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Dr Alice Pyne
London Centre for Nanotechnology
17-19 Gordon Street
  • Senior Research Associate
  • London Centre for Nanotechnology
  • Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

Dr Alice Pyne’s research career began during her undergraduate studies in Physics at the University of Bristol. She worked with Prof Meryn Miles, developing high-speed Atomic Force Microscopy equipment to reveal how the citric acid in sugary drinks destroys tooth enamel. 

Following this, she spent a year working at the University of Birmingham developing cleanroom fabrication processes for small scale integrated circuits and reviewing the ecotoxicity of Nanoparticles for a white paper in the labs of Prof. Richard Palmer, and Prof Jamie Lead. Dr Pyne then returned to her roots in Atomic Force Microscopy, undertaking an EngD with Prof. Bart Hoogenboom at UCL, developing techniques for high resolution imaging of biomolecules in solution in collaboration with the National Physical Laboratory, and Bruker (Santa Barbara, USA). 

Following her EngD Dr Pyne was awarded two fellowships (MRC, EPSRC) to investigate how DNA structure varies at the single-molecule level, and how this can influence DNA-DNA and DNA-protein interactions. This work aims to improve our understanding of anti-cancer and antibacterial therapeutic targets, towards an improved drug discovery pipeline. 

Dr Pyne is also passionate about outreach, which has been highlighted through her work developing and managing an international summer school LEGO2NANO, and her commitment to STEM outreach in schools. 

Research Groups
Research Themes
Research Summary

My research interests lie in understanding how variations in DNA structure can affect fundamental biological processes such as replication and transcription. 

I am motivated by determining biomolecular mechanisms of action, with a long-term view to improved development of therapeutics. My current project aims to determine, at single molecule resolution, how topoisomerases relieve excessive torsional stress in DNA, and via which mechanism(s) their function is affected by topoisomerase inhibitors, a major class of antibiotic and anti-cancer therapeutics in collaboration with Prof Tony Maxwell (John Innes Centre). 

Topoisomerases are enzymes, present in all organisms from humans to bacteria, which are essential for life due to their ability to untangle knotted and twisted DNA. The knotting and twisting of our DNA occurs as two metres of our DNA is folded into the cell nucleus; much narrower than the width of a human hair. This is exacerbated by the molecular machinery in our cells which travel along our DNA pulling it apart and manipulating it in a compact environment. Without topoisomerases, our DNA becomes irreversibly knotted and twisted and the cell will die. For this reason, key therapeutics such as anticancer and antibiotic drugs target human and bacterial topoisomerases respectively either killing cancerous or bacterial cells. 

My research will provide insight into how topoisomerases are able to untwist DNA, and how this process can be disrupted by drugs. My research will exploit microscopy methods I pioneered to resolve the double helix on single DNA molecules in collaboration with Bruker (CA, USA). I will also perform rapid measurements of DNA-topoisomerase interactions at the Francis Crick Institute in collaboration with Dr Justin Molloy. 

15-NOV-2017 MRC UKRI/Rutherford Fellow London Centre for Nanotechnology UCL, United Kingdom
01-JUL-2017 – 14-NOV-2017 Senior Postdoctoral Research Associate London Centre for Nanotechnology UCL, United Kingdom
01-JUL-2015 – 30-JUN-2017 EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellow London Centre for Nanotechnology UCL, United Kingdom
01-JAN-2015 – 30-JUN-2015 Postdoctoral Research Associate London Centre for Nanotechnology UCL, United Kingdom
01-JAN-2010 – 01-JUN-2010 Research Assistant The School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
01-SEP-2009 – 01-JAN-2010 Research Assistant Nanoscale Physics Research Laboratory University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
Academic Background
2015 EngD Doctor of Engineering – Biological Physics University College London
2011 MRes Master of Research – Biological Physics University College London
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