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Dr Duncan McGillivray

BA/BSc (Auck), BSc(Hons) (ANU), DPhil (Oxf)

Research | Current

My research involves looking at the surface structures of biological systems using surface sensitive methods, particularly neutron and X-ray scattering. The recent commissioning of the OPAL research nuclear reactor in Sydney, and the opening of the Australian Synchrotron X-ray source in Melbourne, provide world-class facilities within easy reach of Auckland. Through measurements performed at these facilities the behaviour of surfaces – and in particular biological membranes – can be studied in detail.

Current projects

  • Oxidative stress on cellular membranes
    Cellular membranes act as both a support and a gateway for biological cells, and achieve their multiple purposes through their complex compositions including lipids, proteins and sugars. When these membranes are attacked by oxidative stresses (e.g., free radicals) their behaviour changes, and this has been linked to a number of diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. By using a simpler model membrane the relationships between the membrane damage, cellular defences and disease pathologies can be investigated. This work is also related to a study on antioxidants in foods with Prof Melton of Food Science.
  • Membrane-incorporated membrane proteins
    Membrane proteins – those that function through interactions with cellular membranes – are some of the most significant functional proteins in biology, but are also some of the least well understood. The complex and highly asymmetric environment in which these proteins operate makes them challenging targets for study. Using the same model membrane system on a solid support, as above, functional membrane proteins can be incorporated and studied in situ. This approach has already been used in looking at the bacterial toxin a-hemolysin, and will be extended to other related membrane proteins (in collaboration with A/Prof. Mitra, SBS) and synthetic biological materials (with Prof. Middelberg, University of Queensland).
  • Other projects
    • Functional foods are those that provide a health benefit beyond simple nutrition – for example cholesterol-lowering margarines. Designing functional foods relies on an understanding of their physical properties and interactions with digestive systems, which can be determined in part from their structural characteristics. With Dr Quek of Food Science work on emulsions on cholesterol-lowering food additives is underway.
    • The development of sensors for biological analytes, such as DNA, is an area of much research interest. In collaboration with Dr Travas-Sejdic and Prof Williams the structural response of biosensor-type materials to analytes can be studied in response to environmental conditions.

Teaching | Current


  • CHEM 100 / 100G
  • CHEM 110
  • CHEM 310
  • CHEM 738 - Biomolecular Chemistry

Science Scholars

  • SCISCHOL 201 - Coordinator

Postgraduate supervision

Anyone interested in joining a research project is welcome to contact me to find out more.

Current PhD students

Praveen George Vadakkedath

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Commisioner - International Union of Crystallography Small Angle Scattering Commission

Trustee - NZ Chemistry Olympiad Trust

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Kihara, S., van der Heijden, N. J., Seal, C. K., Mata, J. P., Whitten, A. E., Köper I, & McGillivray, D. J. (2019). Soft and Hard Interactions between Polystyrene Nanoplastics and Human Serum Albumin Protein Corona. Bioconjugate chemistry, 30 (4), 1067-1076. 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.9b00015
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Chris Seal
  • Mansel, B. W., Irani, A. H., Ryan, T. M., McGillivray, D. J., Chen, H.-L., & Williams, M. A. K. (2019). Resolving solution conformations of the model semi-flexible polyelectrolyte homogalacturonan using molecular dynamics simulations and small-angle x-ray scattering. The European physical journal. E, Soft matter, 42 (2)10.1140/epje/i2019-11776-0
  • Shahlori, R., McDougall, D. R., Mata, J. P., & McGillivray, D. J. (2018). Effect of acid molecules on biomimetic mineralisation of calcium phosphate and carbonate within biopolymer films using small angle neutron scattering. PHYSICA B-CONDENSED MATTER, 551, 297-304. 10.1016/j.physb.2018.09.003
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Danny McDougall
  • Baek, P., Mata, J. P., Sokolova, A., Nelson, A., Aydemir, N., Shahlori, R., ... Travas-Sejdic, J. (2018). Chain shape and thin film behaviour of poly(thiophene)-graft-poly(acrylate urethane). Soft matter, 14 (33), 6875-6882. 10.1039/c8sm00777b
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: David Barker, Jadranka Travas-Sejdic
  • Shahlori, R., McDougall, D. R., Waterhouse, G. I. N., Yao, F., Mata, J. P., Nelson, A. R. J., & McGillivray, D. J. (2018). Biomineralization of Calcium Phosphate and Calcium Carbonate within Iridescent Chitosan/Iota-Carrageenan Multilayered Films. Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids, 34 (30), 8994-9003. 10.1021/acs.langmuir.8b00434
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Geoffrey Waterhouse, Danny McDougall
  • Kavuri, H. A., Fukuda, T., Takahira, K., Takahashi, A., Kihara, S., McGillivray, D. J., & Willmott, G. (2018). Electrospray-deposited vanadium oxide anode interlayers for high-efficiency organic solar cells. Organic Electronics, 57, 239-246. 10.1016/j.orgel.2018.03.017
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Geoff Willmott
  • Xu, A. Y., Melton, L. D., Ryan, T. M., Mata, J. P., Rekas, A., Williams, M. A. K., & McGillivray, D. J. (2018). Effects of polysaccharide charge pattern on the microstructures of β-lactoglobulin-pectin complex coacervates, studied by SAXS and SANS. Food Hydrocolloids, 77, 952-963. 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2017.11.045
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Laurence Melton
  • Mbenza, N. M., Vadakkedath, P. G., McGillivray, D. J., & Leung, I. K. H. (2017). NMR studies of the non-haem Fe(II) and 2-oxoglutarate-dependent oxygenases. Journal of inorganic biochemistry, 177, 384-394. 10.1016/j.jinorgbio.2017.08.032
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ivanhoe Leung, Mbenza Mbambi Naasson, Praveen Vadakkedath, Jonathan Sperry


Contact details

Alternative contact

Associate Dean email address:

Office hours

Office hours by appointment

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 9, Room 951
New Zealand

Secondary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 6, Room 649
New Zealand

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