Associate Professor Tara Pukala

Tara obtained a PhD from the University of Adelaide in 2006, under the supervision of Prof John Bowie. This was followed by a postdoctoral position at the University of Cambridge, UK, working with Prof Dame Carol Robinson in the field of native mass spectrometry.

Tara returned to Australia in 2008 to her current position as a research and teaching academic in the Discipline of Chemistry at the University of Adelaide. Since 2017 she has had the role of Scientific Director of the Adelaide Proteomics Centre.


Postgraduate Students     



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Paritosh Tripathi

PhD Candidate

Having completed a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering and spent 10 odd years in the biopharmaceutical industry, it was time to know the intimate details of my love interest (read : proteins). The main objective of my study is to identify and characterise the conformational changes that take place in the protein during its manufacturing from recombinant organism to formulation as a therapeutic. The conformational changes are attributed to a number of physical and chemical processes, which are an integral part of biopharmaceutical (protein) processing e.g. shear stresses encountered during upstream (fermentation) and downstream (purification), pH, conductivity and temperature fluctuations, interaction with other impurities or chemical species which can induce structural changes, etc. The idea is to uncover the structural journey of a therapeutic protein using covalent labelling and mass spectrometry.

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In 2015 I completed a BSc Named Degree in Molecular and Drug Design with Honours and I am currently undergoing my PhD candidacy with the Pukala research group. My project focuses on using new methods to investigate the structures of transient protein complexes and peptide oligomers using crosslinking and ion mobility-mass spectrometry. My research interests include mass spectrometry, misfolding proteins and protein structure.

Henry Sanders

PhD Candidate

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I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in China and then moved to Australia for a study of a Masters degree. In 2015, I completed my Master of Science (Chemistry) at the University of Melbourne, under the supervision of Prof. Richard O'Hair. My background was to probe the mechanisms of group 11 metal promoted decarboxylation catalysis in gas-phase via multistage mass spectrometry experiments and DFT calculations. To broaden my horizon on application of mass spectrometry, I decided to join the Pukala group to undertake my PhD candidacy and change my research area to biochemistry. Now my project is to use mass spectrometry to obtain insight into DNA-DNA interactions and DNA-protein interactions.

Jiawei Li
PhD Candidate

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I completed a B.Sc in 2015, majoring in chemistry and biochemistry, and this year I am undertaking my honours project with the Pukala group. My project is focussed on the formation of triplex DNA and studying its stability and structural properties through mass spectrometry, as well as investigating the binding interactions of the triplex with small molecules.

Alex Begbie

PhD Candidate

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I completed my Bachelor's degree in Medical Science at UniSA in 2015, which I followed up with an Honours degree in Biomedical Research in 2016. I undertook several undergraduate projects in a synthetic chemistry laboratory, and joined the Pukala Research Group in 2017. The aim of my PhD project is to synthesise novel protein chemical crosslinkers for mass spectrometry analysis of peptide and lipid interactions.

Katherine Stevens

PhD Candidate


I completed a BSc (Advanced) with a double major in Biochemistry and Chemistry in 2017. Currently, I am undertaking a Master of Philosophy degree with the Pukala Group. My project focuses on the structural characterisation of venom proteins, mainly derived from venomous snakes, native to Australia. I aim to contribute to the expanding knowledge of various snake venom proteomes, and to probe higher-order structures of under-characterised minor venom proteins that may have important biomedical implications, using mass spectrometry.

Ruth Chia-De Wang
PhD Candidate


After completing a BSc (Adv) with a double major in chemistry in 2018, I decided to undertake a Master of Philosophy with the Pukala group. My project involves characterising the protein complexes found within the venom of the African Puff Adder (Bitis arietans) using crosslinking and ion mobility-mass spectrometry.

Emily Bubner

MPhil Candidate

I completed a Bachelor of Science (Molecular and drug design) in 2018, majoring in Chemistry and Biochemistry. In 2019, I decided to complete my honours degree in the Pukala lab working on the biophysical characterisation of DNA triplexes for antigene technology using mass spectrometry. Continuing on was a very easy decision for me, so I am currently back in the Pukala lab as a PhD candidate.

Jack Klose
PhD Candidate

I completed my Bachelor of Science (Advanced) majoring in Chemistry and Biochemistry during 2019. I am now in the Pukala Group undertaking a Master of Philosophy, with my project focussing on a class of pigments in plants called anthocyanins which impart red, blue and purple colours to many fruits, vegetables and flowers. My research is a collaborative venture with the Bulone Group at the Waite Insti and aims to extract high value bio-active compounds from agricultural waste products as a means to reduce food waste. This research combines my love of plants and chemistry and I find this field very exciting to work in!

River Pachulicz
MPhil Candidate

I completed my B.Sc (Advanced) in 2019 with a double chemistry major, during which I undertook several undergraduate research projects. This year I am undertaking my honours project in the Pukala group. My honours project focuses on the synthesis of mass signal amplification tag and the development of a new mass spectrometry-based assay for oligomeric inhibitor screening. My research interests include medicinal chemistry, misfolding proteins and structural determination.

Lewis McFarlane
Honours Candidate

Postdoctoral Researchers



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Blagojce completed his PhD at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute and the University of Wollongong in 2017, under the supervision of Assoc. Prof. Heath Ecroyd and Dr. Andrew Aquilina. His PhD project focused on studying the structure-function relationship of small heat-shock proteins, which are associated with numerous degenerative diseases, using native mass spectrometry. He joined the Pukala group in 2017 to investigate the role lipids play in the aggregation dynamics of alpha-synuclein using a range of mass spectrometry-based approaches.




Postgraduate Students

2018-2019  Chia-De Ruth Wang
MPhil Thesis:
Structural Investigation of Snake Venom Proteins by Mass Spectrometry

2012 - 2018  Denise Tran
PhD Thesis:
Biological and Structure Characterisation of Eukaryotic Prefoldin

2014 - 2017  Kayla Downey

MPhil Thesis: Design and Synthesis of Protein Chemical Crosslinkers: A Modular Approach

2009 - 2013  Antonio Calabrese
PhD Thesis: Characterisation of Protein Structure and Interactions; Novel Applications to the Study of Bioactive Peptides


Honours Students

2019  Jack Klose

2018  Brandt Dolic

2016  Alexander Begbie, Zoe Owens

2015  Yannii Pouferis

2014/2015  Henry Sanders

2014  Charles Whidborne

2013  Alexander Button, Michael Graetz

2012  Deanna Carmen, Tess Ferrin

2010  Nikki Good, Lam Ho, Lauren Speechley

2009  Jingjia He


Postdoctoral Researchers

2009 - 2014  Yanqin Liu

2011 - 2013  Danielle Williams