Professor Simon J McQueen-Mason
CNAP Director and Chair in Materials Biology



2014 - present CNAP Director Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), Department of Biology, University of York 
2001 - 2013 Chair in Materials Biology Centre for Novel Agricultural Products, Department of Biology, University of York 
1994 - 2002 Royal Society University Research Fellow Department of Biology, University of York
1993 - 1994 Post-doctoral Research Assistant The Pennsylvania State University
1993 PhD (Plant Physiology) The Pennsylvania State University
1987 BSc Biology (CNAA) Honours (1st Class) Portsmouth Polytechnic School of Biological Sciences   



Research encompasses various aspects of plant cell wall biology. The cell wall plays a key role in the control of plant growth and morphogenesis by regulating the rates of cell expansion through changes in extensibility. Plant cell wall extensibility is under dynamic control and the molecular mechanisms underlying extension are a major research interest. Expansins are key proteins that regulate cell wall extensibility and we study these proteins at the level of biochemistry and molecular genetics. The cell wall is a complex fibre composite material composed of a range of different polysaccharides. We study the contribution of different matrix polysaccharides to cell wall extensibility and elasticity, as well as the genes and enzymes involved in their biosynthesis.

Plant biomass is one of the greatest reserves of fixed carbon on the planet, is viewed as a potential replacement for fossil fuels, and is largely composed of cell walls. We are using our knowledge of cell walls to advance the development of second generation liquid biofuels from plant biomass in three distinct areas. Firstly, we are coordinating a large international project, which aims to optimise plant cell walls for biofuel applications by making them more readily converted into fermentable sugars for alcohol production. Secondly, we have initiated a major programme for the discovery of novel enzymes for converting plant biomass into fermentable sugars. Finally, we are investigating the production of liquid biofuels from plant biomass from municipal waste.

Current projects


  • Mulitipurpose hemp for industrial bioproducts (Funding body: European Commission)
  • Lignocellulosic Biorefinery Network (LBNet) (Funding body: BBSRC)
  • Learning from marine wood borers: enzymes and mechanisms of lignocellulosic digestion. (Funding body: BBSRC)
  • Mannitol metabolism in marine algae: physiology and applications. (Funding body: Leverhulme Trust)
  • MaxBio- maximising conversion yields of biomass sugars in biorefining. (Funding body: BBSRC)


Research group(s)

Research Team Leader Dr Leonardo Gomez

Mulitpurpose hemp for industrial bioproducts and biomass.

LBNet NIBB Manager Dr Veronica Ongaro LBNet 
Technical Specialist/Lab Manager Dr Clare Steele-King Learning from marine wood borers.
Post Doctoral Researcher Dr Katrin Besser Learning from marine wood borers 
Post Doctoral Researcher Dr Alexandra Lanot Multipurpose hemp for industrial bioproducts and biomass. 
Post Doctoral Researcher Dr Federico Sabbadin Learning from marine wood borers.
Senior Technician Luisa Elias Learning from marine wood borers. 
Senior Technician Rachael Simister Multipurpose hemp for industrial bioproducts and biomass.
PhD student  Giovanna Pesante Learning from marine woodborers. (Jointly supervised by Prof Neil Bruce.)
PhD student Lynda Sainty

Anaerobic digestion of low-input upland grasslands. (Jointly supervised by Prof Chris Thomas.)

PhD student Nurashikin Ihsan  Targeted analysis of lignocellulolytic secretomes-a new approach to enzyme discovery.
PhD student Daniel Upton In silico guided metabolic engineering of the filamentous fungus Aspergillus niger for sustainable organic acid production. (Jointly supervised by  Dr Jamie Wood.)
PhD student Aritha Dornau Producing renewable fuels and chemicals from municipal solid waste. (Jointly supervised by Dr Gavin Thomas.)
PhD student Juliana Sanchez Alponti Discovery of novel enzymes with lignocellulosic activity from a salt marsh environment. (Jointly supervised by Professor Neil Bruce.)
PhD student Daniel Leadbeater Bioprospecting lignocellulolytic enzymes from salt marsh ecosystems. (Jointly supervised by Professor Neil Bruce.) 
PhD student Rachael Evans Evolving microbial communities for biofuel production. (Jointly supervised by Professor Neil Bruce and Professor Mike Brockhurst.) 
PhD student Nicola Oates Proteomic analysis of the microbial degradation of lignocellulose. (Jointly supervised by Prof Neil Bruce.) 
MSc (by research) student Duong Nguyen Developing feedstock and products for straw-based biorefineries.
Research Administrator Julia Crawford  
Professor Simon J McQueen-Mason

Contact details

Prof. Simon J McQueen-Mason
CNAP Director and Chair in Materials Biology
Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), Department of Biology
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 328775