Group Members

Irene Henning, Bin Yang, Monika Myślińska, Rachael Smith, Anne Canning, Maria Angelerou, Emanuele Russo, Alexandra Schindl, Sunil Rajput, Mischa Zelzer (left to right) 

Who we are

Group Leader

Mischa Zelzer

My research focuses on the design, analysis and application of functional biointerfaces. The unifying goal of my research activities is to improve the way cells interact with artificial materials to enhance biomaterial and biomedical device performance. By generating interactive interfaces where cells and materials dynamically communicate with each other, I am aiming to explore new approaches for the integration of biomedical devices.
Main topics for current research projects are:
  • Interfacing and guiding neurons with material surfaces
  • Reproducible preparation and quantitative analysis of peptide surfaces
  • How surface properties impact and control self-assembly
  • Responsive peptide surfaces as stem-cell instructive materials


Postdoctoral Researchers

Bin Yang

Dr Bin Yang completed her PhD on the topic of surfactant and polyelectrolyte templated mesostructured films at the air/water interface under the supervision of Professor Karen Edler in Department of Chemistry at University of Bath in Dec. 2010. Following her PhD, she investigated the interaction transmitted by lipid menbranes between inserted biomolecules and nanoparticles by small angle X-ray scattering in the Soft Matter Group at Laboratory of Solid Physics (CNRS), University of Paris Sud. After that she returned to Bath and undertook an MRC funded project on the design of novel multifunctional polymer based nano carriers loaded with therapeutically active species for delivery into brain tissue via convection enhanced delivery. In 2013, she moved to the Physics Department at University of Nottingham and focused on the plastic deformation mechanism in the drying film of colloidal suspension and stimuli-responsive hydrogels. Currently She works as a research fellow in the Zelzer Group.

Her research covers a variety of topics of soft matter, macromolecular self-assembly, colloids, functional nanomaterials, polymer processing, biomaterials and rheology. Her current project, funded by Leverhulme Trust and supervised by Dr. Mischa Zelzer, Dr Maria Marlow and Professor Dave Adams, is to systematically explore the effect of surface chemistry on gel properties, explore the underlying mechanism for surface directed self-assembly, aim to develop new materials with homogenous chemistry and controllable heterogeneous physical properties.

PhD Students

Hala Dhowre

Hala obtained her B.Sc (Hons.) Biological Chemistry and M.Sc Pharmacology from Aston University. For her M.Sc dissertation she worked on the screening of a drug library for novel opioid receptor agonists using the electrically stimulated isolated Guinea-pig Ileum.
Hala is currently studying for her Ph.D. at the University of Nottingham at the School of Pharmacy as a member of the Laboratory of Biophysics and Surface Analysis (LBSA), and the Neurophotonic Laboratory (NPL) research groups.
  • Hala’s project aims to design and synthesise surfaces that are able to support neuronal cultures by initially guiding the stem cells to differentiate into neurons, as well as have the ability to stimulate neuronal activity (i.e. action potential) on demand in the presence of an external stimulus.
  • A range of challenges have to be met in order to design a surface that provides a biological environment for the cultured cells in which they can survive and behave as if they were in their natural environment. The surface chemistry provides the important detailed understanding of the surface properties at play and how they influence the biological interactions of bio-interfaces, which is crucial for the future of engineering advanced biological devices.
  • A variety of surface analytical techniques (i.e. AFM, ToF – SIMS, XPS and WCA) and biological assays (i.e. live and dead, immunohistochemistry and patch-clamping) will be used to characterise the surfaces, and the differentiated cells in question by using live-imaging techniques

Sunil Rajput

Sunil graduated from Loughborough University with a Masters degree in Chemistry in 2013 with the added experience of a summer project in 2012 (on the modification of surfaces). His masters project involved the synthesis and functionalisation of silica beads as a means of extraction for heavy metal ions in solution. He is now working under the supervision of Dr. Mischa Zelzer and Dr. Noah Russell in designing novel surfaces which can both interface and stimulate neuronal networks on a cellular level.
  • In collaboration working towards creating a Simple Living Artificial Brain (SLAB project), Stimulation of neuronal cultures can currently be achieved through electrodes or drug loading but both have shown to have disadvantages that include cell survival. Coupling this with a responsive surface that has the ability to change form and/or function when subject to an external source such as light may hold the key to rapid stimulation and long-term cell survival.
  • Long term stimulation and cell survival of neuronal cultures is the main aim with the current goal to produce a neurotransmitter tethered to a light responsive surface, acting as a molecular switch, presenting and retracting the drug on demand. The neurotransmitters which will be used have shown to impact on the way memory's are formed in the brain, in specific GPCRs (Gs and Gq subunits) which regulate long term potentiation and long term depression.

