Professor Alastair McEwan

PVC - Researcher Development

Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation)
+61 7 336 53559


Alastair McEwan is Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Queensland. He holds a BSc(Hons) in Biochemistry from the University of Leeds and a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Birmingham. Following periods as a research fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (SERC NATO Postdoctoral Fellowship) and the University of Oxford (Royal Society 1983 University Research Fellowship) he was appointed to a lectureship at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. He joined the University of Queensland in 1993 and was appoined Professor of Microbiology in 2003. Professor McEwan's research interests include bacterial physiology and bioenergetics, redox biology, biochemistry of metalloproteins, chemical biology of transition metals, bacterial pathogenesis and host-pathogen interactions.

For more information on specific research themes, see Research Interests.

Research Interests

  • Biocatalysis:
    structure and mechanism of action of bacterial molybdenum enzymes, particularly dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) reductase and dimethylsulfide dehydrogenase. This research involves site-directed mutagenesis and directed evolution studies in conjunction with spectroscopic, electrochemical and structural studies. Molybdenum enzymes of the DMSO reductase family have a key role in removal of the toxic oxoanions of arsenic and selenium and chlorine. These are collaborative projects with Dr Graeme Hanson (Centre for Magnetic Resonance) and Dr Paul Bernardt (Chemistry).
  • Biotechnology:
    physiology, biochemistry and molecular ecology of thermophilic archaea involved in the bioleaching of mineral sulfides. We are investigating the mechanism of ferrous iron oxidation and sulfur oxidation by these organisms which grow optimally at around pH2 and a temperature > 70�C. The leaching of iron sulfides by microorganisms is of major importance in the recovery of base metals such as copper, zinc and nickel. This work involves collaboration with Dr Lindsay Sly.
  • Regulation of Gene Expression:
    mechanism of action of sensor histidine kinase involved in the sensing of oxygen and electron acceptors involved in anaerobic respiration. At present we are investigating the Prr system of Rhodobacter sphaeroides, a sensory system that monitors the redox state of the electron transport chain and DorS, a sensor of dimethylsulfoxide.
  • Metals and Bacterial Pathogenicity:
    acquisition of metal cations from the host is a critical aspect of bacterial pathogenicity. Using a combination of molecular genetics and genomics, biochemistry and cell biology we are investigating mechanisms of iron acquisition, the role of copper-binding proteins in bacterial pathogenicity and the importance of manganese in resistance to oxidative killing. A major aim of this work is to identify targets for vaccine production of targets for novel antibiotics. This work involves collaboration with Dr Michael Jennings.


  • PhD, University of Birmingham
  • Bachelor of Science, University of Leeds


View all Publications


Featured Publications

Book Chapter

  • Djoko, Karrera Y., Achard, Maud E. S. and McEwan, Alastair G. (2013). Copper in immune cells. Metals in Cells. (pp. 409-420) edited by Valeria Culotta and Robert A. Scott. Hoboken, New Jersey, USA: John Wiley & Sons. doi: 10.1002/9781119951438

  • McEwan, A. G., Kappler, U. and Mc Devitt, C. (2004). Microbial molybdenum-containing enzymes in respiration: Structural and functional aspects. Respiration in Archaea and Bacteria. (pp. 176-202) edited by D. Zannoni. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Note for students: Professor Alastair McEwan is not currently available to take on new students.

Current Supervision

Completed Supervision