Dr. Laura Barter

Principle Investigator

I completed my PhD at Imperial College in the Biochemistry Department. It focused on a study of the structure function relationships within the Photosystem II reaction centre, using Time resolved fluorescence spectroscopy. I was then awarded a Royal Society University Fellowship which enabled me to set up my independent career at Imperial in the Chemistry Department. I moved focus from studying the light dependent reactions of photosynthesis to investigating the Calvin cycle, and its inefficiencies. I am particularly interested in developing novel chemical tools and technologies to enhance photosynthetic efficiency, and increase crop yield. This involves some exciting collaborations with industry partners, e.g. Syngenta.

Outside of my research, I love the outdoors – walking in the countryside (particularly climbing up mountains), and running too. I have two young children, who I adore, and who keep me busy when I am at home!! When I have time, I really enjoy going to the theatre too.

Dr. Ainul Zulkepli

Postdoctoral Research Associate, The President’s Excellence Fund for Frontier Research 

I am a postdoctoral research associate in the Barter group and my current research at Imperial is focusing on exploring the potential application of biomimetic compounds as novel agro-chemicals to improve photosynthesis. I am also the project manager for AGRI-net and the Agri Futures Lab. I was born and raised in Malaysia where I did my undergraduate study in Biomedical Science. I moved to the UK in 2012 to do my PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Bristol where I studied the structural mechanistic of post-translational modification enzymes in polyketide biosynthesis.

Email: a.zulkepli@imperial.ac.uk

Dr. Felix Sheffield

Postdoctoral Research Associate (joint with Professor Oscar Ces), Syngenta

I completed my PhD in 2023 as part of the Chemical Biology CDT at Imperial College London and in collaboration with Syngenta. My project focussed on the utility of rapid prototyping and fabrication techniques to develop translational technology platforms for conducting in vitro label-free permeability assays in droplet interface bilayers. This work has continued into my Post Doctoral Research Associate position, funded by Syngenta, working with both Professor Oscar Ces and Dr Laura Barter at Imperial College. This project aims to improve upon current techniques in early stage screening for lead generation in the agrochemical development pipeline.

Tom Wells

3rd year Ph.D. student, ICB CDT programme

I joined the group in 2019 as a PhD student as part of the MRes/PhD Centre for Doctoral training program from the Institute of Chemical Biology, after completing a BSc in Biochemistry at the University of York. I have previously worked on characterisation of algal proteins and automating ADME assays. My current work focuses on the further characterising the carbon fixing enzyme Rubisco and testing compounds to increase photosynthetic efficiency.  

Tom Kitto

2nd year Ph.D. student (joint with Dr Yuval Elani, Dr Nazila Kamaly and Professor Oscar Ces),  ICB CDT programme, co-funded by Syngenta

I'm Tom Kitto, a PhD student of Laura's in the Institute of Chemical biology CDT. My project seeks to mimic the plant cell wall in bottom-up synthetic biology systems. This would then be applied in permeation studies to help design more powerful agrochemicals for the future! 

I've come from a Chemical Engineering Master's at the University of Bath, having worked in novel QR code printing in Australia just before COVID. I've also studied in Montreal, Canada, during my undergrad. I enjoy fencing.

Catherine Parry

2nd year Ph.D. student (joint with Dr. Richard Gill and Professor Colin Turnbull)

I am a second year (departmentally funded) DTP-PhD student supervised by Dr. Richard Gill, Dr. Laura Barter and Prof. Colin Turnbull. I am from West Wales and studied BSc Biology at Bath University before coming to Imperial. My project is exploring the use of hyperspectral imaging technology to identify bioindicators of pollination using Arabidopsis and Oilseed rape. My long-term aim is to develop a remote sensing technology for the detection of pollination deficits in the field, allowing farmers and land managers to improve crop yields through optimising pollination.

In my spare time I enjoy being outdoors, hiking and running, and refuelling with coffee and cake with friends.

