Dr Helen Chappell

Dr Helen Chappell


I was appointed as a University Lecturer in September 2017. With a background in chemistry, materials modelling and molecular biology I obtained a PhD in 2006 from the University of Cambridge (Churchill CollegeDepartment of Materials Science & Metallurgy), focussed on the computational modelling of novel bone graft materials. I have since held several research posts, including a Career Development Fellowship (2013-2016) at the Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research unit (Cambridge), focussing on the modelling of inorganic-organic interfaces of endogenous calcium phosphate nanoparticles found in the human gut. During this period I also held a College Research Associate position at Wolfson College, Cambridge. 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. I also acted as English Heritage scientific advisor for several episodes of the popular Channel 4 archaeological series Time Team.


  • Deputy Director of Postgraduate Researchers, School of Food Science & Nutrition
  • Module Leader - Food1010 Food: Origins and Form
  • Module Leader - Food3140 Appraisal of Scientific Literature

Research interests

My research is focused on the computational modelling of organic-inorganic interfaces in biological, medical and environmental materials linked to health and disease.  With particular emphasis on bacterial biofilms and biomaterials, I am interested in the formation of biological composities and the way material properties (both natural and synthetic) influence disease pathologies. 

In particular, my group is interested in:

  • Molecular and atomic interactions at the interface of bacterial biofilms, particulalry within the cystic fibrosis lung.
  • Acid demineralization of human teeth, and strategies for remineraliztion.
  • Structure, formation and treatment of kidney stones.
  • The development and effects of bacterial biofilms in contact with medical equipment. 
  • Causes and treatment of canine and human herniated spinal discs.
  • Structure-function relationships of novel iron supplements composed of both inorganic and organic phases.
  • Interactions of antiobiotic molecules with agricultural soil minerals and how these interactions affect retension and uptake by plants and lower animals.

I'm very happy to speak with anyone interested in carrying out a modelling-based PhD in any of these areas. 

Current Lab Members:

Palwinder Kaur – PGR Student

Isaac Noble – PGR Student

Yuwei Li – PGR Student 

Former Lab Members

Dr Oliver Hills – now at Cresset.

Dr Rhiannon Morris – now at the Department of Work and Pensions

Dr Yunqing Wang

Our research is highly interdisciplinary. We are connected with various experts who have complementary strengths and facilities, both within our School of Food Science and Nutrition and outside in other schools, universities and institutions:

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


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

Professional memberships

  • Member, Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Member, EPSRC Peer Review College
  • Member, NERC Peer Review College
  • Member, The Microbiology Society

Student education

  • Deputy Director of Postgraduate Researcher Students, School of Food Science & Nutrition
  • Module Leader and Lecturer on Food1010 Food: Origins and Form 
  • Module Leader Food3140 Critical Appraisal of Scientific Literature 
  • Lecturer in organic chemistry on Food1210 Physicochemical Properties of Food 
  • Research supervisor for final year undergraduate and postgraduate projects, across all degree programmes
  • Personal Academic Tutor 

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>