Fiona Whelan

Dr Fiona Whelan

Ramsay Fellow in Applied Science

School of Biological Sciences

Faculty of Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD (as Co-Supervisor) - email supervisor to discuss availability.

Based at the University of York, UK, my research has been focused on the structural biology of viral and bacterial nucleic acid binding proteins; and Staphylococcal cell surface adhesins and two-component sensors. I use methods including bioinformatics, structure prediction, molecular biology, bacterial recombinant protein expression and purification, X-ray crystallography, SEC-MALS, CD spectroscopy, small angle X-ray scattering, force unfolding AFM to determine the relationship between the structure and the function of target proteins. I recently relocated to the University of Adelaide where I have been developing the use of cryo electron microscopy in analysis of bacteriophage transcriptional regulators.

I am now using my expertise in protein engineering to develop a pipeline for directed evolution of novel small molecule sensors based on natural bacterial two-component sensor systems. The aim of this work is to select for new sensor/small molecule binding by building bacterial circuitry to select for sensor activation. This synthetic biology approach will provide the foundation for a 'biosensor' library able to specifically detect the presence of target molecules for deployment in diverse industries including medical diagnostics, food security, biomonitoring and bioremediation. This work is supported by the Ramsay Fellowship in Applied Science.

  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2019 Ramsay Fellow in Applied Science University of Adelaide
    2018 - 2019 Postdoctoral Research Associate University of Adelaide
    2012 - 2018 Postdoctoral Research Associate University of York
    2009 - 2012 Postdoctoral Research Associate University of York
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2003 - 2009 University of Adelaide Australia PhD
    2002 - 2002 University of Adelaide Australia B.Sc. Hons. (Biochemistry)
    1998 - 2001 University of Adelaide Australia B.Sc. (Mol. Biol.)
  • Certifications

    Date Title Institution name Country
    2019 Epigeum: Supervising Doctoral Studies University of Adelaide
  • Journals

    Year Citation
    2019 Whelan, F., Lafita, A., Griffiths, S., Cooper, R., Whittingham, J., Turkenburg, J., . . . Potts, J. (2019). Defining the remarkable structural malleability of a bacterial surface protein Rib domain implicated in infection. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(52), 26540-26548.
    2017 Devine, P., Fisher, H., Calabrese, A., Whelan, F., Higazi, D., Potts, J., . . . Ashcroft, A. (2017). Investigating the Structural Compaction of Biomolecules Upon Transition to the Gas-Phase Using ESI-TWIMS-MS. Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, 28(9), 1855-1862.
    DOI Scopus19 WoS15 Europe PMC8
    2016 Gruszka, D., Mendonça, C., Paci, E., Whelan, F., Hawkhead, J., Potts, J., & Clarke, J. (2016). Disorder drives cooperative folding in a multidomain protein. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113(42), 11841-11846.
    DOI Scopus4 WoS4 Europe PMC5
    2015 Whelan, F., & Potts, J. (2015). Two repetitive, biofilm-forming proteins from Staphylococci: From disorder to extension. Biochemical Society Transactions, 43(5), 861-866.
    DOI Scopus3 WoS2 Europe PMC2
    2015 Whelan, F., Jenkins, H. T., Griffiths, S. C., Byrne, R. T., Dodson, E. J., & Antson, A. A. (2015). From bacterial to human dihydrouridine synthase: automated structure determination.. Acta crystallographica. Section D, Biological crystallography, 71(Pt 7), 1564-1571.
    DOI Scopus5 WoS5 Europe PMC2
    2015 Chaban, Y., Stead, J. A., Ryzhenkova, K., Whelan, F., Lamber, E. P., Antson, A., . . . Orlova, E. V. (2015). Structural basis for DNA strand separation by a hexameric replicative helicase.. Nucleic acids research, 43(17), 8551-8563.
    DOI Scopus6 WoS4 Europe PMC5
    2015 Byrne, R. T., Jenkins, H. T., Peters, D. T., Whelan, F., Stowell, J., Aziz, N., . . . Antson, A. A. (2015). Major reorientation of tRNA substrates defines specificity of dihydrouridine synthases.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(19), 6033-6037.
    DOI Scopus18 WoS15 Europe PMC12
    2015 Gruszka, D. T., Whelan, F., Farrance, O. E., Fung, H. K., Paci, E., Jeffries, C. M., . . . Clarke, J. (2015). Cooperative folding of intrinsically disordered domains drives assembly of a strong elongated protein.. Nature communications, 6(1), 7271.
    DOI Scopus22 WoS23 Europe PMC16
    2013 Byrne, R., Whelan, F., Aller, P., Bird, L., Dowle, A., Lobley, C., . . . Waterman, D. (2013). S-Adenosyl-S-carboxymethyl-l-homocysteine: A novel cofactor found in the putative tRNA-modifying enzyme CmoA. Acta Crystallographica Section D: Biological Crystallography, 69(6), 1090-1098.
    DOI Scopus12 WoS11 Europe PMC9
    2012 Whelan, F., Stead, J., Shkumatov, A., Svergun, D., Sanders, C., & Antson, A. (2012). A flexible brace maintains the assembly of a hexameric replicative helicase during DNA unwinding. Nucleic Acids Research, 40(5), 2271-2283.
    DOI Scopus10 WoS10 Europe PMC10
    2012 Griffiths, S., Byrne, R., Antson, A., & Whelan, F. (2012). Crystallization and preliminary X-ray crystallographic analysis of the catalytic domain of human dihydrouridine synthase. Acta Crystallographica Section F: Structural Biology and Crystallization Communications, 68(3), 333-336.
    DOI Scopus2 WoS2
    2010 Whelan, F., Hao, N., Furness, S., Whitelaw, M., & Chapman-Smith, A. (2010). Amino acid substitutions in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor ligand binding domain reveal YH439 as an atypical AhR activator. Molecular Pharmacology, 77(6), 1037-1046.
    DOI Scopus17 WoS14 Europe PMC12
    2009 Dave, K., Whelan, F., Bindloss, C., Furness, S., Chapman-Smith, A., Whitelaw, M., & Gorman, J. (2009). Sulfonation and Phosphorylation of Regions of the Dioxin Receptor Susceptible to Methionine Modifications. Molecular and Cellular Proteomics, 8(4), 706-719.
    DOI Scopus11 WoS8 Europe PMC4
    2009 Furness, S., & Whelan, F. (2009). The pleiotropy of dioxin toxicity - Xenobiotic misappropriation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor's alternative physiological roles. Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 124(3), 336-353.
    DOI Scopus49 WoS43 Europe PMC31
    2001 Chapman-Smith, A., Mulhern, T., Whelan, F., Cronan, J., & Wallace, J. (2001). The C-terminal domain of biotin protein ligase from E. coli is required for catalytic activity. Protein Science, 10(12), 2608-2617.
    DOI Scopus50 WoS48 Europe PMC42
    2001 Chapman-Smith, A., Mulhern, T., Whelan, F., Cronan Jr., J., & Wallace, J. (2001). The C-terminal domain of biotin protein ligase from E-coli is required for catalytic activity. Protein Science, 10(12), 2608-2617.

Ramsay Fellowship in Applied Science (2019-2023)


  • Position: Ramsay Fellow in Applied Science
  • Phone: 83135362
  • Email:
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Molecular Life Sciences, floor 2
  • Room: 2 41
  • Org Unit: School of Biological Sciences

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