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Department of Chemistry

David Phillips Fellow
Jenny completed her PhD in bioinorganic chemistry at the University of Sydney, Australia, with a brief stint at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she developed redox active platinum-based anti-cancer agents and studied their biodistribtion/metabolism within tumour models. She then became a Marie Curie Incoming International Fellow at the University of Cambridge, working with Prof Erwin Reisner to explore how biocatalysts can be exploited to generate solar fuels. In particular, she worked on developing strategies to re-wire oxidoreductases, such as the water-oxidation enzyme photosystem II, to electrodes/semiconductors/other proteins in an emerging field known as 'semi-artificial photosynthesis'. She has since been awarded a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship and started her independent group in 2018 at the Department of Chemistry. Here, she takes her takes on the re-wiring of photosynthesis to another level of complexity - in live cells!
Research interests
Semi-artificial photosynthesis, (photo)electrochemistry, bioinorganic chemistry, chemical biology, materials chemistry, 3D-printing, biofilm chemistry
Current research
Photosynthetic micro-organisms such as cyanobacterial and algae are one of the oldest and most abundant life forms on Earth. They played a profound role in tera-transforming our planet and giving rise to the complex life forms we have today. In the process, they have evolved impressive machinery for converting sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into complex organic matter. As such, scientists of all disciplines are trying to understand and exploit their complex chemistry to benefit agriculture, the environment, and even to provide clean energy.
Research in our lab aims to develop tools for understanding how photosynthesis (e.g. via photosynthetic microorganisms and components) can be re-wired to generate electricity and solar chemicals. The approach is highly multi-disciplinary and involves bridging materials chemistry with chemical biology and synthetic biology. By developing tools to understand how natural photosynthetic systems can be interfaced with synthetic materials for energy and charge transfer, the productivity of enzymes and microorganisms in general may be better harnessed in the near future to do more useful chemistry.
Applications from interested students and postdoctoral researchers to join the group are welcome.


Competing charge transfer pathways at the photosystem II–electrode interface
JZ Zhang, KP Sokol, N Paul, E Romero, R van Grondelle, E Reisner
– Nat Chem Biol
Rational wiring of photosystem II to hierarchical indium tin oxide electrodes using redox polymers
KP Sokol, D Mersch, V Hartmann, JZ Zhang, MM Nowaczyk, M Rögner, A Ruff, W Schuhmann, N Plumeré, E Reisner
– Energy & Environmental Science
Wiring of Photosystem II to Hydrogenase for Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting
D Mersch, C-Y Lee, JZ Zhang, K Brinkert, JC Fontecilla-Camps, AW Rutherford, E Reisner
– J Am Chem Soc
A Si photocathode protected and activated with a Ti and Ni composite film for solar hydrogen production.
Y-H Lai, HS Park, JZ Zhang, PD Matthews, DS Wright, E Reisner
– Chemistry (Weinheim an der Bergstrasse, Germany)
Protein film photoelectrochemistry of the water oxidation enzyme photosystem II.
M Kato, JZ Zhang, N Paul, E Reisner
– Chem Soc Rev
Influence of Equatorial and Axial Carboxylato Ligands on the Kinetic Inertness of Platinum(IV) Complexes in the Presence of Ascorbate and Cysteine and within DLD-1 Cancer Cells
CKJ Chen, JZ Zhang, JB Aitken, TW Hambley
– J Med Chem
Facile Preparation of Mono-, Di- and Mixed-Carboxylato Platinum(IV) Complexes for Versatile Anticancer Prodrug Design
JZ Zhang, P Bonnitcha, E Wexselblatt, AV Klein, Y Najajreh, D Gibson, TW Hambley
– Chemistry - A European Journal
Getting to the core of platinum drug bio-distributions: The penetration of anti-cancer platinum complexes into spheroid tumour models
JZ Zhang, NS Bryce, A Lanzirotti, CKJ Chen, D Paterson, MD de Jonge, DL Howard, TW Hambley
– Metallomics
The use of spectroscopic imaging and mapping techniques in the characterisation and study of DLD-1 cell spheroid tumour models
JZ Zhang, NS Bryce, R Siegele, EA Carter, D Paterson, MD de Jonge, DL Howard, CG Ryan, TW Hambley
– Integrative Biology (United Kingdom)
Quantitative measurement of the reduction of platinum(IV) complexes using X-ray absorption near-edge spectroscopy (XANES)
MD Hall, HL Daly, JZ Zhang, M Zhang, RA Alderden, D Pursche, GJ Foran, TW Hambley
– Metallomics : integrated biometal science
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