Dr Matt Baker is a Scientia Research Fellow in the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of New South Wales.
Matt completed his DPhil in Physics at Oxford University as a John Monash Scholar studying the bacterial flagellar motor that makes nearly all bacteria swim. Subsequently Matt investigated protein transport in Oxford's Department of Biochemistry, in particular the bacterial twin arginine transporter (TAT) using cell imaging and artificial bilayer systems. Upon his return to Australia in 2013, Matt focussed primarily on how simple subunit interactions govern assembly of complex architectures, including the rotor (NSMB 2016) and filament (eLife 2017). The next question is how this complexity emerged. To begin addressing this, Matt's nascent group at UNSW looks at how ion selectivity changes using directed evolution (Mol Micro 2019) to examine the evolutionary landscape that constrains the adaptation of the motor.
Matt also investigates force sensitive proteins that change confirmation to activate ion channels (Channels 2019). These are essential at all scales of life, in bacteria to respond to osmotic shock and in mammals in the sense of touch and hearing and are involved in cancer progression and arthritis. This is in collaboration with Prof Boris Martinac of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and Dr Kate Poole within the School of Medicine at UNSW, and A/Prof Bailong Xiao at Tsinghua University. Matt has been an active delegate and panel chair at the Australia-China Youth Dialogue since 2015, and has active collaborations at Tsinghua, Beida, and SUSTech in Beijing and Shenzhen. In collaboration with Dr Shelley Wickham, we probe membrane dynamics and interactions using novel DNA nanotechnology (Nanoscale 2019), with the ultimate goal to control membrane communication using de novo DNA nanotechnology.
Matt also has a love of radio: he was a Top 5 Under 40 Scientist in Residence at the ABC in 2015 and has continued since then as the regular science presenter on Nightlife, broadcast on ABC Local across Australia, and by producing content for the Health Report, Science Show, Saturday Extra and Earshot on ABC's Radio National. He also has applied his data skills to journalism; he was Australia's inaugural Google Newslab Fellow in 2016 when he was embedded at the Sydney Morning Herald.