Anne Canning

Anne graduated from the University of Sheffield with a Masters degree in Chemistry. Her masters project involved high throughput screening assays to measure the inhibitory effects of small-molecules on the aggregation of a recombinant peptide involved in the pathology of Alzheimers disease.

In 2013 Anne joined the Nottingham/ Loughborough/ Keele DTC training program in Regenerative medicine where she worked on projects such as: 3D bioprinting, in vitro bone model and osteochondral plugs. She is now working under the supervision of Dr. Mischa Zelzer, Dr. Lee Buttery and Dr. Jon Aylott in designing enzyme responsive peptide surfaces. 
  • Stem cell therapies rely on strict control of the niche environment to direct stem cell fate. Surface properties can stimulate stem cell proliferation or differentiation, stimulating both these responses on a single surface is highly attractive. 
  • The main aim of this project is to design and synthesise enzyme responsive surfaces from peptides which can be both phosphorylated and dephosphorylated by cell secreted enzymes to reversibly change the surface conformation. These surfaces will enhance communication at the biointerface between the cells and the artificial materials. 
The surfaces and their conformational changes will be optically measured using a variety of techniques, notably IR, CD, NMR and biological assays and live imaging techniques will be employed to monitor cellular responses.

Maria Angelerou

I completed my five-year Bachelor studies in Pharmacy (2007-2012) at the University of Athens, Greece where I also got registered as a pharmacist. In 2012, I did my thesis project as an erasmus student at the University of Parma, Italy in the Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Technology and Pharmacokinetics under the supervision of Prof Paolo Colombo towards the development of an effervescent oral platform. In 2013, I started my Msc at King's College London in Biopharmaceuticals that completed in September 2014 with a distinction and the prizes ''Best student in the core modules'' and ''Best Research Project Poster''. During my Msc Studies I was an Onassis Foundation scholar. In september 2014, I joined the Center of Doctoral Training program in the School of Pharmacy, Universiy of Nottingham and I just completed my first training project entitled as ''Modelling Studies in drug nanoparticle-polymer agglomerates''.

Deniz Ugur

Deniz obtained his B.Sc in Chemisty and M.Sc in Biotechnology from Izmir Institute of Technology. For his M.Sc dissertation he worked on the synthesis of a new cationic monomer and its controlled RAFT Polymerization in aqueous media for drug delivery applications.

In 2014 Deniz joined the Erasmus Mundus Joint PhD Programme in Nano Medicine (NanoFAR) under the supervision of Dr. Mischa Zelzer (UoN), Dr. Virginie Sottile (UoN), Prof. Dr. Frank Boury (University of Angers) and Dr. Claduia Montero Menei (University of Angers). The project focuses on the functionalisation and characterisation of polymer based stem cell scaffolds with proteins and polypeptides with the aim to correlate surface characteristics with cell response data.

Alexandra Schindl

Alexandra received her Bachelors degree in Biotechnology from the University of Vienna and her Masters degree in Molecular Biotechnology from the University of Munich. Her masters project based in chemical proteomics focused on the chemical synthesis of a triazene linker molecule to facilitate an easy and selective method for the enrichment of phosphorylated proteins via silica beads for MS analysis.

Alexandra started her PhD at the University of Nottingham in 2015 and is working on a joined project between the research group of the Laboratory of Biophysics and Surface Analysis (LBSA), Functional Genomics at the School of Medicine and the Bioprocess, Environmental and Chemical Technologies Research Group (BECT) under the co-supervision of Dr. Mischa Zelzer, Dr. Thorsten Allers and Dr. Anna Croft.

Her project explores the use of halophilic enzymes as prospective biocatalysts in ionic liquids and aims to design a process using biocatalysis for the industrial production of chiral alcohols, amines and ketones.

