Professor Duncan McGillivray

BA/BSc (Auck), BSc(Hons) (ANU), DPhil (Oxf)

Research | Current

My research involves looking at the surface structures of biological systems using surface sensitive methods, particularly neutron and X-ray scattering. The recent commissioning of the OPAL research nuclear reactor in Sydney, and the opening of the Australian Synchrotron X-ray source in Melbourne, provide world-class facilities within easy reach of Auckland. Through measurements performed at these facilities the behaviour of surfaces – and in particular biological membranes – can be studied in detail.

Current projects

  • Oxidative stress on cellular membranes
    Cellular membranes act as both a support and a gateway for biological cells, and achieve their multiple purposes through their complex compositions including lipids, proteins and sugars. When these membranes are attacked by oxidative stresses (e.g., free radicals) their behaviour changes, and this has been linked to a number of diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. By using a simpler model membrane the relationships between the membrane damage, cellular defences and disease pathologies can be investigated. This work is also related to a study on antioxidants in foods with Prof Melton of Food Science.
  • Membrane-incorporated membrane proteins
    Membrane proteins – those that function through interactions with cellular membranes – are some of the most significant functional proteins in biology, but are also some of the least well understood. The complex and highly asymmetric environment in which these proteins operate makes them challenging targets for study. Using the same model membrane system on a solid support, as above, functional membrane proteins can be incorporated and studied in situ. This approach has already been used in looking at the bacterial toxin a-hemolysin, and will be extended to other related membrane proteins (in collaboration with A/Prof. Mitra, SBS) and synthetic biological materials (with Prof. Middelberg, University of Queensland).
  • Other projects
    • Functional foods are those that provide a health benefit beyond simple nutrition – for example cholesterol-lowering margarines. Designing functional foods relies on an understanding of their physical properties and interactions with digestive systems, which can be determined in part from their structural characteristics. With Dr Quek of Food Science work on emulsions on cholesterol-lowering food additives is underway.
    • The development of sensors for biological analytes, such as DNA, is an area of much research interest. In collaboration with Dr Travas-Sejdic and Prof Williams the structural response of biosensor-type materials to analytes can be studied in response to environmental conditions.

Teaching | Current


  • CHEM 100 / 100G
  • CHEM 110
  • CHEM 310
  • CHEM 738 - Biomolecular Chemistry

Science Scholars

  • SCISCHOL 201 - Coordinator

Postgraduate supervision

Anyone interested in joining a research project is welcome to contact me to find out more.

Current PhD students

Praveen George Vadakkedath

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Commisioner - International Union of Crystallography Small Angle Scattering Commission

Trustee - NZ Chemistry Olympiad Trust

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Sabet, S., Rashidinejad, A., Melton, L. D., Zujovic, Z., Akbarinejad, A., Nieuwoudt, M., ... McGillivray, D. J. (2021). The interactions between the two negatively charged polysaccharides: Gum Arabic and alginate. Food Hydrocolloids, 112.10.1016/j.foodhyd.2020.106343
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Michel Nieuwoudt, Chris Seal
  • McDougall, D. R., Kihara, S., Reinhardt, J., Miskelly, G. M., McGillivray, D. J., & Jeffs, A. G. (2020). Biodegradable chelating agent improves the survival of early larvae for shellfish aquaculture. Aquatic Toxicology, 228.10.1016/j.aquatox.2020.105645
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Andrew Jeffs, Danny McDougall, Gordon Miskelly
  • Sabet, S., Seal, C. K., Akbarinejad, A., Rashidinejad, A., & McGillivray, D. J. (2020). "Positive-negative-negative": a colloidal delivery system for bioactive compounds. FOOD HYDROCOLLOIDS, 10710.1016/j.foodhyd.2020.105922
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Chris Seal
  • Makinde, Z. O., van der Heijden, N. J., Domigan, L. J., McGillivray, D. J., & Williams, D. E. (2020). Aligned Assembly in a 2-D Gel of a Water-Soluble Peptide. Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids, 36 (38), 11292-11302. 10.1021/acs.langmuir.0c01944
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: David Williams
  • Kihara, S., Ghosh, S., McDougall, D. R., Whitten, A. E., Mata, J. P., Köper I, & McGillivray, D. J. (2020). Structure of soft and hard protein corona around polystyrene nanoplastics-Particle size and protein types. Biointerphases, 15 (5)10.1116/6.0000404
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Danny McDougall
  • Rani, A., Kavianinia, I., De Leon-Rodriguez, L. M., McGillivray, D. J., Williams, D. E., & Brimble, M. A. (2020). Nanoribbon self-assembly and hydrogel formation from an NOctanoyl octapeptide derived from the antiparallel β-Interface of a protein homotetramer. Acta biomaterialia, 114, 233-243. 10.1016/j.actbio.2020.07.023
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: David Williams, Margaret Brimble
  • Rani, A., Kavianinia, I., Hume, P., De Leon-Rodriguez, L. M., Kihara, S., Williams, D. E., ... Hodgkiss, J. M. (2020). Directed self-assembly of peptide-diketopyrrolopyrrole conjugates - a platform for bio-organic thin film preparation. Soft matter, 16 (28), 6563-6571. 10.1039/d0sm01071e
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Margaret Brimble, Iman Kavianinia, David Williams, Juliet Gerrard
  • Sabet, S., Seal, C. K., Swedlund, P. J., & McGillivray, D. J. (2020). Depositing alginate on the surface of bilayer emulsions. FOOD HYDROCOLLOIDS, 10010.1016/j.foodhyd.2019.105385
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Chris Seal, Peter Swedlund


Contact details

Office hours

Office hours by appointment

Primary office location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 9, Room 951
New Zealand

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