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Pearson Group Members

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Prof. Arwen Pearson
arwen_cui_website_pic2Arwen is a biophysicist with a background in X-ray crystallography, single crystal spectroscopy and structural enzymology and a strong interest in the development of new methods to probe biological molecular mechanisms. She obtained a BSc(hons) in Biochemistry from the University of Bath (1997) and a PhD in structural biology from the University of St Andrews (2001), working with Garry Taylor. She then did postdoctoral work in structural enzymology in the lab of Carrie Wilmot at the University of Minnesota, working on the biogenesis of the protein derived cofactor tryptophan tryptophylquinone. In 2006 she moved back to the UK to the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology at the University of Leeds as an independent research fellow, taking up a lectureship in 2011. In 2014 she moved to the University of Hamburg to join the Hamburg Centre for Ultrafast imaging as Professor of Experimental Biophysics.

Dr Briony Yorke
briony_Cui_labpageBriony is a physical chemist who joined the Pearson Hamburg lab on day 1 (May 2014)! She graduated with a MChem (2009) from the University of Leeds and then stayed at Leeds for her PhD (2014) in the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology in the Wellcome Trust Sponsored PhD programme The Molecular Basis of Biological Mechanisms, working with Arwen, Mike Webb and Godfrey Beddard from Leeds and Robin Owen from Diamond Light Source. Briony’s research focuses on the use of the Hadamard transform for time-resolved experiments. Her PhD work on Hadamard crystallography was published in Nature Methods in 2014. In 2016 Briony was awarded a prestigous Henry Wellcome Research Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust to carry out independent research on UV damage to human crystallins – the proteins that make up the eye’s lens.

Dr Marta Sans
Marta is an organic chemist who graduated with a BSc in Chemistry (2010) followed by a MChem (2012) from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain). Then, she stayed at Barcelona for her PhD (2014) in the group of Prof. Rosa Maria Ortuño, working on the stereoselective synthesis of chiral cyclobutane unnatural amino acids and diamines and their use in the preparation of multifunctional platforms for advanced materials and catalysis. Afterwards she joined the research group of Prof. Emilio Palomares at the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (Tarragona, Spain) working on the design, synthesis and characterization of organic solar cells. Marta joined the Pearson group in November 2014 to work on the synthesis and study of photocaging agents for time-resolved structural experiments.

Dr Stephan Niebling

Stephan is a physical chemist and received his Diploma in chemistry (2008) from the University of Würzburg, followed by a PhD at the University of Osnabrück in which he used vibrational spectroscopy to monitor molecular recognition of peptide receptor. Stephan had a postdoc position at the University of Gothenburg between 2012 and 2016 where he simulated time-resolved X-ray scattering and molecular dynamics. He moved to the University of Hamburg In July 2016.



Dr Michael Agthe

Michael is a hybrid engineer/materials scientist and joined the Pearson group in April 2017 and together with Sam Horrell, and in collaboration with EMBL, is designing the new P14-2 endstation at PETRA III for Hadamard time-resolved crystallography. He graduated with a BSc (2008) from the Hamburg University of Technology followed by a joint MSc (2011) in materials science and engineering from Luleå University of Technology and Saarland University. During his PhD at Stockholm University Michael combined SAXS, SEM, TEM, QCM-D and video microscopy to investigate and understand the formation mechanisms of highly-ordered superstructures formed by self-assembling iron oxide nanocubes. Outside of work, his two kids keep him busy.

Dr Sam Horrell

Sam is a biochemist and graduated from the University of Leicester (2011) in Medical Biochemistry (BSc) he then moved to the University of Liverpool for a joint project with Diamond Light Source; where he worked on method development for long wavelength phasing experiments, developed the multiple structures from one crystal (MSOX) crystallography technique and studied the reaction mechanisms of EAL domain proteins. After a postdoc position at the University of Essex Sam joined the Pearson lab in April 2017 and works with Michael to help construct the P14-2 endstation.

Chris Orr
Chris_Orr_webpage Chris is a biochemist who graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a BSc in Biochemistry & Genome Science (2013) followed by an MRes (2014). He is now undertaking a PhD joint funded by the University of Hamburg and the University of Southampton supervised by Arwen, Ivo Tews, Ann White and Mark Cragg. Chris is using a combination of SAXS, X-ray crystallography and super resolution microscopy to study the structure of IgG2 isoforms in relation to cancer therapeutics.


