University of Queensland

Overview

Appointments to the Centre program at the University of Queensland were aligned with the two foci of the UQ group, namely to define the molecular basis for microscopic and macroscopic properties at the wall/composite, cell, and tissue levels; and to define the mechanisms underlying digestive tract and consequent health effects of plant cell walls/polysaccharides.

In the first program research fellows developed and characterised biocomposite models for plant cell walls; undertook micromechanical characterisation of walls; and applied modern (micro)spectroscopic techniques to cell walls. A research assistant characterised molecular composition of cell walls and model biocomposites.

In the second major area of activity at UQ, research fellows defined cell wall features responsible for beneficial health effects on lipid metabolism and starch digestion; undertook characterisations of  interactions between cell wall polysaccharides and bacteria found in the large intestine; worked to develop an in silico simulation model to integrate the diverse effects of plant cell walls in the digestive tract. A research assistant supported data collection on digestive tract effects of plant cell walls.

Accommodation and Facilities

The UQ group had access to comprehensive facilities across the diverse science disciplines represented above. In particular, the University had invested more than $1 million in upgrading laboratory facilities for chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, microscopy and cell biology that provided contiguous laboratories for many of the Centre activities.

In addition, significant prior investment by the University (approx. $1 million) in the laboratories of Associate Investigators Stokes and Gilbert resulted in a suite of instrumentation for the analysis of polymer size distribution, rheology and tribology that provide a unique capability that had not previously been applied to plant cell wall studies. Excellent University facilities in NMR and other spectroscopies, and electron / confocal / light microscopy were available and used extensively by the group.