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I completed a degree in Marine Zoology (Wales) then a PhD in Geology (Glasgow, Scottish Marine Biological Information) before NERC and Royal Society Fellowships at Glasgow and Leiden (Chemistry and Biochemistry) and postdoctoral research at Bristol (Biogeochemistry). I first lectured in Biogeochemistry (Newcastle) before moving to York in 2003 to establish BioArCh, an interdisciplinary grouping of Biologists, Archaeologists and Chemists with access to shared space and facilities on campus, within the Bioscience complex.
My research focuses on old proteins. I attempt to identify samples by differences in protein sequence, date samples by the extent of protein degradation and if both fail, to understand pathways of decay in archaeological materials
Collins arrived in York to form BioArCh, a joint initiative between the Departments of Biology (our labs are in S Block, Biology) Chemistry and Archaeology to further the use of biomolecular methods to tackle archaeological problems. S Block has recently seen a significant expansion of numbers with the arrival of GeneTime and Palaeo.
Collins is interested in the use of ancient proteins to solve archaeological questions. The BioArch research team has achieved breakthroughs in amino acid racemization dating (Penkman) to help date the British and European Quaternary. His team has completed major research on dairying in NE Europe from the Chalcolithic to the Early Iron Age, using new immunological based methods to detect species-specific milk proteins on pottery (with Oliver Craig).
Collins's group has also used soft-ionization mass spectrometry to detect proteins in ancient fossils, leading to the first successful sequencing of proteins from Neanderthals. His group are now using the approach to develop rapid screening for species identification (Buckley) and to detect pathological changes (Koon).