Paul Barker, Associate Professor in the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry,  runs a research group with goals of design, engineering and evolution of metalloproteins. His work is multidisciplinary and with expertise in molecular biology, protein chemistry, electrochemistry and inorganic synthesis, his work ranges from understanding the structure and function of heme proteins to the evolution of enzymes that use unnatural metal cofactors for catalysis. While he takes a very fundamental approach to understanding metal-protein interactions, this is aimed at producing new electronic and catalytic proteins that could have impact in the general field of synthetic biology. Understanding how proteins manipulate electron transfer reactions will lead to novel electronic sensing systems. Generating new, orthogonal transition metal enzymes will add to existing biosynthetic pathways for the microbial production of high value or bulk chemicals in a sustainable manner. Exploring molecular evolution in a non-natural context, using metals that biology does not have access to, connects him in a small way to Darwin’s legacy.  

Paul teaches across a broad range of topics, from transition metal chemistry to protein chemistry and nanotechnology. He has a long-standing interest in, and commitment to, graduate education in general and specifically within the Cambridge system, having served for many years on Departmental, School and University Graduate Education committees.

Paul obtained his B.Sc. (Joint Honours) from Imperial College in Chemistry and Biochemistry (rather like Natural sciences but less well organised), his D. Phil. from Oxford, (Queen’s College), before being awarded an Issac Walton Killam Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. He returned to the UK to take an MRC Fellowship at the MRC Centre for Protein Engineering, which was then part of the MRC-LMB at Addenbrookes, and then obtained a BBSRC Advanced Fellowship to join the Chemistry Department where he was then appointed to his current University post. He spent 18 years as a Fellow of Downing College, where he was DoS for Chemistry for 10 of those years. He also has experience as Undergraduate and Graduate Tutor, particularly supporting and participating in Graduate Student activities.

Paul is a sports fan (ex-player), particularly rugby and cricket, but also enjoys exploring the countryside on dog walks and helps out with local conservation projects.