The University of Western Australia

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Allan McKinley

Professor Allan McKinley

Molecular Sciences, School of

Contact details
School of Molecular Sciences
The University of Western Australia (M313)
35 Stirling Highway
+61 8 6488 3165
+61 8 6488 1005
Room 211, Bayliss Building, Perth campus
BSc PhD Cant., MNZIC
Postdoc. Fellow, Univ. of Texas (Austin), 1987-1990
Assistant Professor/Dreyfus Fellow 1991-1993
Furman University, Greenville, SC, USA
Key research
Applications of spectroscopy for the detection and characterization of reactive intermediates
Theoretical modeling of the bonding in radicals Analysis and remediation of conatminated groundwater
Biological applications of Electron Spin Resonance spectroscopy
Current projects
Matrix Isolation Studies of Reactive Intermediates

In room G125 we have built a state-of-the-art apparatus for measuring the ESR spectra of molecules trapped in solid neon at 4 K. There are less than half a dozen labs with this type of equipment in the world, no other in Australia. This project would involve using this equipment to synthesize new molecules and characterize their bonding and structure. This is cutting edge work and some of our recent successes CdCH3 [1], ZnCH3 [2] and MgCH3 [3], are published in top international chemistry journals. The results of our studies are important to improve the understanding of models of chemical bonding as well as the chemical mechanisms involved in manufacturing computer chips, wear-resistant coatings, and even the chemical processes occurring in circumstellar dust clouds. Projects in this area could be experimental or involve theoretical calculations or both.
Environmental Chemistry of Contaminated Groundwater.

For some years now we have had a collaboration with Drs Greg Davis and Brad Patterson at the Land and Water division of CSIRO at Floreat. In Australia, water is a key resource. In WA much of our water reserves are underground and very vulnerable to pollution. We have studied the degradation in groundwater of BTEX hydrocarbons (from leaking petrol stations), the mobility of pesticides such as atrazine and fenamiphos in soils and this year we have been evaluating the possibility of employing a new method for remediation of contaminated groundwater using polymer-mats to introduce gaseous reagents into groundwater to promote microbial consumption of the pollutants. We have a provisional patent on this new process. As well as remediation groundwater contamined by BTEX and other votatile organics [4] we have studied denitrification of ammonium contaminated groundwater[5]. There are still many issues to clarify here and we want to extend this work to other pollutants. Projects in this area would involve either the analysis of the chemistry occurring in, or the mathematical modeling of the mass transport phenomena involved with, pilot scale test-rigs for groundwater remediation which are set up at CSIRO in Floreat.
Biological Applications of ESR Spectroscopy.

Radicals play a very important role in biology. It is thought damage from radicals could be responsible for processes such as aging and cancer. We have collaborated with Dr Rob Tuckey in Biochemistry and employed ESR on frozen samples to quantitate the redox state of the adrenodoxin in mitochondria derived from human placenta [6]. A joint project with Dr Tuckey of Biochemistry could be arranged. Also this year we have collaborated with Associate Professor Boris Martinac from Pharmacology and we have developed a new apparatus to measure the ESR spectra of proteins that have been labeled with a nitroxide radical. The label is introduced onto a specific position of the protein backbone by incorporating a cysteine residue at that position using site-directed mutagenesis then binding the nitroxide label selectively to the cycteine residues. By observing the effect on the ESR signals of adding a relaxation agents to the aqueous or lipid phase we can infer the tertiary structure of the protein. This work is only preformed by about three groups in the world [7]. We now have the technology and Associate Professor Martinac has a new ion channel protein that could be interrogated. This project would be best performed as a joint Honours project with the Department of Pharmacology.


1. Karakyriakos, E.; Davis, J. R.; Wilson, C. J.; Yates, S. A.; McKinley, A. J.; Knight, L. B. Jr.; Babb R.; Tyler, D. J. (1999) Neon and argon matrix ESR and theoretical studies of the 12CH3Cd, 12CD3Cd, 13CH3Cd, 12CH3111Cd, and 12CH3113Cd Radicals. J. Chem. Phys., 3398-3410

2. McKinley, A. J.; Karakyriakos, E.; Knight, L. B. Jr.; Babb, R.; Williams, A. (1999) Matrix isolation ESR studies of the various isotopomers of the CH3Zn and ZnH radicals; comparisons with ab initio theoretical calculations. J. Phys. Chem. A., 104, 3528-3536

3. McKinley, A. J.; Karakyriakos, E. Neon matrix isolation ESR and theoretical studies of the various isotopomers of the CH3Mg radical. J. Phys. Chem. A. accepted for publication. 10 pages.

4. Patterson, B. M.; Grassi, M. E.; Brill, M.; Davis, G. B.; McKinley, A. J. (2000) In situ bioremediation of ammonium-contaminated groundwater using a sequential oxygen/reductant gas delivery system: laboratory evaluation. accepted as a conference paper for the 2000 Contaminated Site Remediation Conference, Melbourne, 4-8 December

5. Petterson, B. M.; Davis, G. B.; McKinley, A. J. Polymer mats to remove selected VOCs, PAHs and pesticides from groundwater: laboratory column experiments. in preparation.

6. Tuckey, R. C.; McKinley, A. J.; Headlam, M. J. Oxidised adrenodoxin acts as a competitive inhibitor of cytochrome P450scc in mitochondria from human placenta. submitted.

7. See for instance, Perozo, E.; Cortes, D. M.; Cuello, L. G. (1998) Three- dimensional architecture and gating mechanism of a K+ channel studied by EPR spectroscopy. Nature Structural Biology, 5, 459-469
Research profile
Research profile and publications

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