Irene Henning

Irene graduated from the University of Stuttgart (Germany) with a Masters degree in Biotechnology. For her Masters project she joined the Cavendish laboratory at the University of Cambridge working on DNA origami technology. In particular, aiming to apply DNA origami nanopores for selective interaction with lipid membranes for potential biomedical applications.

Currently, she is working on her PhD project at the University of Nottingham which is a collaboration between the School of Pharmacy, Engineering and the Centre for Biomolecular Sciences with Prof. Morgan Alexander, Dr. Mischa Zelzer, Prof. Richard Hague and Prof. Paul Williams as a collective
supervisor team.

The project involves the use of a state of the art 3D printing method, called two-photon lithography, to study bacterial colonies in defi ned spatial con finements, in an environment comparable to biofi lms.

Biofi lms play a key role in many chronic human infections and medical devices (e.g. catheters) but despite the severity of biofi lm formation, problems addressing the cooperative behaviour of bacterial aggregates and the mechanisms involved in bacterial cell-to-cell communication are not well understood. This project aims to advance our knowledge of the formation and dynamics of biofi lms based on a three-dimensional approach with Alginate as a hydrogel basis in combination with highly advanced analytical methods.

Rebeca Obenza-Otero

Rebeca obtained a bachelor degree in Pharmacy from the University of Santiago de Compostela (2009-2014). She did her last year as an Erasmus student at the University Claude Bernard- Lyon 1 (France) and carried out a research project in DMPK at the same institution. In 2015, she completed an MSc in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at the University of Barcelona (UB), where she also partook in an internship in formulation sciences at the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Technology (School of Pharmacy-UB) and the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Nanotechnology (IQAC-CSIC).

In September 2015 she joined the CDT in Advanced Therapeutics and Nanomedicines where she did two training projects. The first one on intracellular nanosensors with Dr F. Rawson and the second on Pharmaceutical Technology and Development in AstraZeneca, supervised by Dr I. Soppela.  She has now started her PhD project under the supervision of Dr M. Zelzer, Dr G. Mantovani and Dr W. Chan. Her project focuses on designing enzyme responsive materials to improve current wound healing treatment. Some enzymes are typically overexpressed in chronic wounds, hindering the healing process. Thereby the project will try to design and characterise hydrogels able to modulate those enzyme activities and restore a natural enzymatic balance enabling regeneration of the tissue.

Emanuele Russo

Emanuele Russo obtained a 5 years Master's Degree (First-class honours) in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology at the University of Palermo in October 2014. He completed a 9-month thesis research project at the department of Pharmaceutics, UCL School of Pharmacy, under the supervision of Prof. Sudaxshina Murdan and Prof. David Bongiorno. His project focused on the determination of the Hansen Solubility Parameters of the human nail plate by permeation studies. In 2015 he also got registered as a pharmacist.

In September 2015 he joined the Centre of Doctoral Training in Targeted Therapeutics and Formulation Sciences at the University of Nottingham. His first training project, based on the development of a novel Maleimide-lipoester linker for liposomes formulation, was supervised by Dr. James Dixon, Dr. Giuseppe Mantovani and Prof. Snow Stolnik. Then he moved to AstraZeneca (Macclesfield) for his second training project, in the Pharmaceutical Development area, under the supervision of S. Pickard and S. Todd. He is currently working on his PhD project aiming to design a new enzyme responsive polymer hydrogel able to modulate proteinase level in human brain cancer. The project is supervised by Dr. M.Zelzer, Dr. G.Mantovani, Dr. Weng Chan and Dr. Beth Coyle.

Rachael Smith 

Visiting Researchers

Chayanin Pratoomsoot

Project Students

Monika Myślińska


Former Group Members

Sebastiaan van Nuffel - PhD Student
Michael Taylor - PhD Student
Dan Merryweather - Training Project Student
Becca Morgan - Training Project Student

Akmal Sabri - Summer Student
Joshua Phua - Summer Student

Fabio Simoes - Postdoc
Ruggero Foralosso - Training Project Student
Arianna Pasquazi - Project Student
Christopher Strong - Summer Student 

Monica Mistry - Training Project Student