Maria Kokkinidou
maria_website_photo_smallMaria studied Molecular Biology and Genetics at Democritus University of Thrace in Greece, focusing for her diploma thesis on molecular dynamics simulations of a Rop protein variant with Prof. Nicholas M. Glykos. She moved to London for her MSc in Drug design (2014) at the Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology (UCL and Birkbeck) under the supervision of Dr. Ajit Basak. She joined the group in December 2014 and will carry out her PhD studies in structural enzymology using X-ray crystallography.


Joe Doyle

Joe is an organic chemist who graduated with MChem (2015) from the University of Reading with the highest marks in his class. As part of his degree Joe had an Erasmus year at Aarhus University, working with Prof. Dr. Sir Troels Skrydstrup on the synthesis of Pittsburgh Compound B, a molecule know to bind to beta-amyloid. Joe joined the University of Hamburg in 2015 to start his PhD and is working on the synthesis and study of photocaging substrates for time-resolved crystallography.



Yunyun Gao

Yunyun is a physical chemist who graduated from Beijing University of Chemistry Technology with Bcs in polymer science followed by a masters in material science at Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Science (2015). Yunyun is now an IMPRS funded student in the University Hamburg under the supervision of Arwen, Henning Tidow and Martin Trebbin. Yunyun is working on developing new method for small-angle X-ray scattering of bio-macromolecules especially of membrane proteins.

Diogo Melo

Diogo joins the lab as part of the RAMP EU Innovative Training Network to work on developing methods for reproducible crystallization of membrane protein microcrystals for structure determination by serial synchrotron crystallography (SSX) and serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX). Diogo did his Master at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa in X-ray crystallography of molybdenum containing enzymes. Diogo is already blogging as part of the RAMP outreach programme so you can read more about him here.

Tushar Raskar

Tushar is a biophysicist and graduated from the University of Mumbai (MSc) in 2013, Tushar has previously worked on elucidating the molecular mechanism of HIV protease. Tushar joined the lab in January 2017 as a PhD student and is working on attempting to correlate functionally relevant local and global dynamics using a combination of spectroscopic, x-ray and neutron diffraction techniques. Tushar is jointly sponsored by CUI and the Institute Laue-Langevin in Grenoble.


Brandon Seychell

Brandon graduated from the University of Malta with a BSc in Chemistry (2015) and is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Malta under the supervision of Thérèse Hunter and Arwen. Brandon joined the Pearson lab in February 2017 and will be in Hamburg for one year then return to Malta. Brandon is currently trying to obtain a high-resolution structure of human xanthine oxidoreductase, combined with spectroscopic methods to elucidate the mechanism of nitric oxidase synthesis.



Henry Gieseler

Henry is a nanoscientist, Henry graduated from the University of Hamburg in nanoscience (BSc) and decided to complete his master’s degree here at Hamburg. He is currently in the process of completing his master’s thesis and is using a systematic approach to investigate site-specific radiation damage using a synthetic 4-helix bundle protein scaffold.





Anke Puchert

Anke is a nanoscientist and graduated from the University of Hamburg with a BSc (2015). She is now working closely with Briony for her Master’s thesis. As part of this Anke has designed and built some apparatus that can be used for Hadamard transformation for time-resolved UV absorbance.




Elena Kornilova
Elena_Kornilova Elena graduated in 1995 from the Russian State Pedagogical University in St. Petersburg, Russia, Foreign Languages Department (English and German). Since 1997 she has worked as a translator / foreign languages assistant for international law firms in Russia and Germany. Elena speaks English, German, Russian and French. In November 2014 Elena started her work as administrative assistant to the group and we are delighted to have her!


Susanne Meier
Susanne_Meier Susanne joined the group in January 2015 as our biochemistry and structural biology research technician. Susanne has extensive experience in structural biology, especially in crystallization, and makes sure everything in the labs runs smoothly.






Heike Burmeister

Heike joined the group in early 2016 as our chemistry and general laboratory technician. As well as helping Susanne oversee the day-to-day operations of the labs, Heike is also working hard on risk assessments and standard operating procedures to make sure we’re all safe and legally compliant.



Leeds-based Group Members
(in the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology)

Zoe Arnott
Zoe_webpageZoe is an organic chemist who graduated from the University of Leeds with a MChem in Medicinal Chemistry (2014). She is a PhD student supported by a 110 Anniversary Research Scholarship from the University of Leeds and is co-supervised by Mike Webb and Arwen. Zoe is working on the development of anisotropic SAXS and SANS to probe large-scale protein conformational changes.