificial solar cells and carbon capture devices to provide green energy and a low carbon future for the planet.



Level 2 Modules

Level 1 Modules

PhD Opportunities

I welcome applications from prospective home / EU PhD students for two fully funded PhD studentships: see details below.

You can apply for a PhD position in MBB here.

Contact me at for further information.


Journal articles

Conference proceedings papers

  • Adams PG, Vasilev C, Collins AM, Montano GA, Hunter CN & Johnson MP (2016) Redesigning Photosynthetic Membranes: Development of Bio-Inspired Photonic Nanomaterials. BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL, Vol. 110(3) (pp 19A-19A)