Most cells have an internal transport system that uses filamentous protein polymers (microtubules) as railway tracks for the movement of a whole range of different structures. These cargoes are transported by tiny motors attached to their surface, which then walk along the track. The distances travelled in most cells is small, but in nerve cells it can be a metre or more. The tracks themselves are polar, in that one end is different to the other. Unlike a car where you change gear to switch direction, the cellular cargoes have to switch the motor protein. We can see these cellular structures moving using light microscopy both in living cells, and in extracts we make from cells. We are interested in which motors move each cargo, and how they are regulated in time and space. We would also like to know how the movement of cargoes constributes to their cellular function. These molecular motors are crucial for normal cell function, and even slight decreases in their activity can lead to serious consequences for nerve cells in particular, and may contribute to motor neuron diseases and Alzheimer's disease.
I obtained a B.Sc. in Biochemistry and a D. Phil. in Cell Biology from the University of York. I then went to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, to take up a 3 year Post-Doc position with the late Thomas Kreis. I then travelled to the USA to join Ron Vale's laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco, for 2.5 years. I returned to the UK as an independent Staff Scientist in the Structural Studies division of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. From there I moved to the University of Manchester in 1994 as a Lister Institute Senior Research Fellow to start my own laboratory. I then took up a lectureship position, followed by a Senior Lectureship and professorship.