Professor Rob Field

Group Leader Molecules from Nature

Rob’s research focuses on carbohydrate chemistry and biochemistry.

He develops chemical probes and uses gene manipulation to impact carbohydrate biosynthesis and degradation pathways, thereby generating new products.

Rob’s research spans a broad range of organisms including plants, algae, bacteria and viruses. This work has resulted in a number of applications, from designer carbohydrates for functional food studies to developing diagnostics for infectious diseases.

  • Chemical and enzymatic synthesis
  • Small molecule probes
  • Glycobiology across a broad range of species

Carbohydrates play many and varied roles in biology, contributing as energy sources, structural materials, binding and signalling molecules.

In contrast to nucleic acids and proteins, carbohydrates are not template-encoded, which adds enormously to the diversity of carbohydrate structures that may be produced and imparts huge complexity to their analysis and definition of their biological function.

Research in the Field group is focused on developing and exploiting chemical tools and principles to address questions in plant and microbial carbohydrate metabolism.

Projects typically involve some combination of chemical and enzymatic synthesis, inhibitor design and assessment, biochemistry, structural biology, metabolomic, proteomic and transcriptomic analysis.

From a biology perspective, the lab work cross-Kingdom; Arabidopsis, Barley, Euglena, Streptomyces, E. coli, flu virus, the African and American trypanosome.

Selected Publications

See all of Professor Rob Field's publications


Funded PhD – ‘Bioactive sugars – sweet alternatives to antibiotics’

The early diagnosis of infectious diseases is a key step in the correct prescription of antibiotics or other medicines. As a new direction, in this project the cell surface sugars that pathogenic microorganisms use to infect animals will be exploited in novel detection methods, for infectious agents such as influenza virus and bacterial species that cause food poisoning.

Capitalising on their extensive and synergistic expertise in carbohydrate and analytical chemistry, this project will be run jointly between Rob Field’s group at the John Innes Centre and Maria Marin’s group in the School of Chemistry at UEA.

It will also will involve extensive engagement with the industrial partner Iceni Diagnostics and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, which are co-located on the Norwich Research Park along with the John Innes Centre and UEA. The project would suit an ambitious student, with a chemistry or a biochemistry background, who is keen to work across traditional discipline boundaries and at the interface with medicine. Previous experience in some aspect of carbohydrates (chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology) would be advantageous, but full training will be provided.

Informal enquiries are also welcomed for PhD positions in experimental and computational sciences for the Marie-Curie Innovative Training Network “PoLiMeR”.