Prof. Rory Duncan
- +44 (0)131 451 3414
- Room F10 John Muir Building Heriot-Watt University
Roles and responsibilities
Senior Academic Lead for Strategy and Development, Heriot-Watt University
My immediate research focus is on regulated secretion and membrane fusion. Over the last decade, we have established a series of cutting-edge functional and super-resolution imaging techniques that address membrane trafficking in living cells in real-time. This has led to a number of high-profile publications in the current REF period in international Journals including Nature, the EMBO Journal, Current Biology, Nature Communications and Cell. Much of this work was established using cell-lines and as such was technically advanced, but somewhat limiting in terms of cell biology discovery science.
Thus, at present, this research is being extended to use primary, human donor material – pancreatic islets. Islets are the multicellular organoid structures that synthesise and secrete insulin and other hormones, and if this becomes misregulated, it leads to Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
I work within a growing international collaboration with US, Canadian (Edmonton and Toronto), EU and Korean partners with privileged access to healthy, and Type 1 Diabetic islets. My focus for the next 5 years therefore is to quantify in 4-dimensions, the dynamics and interactions of SNARE proteins and other accessory factors in diseases such as diabetes and also in fundamental studies of autophagy. I employ a range of molecular biology, biochemical and optical imaging and spectroscopy approaches; the latter including world-leading super-resolution and functional imaging spectroscopies. This work is presently being extended with mathematicians and computer scientists to use machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to predict the performance of pancreatic islets in vivo.
- A catch-and-release approach to selective modification of accessible tyrosine residues. Allan C, Kosar M, Burr CV, Mackay CL, Duncan RR, Hulme AN. ChemBioChem. 2018 Sep 13. doi: 10.1002/cbic.201800532. [Epub ahead of print].
- EnLightenment: High resolution smartphone microscopy as an educational and public engagement platform. Wicks LC, Cairns GS, Melnyk J, Bryce S, Duncan RR, Dalgarno PA. Wellcome Open Res. 2017 Nov 6;2:107. doi: 10.12688/wellcomeopenres.12841.2. eCollection 2017.
- Cylindrical microlensing for enhanced collection efficiency of small pixel SPAD arrays in single-molecule localisation microscopy. Gyongy I, Davies A, Gallinet B, Dutton NAW, Duncan RR, Rickman C, Henderson RK, Dalgarno PA. Opt Express. 2018 Feb 5;26(3):2280-2291. doi: 10.1364/OE.26.002280.
- Glyoxal as an alternative fixative to formaldehyde in immunostaining and super-resolution microscopy. Richter KN, Revelo NH, Seitz KJ, Helm MS, Sarkar D, Saleeb RS, D'Este E, Eberle J, Wagner E, Vogl C, Lazaro DF, Richter F, Coy-Vergara J, Coceano G, Boyden ES, Duncan RR, Hell SW, Lauterbach MA, Lehnart SE, Moser T, Outeiro TF, Rehling P, Schwappach B, Testa I, Zapiec B, Rizzoli SO. EMBO J. 2018 Jan 4;37(1):139-159. doi: 10.15252/embj.201695709. Epub 2017 Nov 16.
- SAF-A Regulates Interphase Chromosome Structure through Oligomerization with Chromatin-Associated RNAs. Nozawa RS, Boteva L, Soares DC, Naughton C, Dun AR, Buckle A, Ramsahoye B, Bruton PC, Saleeb RS, Arnedo M, Hill B, Duncan RR, Maciver SK, Gilbert N. Cell. 2017 Jun 15;169(7):1214-1227.e18. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.05.029.
- Navigation through the Plasma Membrane Molecular Landscape Shapes Random Organelle Movement. Dun AR, Lord GJ, Wilson RS, Kavanagh DM, Cialowicz KI, Sugita S, Park S, Yang L, Smyth AM, Papadopulos A, Rickman C, Duncan RR. Curr Biol. 2017 Feb 6;27(3):408-414. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.12.002. Epub 2017 Jan 12.
- Tryptophan and Non-Tryptophan Fluorescence of the Eye Lens Proteins Provides Diagnostics of Cataract at the Molecular Level. Gakamsky A, Duncan RR, Howarth NM, Dhillon B, Buttenschön KK, Daly DJ, Gakamsky D. Sci Rep. 2017 Jan 10;7:40375. doi: 10.1038/srep40375.
- Bimodal dynamics of granular organelles in primary renin-expressing cells revealed using TIRF microscopy. Buckley C, Dun AR, Peter A, Bellamy C, Gross KW, Duncan RR, Mullins JJ. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2017 Jan 1;312(1): F200-F209. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00384.2016. Epub 2016 Nov 9.
- Smart-aggregation imaging for single molecule localisation with SPAD cameras. Gyongy I, Davies A, Dutton NA, Duncan RR, Rickman C, Henderson RK, Dalgarno PA. Sci Rep. 2016 Nov 23;6:37349. doi: 10.1038/srep37349.
- Automated single particle detection and tracking for large microscopy datasets. Wilson RS, Yang L, Dun A, Smyth AM, Duncan RR, Rickman C, Lu W. R Soc Open Sci. 2016 May 18;3(5):160225. doi: 10.1098/rsos.160225. eCollection 2016 May.
Rory Duncan (University Senior Academic Lead for Strategy and Development) was founding Head of the Institute of Biological chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering at Heriot-Watt University, applying advances in EPS to life science challenges. He is PI and Co-Director of the Edinburgh super-resolution imaging consortium (ESRIC, www.esric.org) with support from MRC/BBSRC/EPSRC and the Wellcome Trust, developing and applying super-resolution imaging modalities. This programme of work was awarded the Times Higher ‘STEM Research Project of the Year 2018/18’.
Rory’s work spans many Disciplines and he has publications in leading biology, chemistry, engineering and physics journals, and he holds multiple patents. Rory sits on and is ad hocChair of STFC Science Board, the principal scientific advisory committee providing strategic oversight on all research activities for that Research Council and is part of the Accelerator International Strategic Review Panel, shaping strategy for the next 25 years. He is a member of the Scottish Parliamentary Cross-Party Group for Life Sciences.
Rory has won several awards for science communication and was awarded the Royal Society of Edinburgh Senior Medal for Public Engagement in 2018 for his ‘passion and enormously productive advocacy for public engagement in Scotland, the UK and internationally’. His current role is as Senior Academic Lead for Strategy and Development for Heriot-Watt University, developing and implementing the instiutional 7-year Strategy between 2019-25.
Canadian Foundation for Innovation
Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland
Science & Technology Facilities Council
University of Edinburgh