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Tara Pukala

Dr Tara Pukala

Tara Pukala obtained a PhD from the University of Adelaide in 2006, under the supervision of Prof John Bowie. This was followed by a postdoctoral position at the University of Cambridge, UK, working with Prof Dame Carol Robinson in the field of native mass spectrometry.

Tara returned to Australia to her current role as lecturer in the Discipline of Chemistry at the University of Adelaide in 2008. Here she leads a multidisciplinary research group focused on developing new approaches, primarily utilising mass spectrometry, to investigate the structure, function and interactions of macromolecules important in biology.

More details:

  • Students
    PhD Candidate
    I did a bachelor of Health Sciences as an undergraduate and decided to venture further into my chemistry studies with honours in medicinal chemistry. My honours research was based upon the synthesis of a simplified version of liphagal, which has been found to have an inhibitory effect on the enzyme PI3K. Although my year of honours was an enjoyable experience, I decided to endeavor into a more biological side of chemistry. My future research prospects include determining the aggregation and thermal dissociation of proteins and multi-complexes through mass spectrometry.
    PhD Candidate

    Having completed a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering and spent 10 odd years in the biopharmaceutical industry, it was time to know the intimate details of my love interest (read : proteins).  The main objective of my study is to identify and characterize the conformational changes that take place in the protein during its manufacturing from recombinant organism to its formulation as a therapeutic. The conformational changes are attributed to a number of physical and chemical processes, which, are an integral part of biopharmaceutical (protein) processing e.g. shear stresses encountered during the upstream (fermentation) and downstream (purification), pH, conductivity and temperature fluctuations, interaction with other protein impurities or chemical species which can induce structural changes, etc. The idea is to uncover the secret structural journey of a therapeutic protein using covalent labelling and mass spectrometry.

    PhD Candidate

    In 2015 I completed a BSc Named Degree in Molecular and Drug Design with Honours and I am currently undergoing my PhD candidacy with the Pukala research group. My project focuses on using new methods to investigate the structures of transient protein complexes and peptide oligomers using crosslinking and ion mobility-mass spectrometry. My research interests include mass spectrometry, misfolding proteins and protein structure.


    PhD Candidate

    Jiawei Li

    PhD Candidate
    I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in China and then moved to Australia for a study of a Masters degree. In 2015, I completed my Master of Science (Chemistry) at the University of Melbourne, under the supervision of Prof. Richard O'Hair. My background was to probe the mechanisms of group 11 metal promoted decarboxylation catalysis in gas-phase via multistage mass spectrometry experiments and DFT calculations. To broaden my horizon on application of mass spectrometry, I decided to join the Pukala group to undertake my PhD candidacy and change my research area to biochemistry. Now my project is to use mass spectrometry to obtain insight into DNA-DNA interactions and DNA-protein interactions.
    MPhil Candidate
    After completing a Bachelor of Science (Molecular and Drug Design) majoring in chemistry and biochemistry in 2013, I joined the Pukala group to undertake a Masters degree. My research involves a mix of chemical synthesis and mass spectrometry, looking into the development of crosslinking-mass spectrometry as a structure determination technique for proteins. My interests include chemical synthesis, mass spectrometry and structure based drug design.
    PhD Candidate

    I completed a B.Sc in 2015, majoring in chemistry and biochemistry, and this year I am undertaking my honours project with the Pukala group. My project is focussed on the formation of triplex DNA and studying its stability and structural properties through mass spectrometry, as well as investigating the binding interactions of the triplex with small molecules.

    PhD Candidate
    I completed my Bachelor's degree in Medical Science at UniSA in 2015, which I followed up with an Honours degree in Biomedical Research in 2016. I undertook several undergraduate projects in a synthetic chemistry laboratory, and joined the Pukala Research Group in 2017. The aim of my PhD project is to synthesise novel protein chemical crosslinkers for mass spectrometry analysis of peptide and lipid interactions.
  • Postdoctoral Researchers
  • Alumni
    PhD and Masters Students
    2009 - 2013 Antonio Calabrese
    Thesis: Characterisation of Protein Structure and Interactions; Novel Applications to the Study of Bioactive Peptides
    Honours Students
    2016 Alex Begbie, Zoe Owens
    2015 Yannii Pouferis
    2014/2015 Henry Sanders
    2014 Charles Whidborne
    2013 Alexander Button, Michael Graetz
    2012 Deanna Carmen, Tess Ferrin
    2010 Nikki Good, Lam Ho, Lauren Speechley
    2009 Jingjia He
    Postdoctoral Researchers
    2009 - 2014 Yanqin Liu
    2011 - 2013 Danielle Williams
Pukala Research Group
Please direct any enquiries to:

Dr Tara Pukala
School of Physical Sciences
The University of Adelaide
SA 5005


T: +61 8 8313 5497