Karen Zhu

2nd year Ph.D. student (joint with Dr Yuval Elani and Professor Oscar Ces),  ICB CDT programme

I'm Karen, a 2nd year PhD student on the ICB CDT funded by the EPSRC, supervised by Dr. Yuval Elani, Prof. Oscar Ces, and Dr. Laura Barter. Having completed an MSci in Chemistry, I continued my study with an MRes and now a PhD all at Imperial. My project focuses on creating stimuli-responsive liposome-based systems to trigger downstream reactions and cascades, which can be used as drug delivery systems or as synthetic organelles. In my spare time, I like to hang out with friends and binge-watch tv shows & dramas.

Sarah Chapman

1st year Ph.D. student (joint with Dr Maxie Roessler),  ICB CDT programme, co-funded by Syngenta

I’m Sarah, from the flatlands of Norfolk, and I completed my chemistry undergraduate at the University of Manchester. In my final year simulated EPR spectra (specifically DEER) of multi-spin [3]- and [4]- rotaxanes to predict their structures in frozen solution (supervised by Prof. E. McInnes and Dr A. Bowen). Over the course of my Ph.D., I will be investigating the photodegradation of agrochemicals on plant leaf surfaces using EPR spectroscopy, with the aim of using this information to improve sustainability of agrochemicals. In my spare time, I like to play trumpet and piano, and read novels (when time permits)!

Isaac Biney

MRes student

I completed my BSc in Biochemistry at the University of Manchester. I am now doing an MRes in Chemical Biology and Bioentrepreneurship. I am on a scholarship from the Chemistry Department at Imperial. My project is based on elucidating the effects of elevated CO2 on photosynthesis. In my spare time I enjoy to play and watch football (I am a big Arsenal fan!).

Zak Elliott

MRes student (joint with Professor Matthew J. Fuchter),  ICB CDT programme, co-funded by Syngenta

I am currently in the first year of a 1+3 PhD program with the ICB CDT. My project is investigating the use of photoswitches (e.g. azobenzene) to gain insight into factors such as agrochemical permeability and transport, while developing light-based approaches for plant chemical biology. 

I previously completed a BSc in Chemistry at Queen Mary University of London, before an MRes in the department of Bioengineering at Imperial. In my spare time I like to go to the gym, read a good book, cook and watch a bit of football.

Sean Nwachukwu

MRes student (joint with Professor Nicholas Long and Dr. Rudiger Woscholski), ICB CDT programme, co-funded by Syngenta

My name is Sean Nwachukwu and I am an MRes + PhD student at the Institute of Chemical Biology EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training.  

My PhD project involves the development and testing of novel water-soluble biomimetics, with the aim of improving the efficiency of photosynthesis, thus improving crop yield without necessitating extra farming space. 

I’m from Hertfordshire and my family are originally from Nigeria (Igbo tribe). Previously I did an Integrated master’s degree in ‘Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry’ at the University of St Andrews. In my spare time, I look for literally any excuse to socialise, I like to travel, watch Formula 1 (Ferrari fan) & Football (Chelsea fan), and write poems and screenplays for films and TV shows.


Ruairí Conlon

MSci Student

Hi, my name is Ruairí and I come from County Tyrone in Ireland. I started my undergraduate at Imperial in 2019, studying Chemistry with Molecular Physics. My MSci project involves studying  the plant Arabidopsis grown at different concentrations of CO2. In collecting the growth data, I’m measuring a number of parameters including leaf area, protein content, sugar content, chlorophyll content and looking at the effect of different concentrations. Most of my spare time is spent training for triathlon, reading or playing table tennis.

Allanah Hibbert

MSci Student

I grew up in Shropshire and moved to London in 2019 to study Chemistry at Imperial College London. I am now completing my final year MSci project with Laura Barter. My project focuses on the enzyme Rubisco which I purify from Spinach and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. I am then continuing efforts to characterise it, with a particular focus on its hydrophobic properties using Hydrophobic Interaction Chromatography to investigate its elution profile. 

In my spare time, I enjoy running (when it's a bit warmer) and dream of one day owning a dog!