Dr Helen Chappell


I was appointed as a Lecturer in Food Colloids in September 2017. With a background in chemistry and molecular biology I obtained a PhD in 2006 from the University of Cambridge (Churchill College), focussed on the computational modelling of bone graft materials. I have since held several research posts, including, most recently, a Career Development Fellowship (2013-2016) at the Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research unit (now the Elsie Widdowson Laboratory), focussing on the modelling of endogenous calcium phosphate nanoparticles found in the human gut. Prior to joining the MRC I spent 4.5 years employed as a Scientific Advisor at English Heritage where I was involved in, amongst other things, the protection of the Must Farm Bronze Age Settlement, the archaeological assessment of the new Sizewell C Nuclear Power Station, and the scientific assessment of offshore archaeology for several large wind-farm arrays off the East Anglian coast.

Research interests

My research is focused on the computational modelling of organic-inorganic interfaces in biological materials linked to nutrition, health and disease.  With particular emphasis on composite nanoparticles and colloids (important in food, nutrition and medicine), I am interested in complex structures and interactions in nutrition (e.g. nanoparticle-protein corona), nanomedicine (e.g. drug delivery) and rational biomolecular design (e.g. nutritional supplements, bioactive compound delivery, anti-infective agents).

In particular, my group is interested in:

  • Structure-function relationships of novel supplements composed of both inorganic and organic phases.
  • Interactions between small organic molecules (e.g. phytochemicals & natural bioactives) and nanoparticles used as delivery systems.
  • Large-scale molecular dynamics simulations of particles (both inorganic and organic) crossing lipid membranes.
  • Interactions of particles and molecules with intestinal mucosal proteins.
  • Molecular and atomic interactions at the interface of bacterial biofilms.
  • The effects of micronutrients on the structure and function of bone tissue and the implications for the onset of osteoporosis and other bone diseases. 

I'm very happy to speak with anyone interested in carrying out a modelling-based PhD in any of these areas. There are a number of scholarships that we can apply to for funding; in particular the Leeds Doctoral Scholarship is available as a fully funded scholarship for UK/EU students . The next deadline for application is 9th March 2018, so if you're interested do please contact me as soon as possible!


  • Ph.D, Bone Graft Materials Modelling, (Cambridge)
  • M.Phil. Modelling of Materials, (Cambridge)
  • M.Res. Biomolecular Science, (York)
  • B.Sc. (Hons), 1st Class, Chemistry, (Open)

Research groups and institutes

  • Food Colloids and Processing
  • Theoretical Modelling and Simulation

Postgraduate research opportunities

We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our research opportunities allow you to search for projects and scholarships.