Researcher biography

Dr Schirra is one of the leaders of NMR-based metabolomics in Australia. He studied Chemistry at the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, and received his PhD in Biochemistry from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich (Switzerland). In 1999, he joined the University of Queensland, where he was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship of the Australian Research Council and a prestigious Queensland Smart State Fellowship. In 2009, Dr Schirra became Lecturer in the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences at UQ, and in 2012 he joined UQ's Centre for Advanced Imaging, where he leads a multidisciplinary research program in Metabolic Systems Biology and administers the Centre’s newly established facility for NMR-based metabolomics.

Dr Schirra is a Director of the Metabolomics Society, Board Member of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Magnetic Resonance, and committee member of the Australian and New Zealand Metabolomics Network. He was Co-chair of the 13th International Conference of the Metabolomics Society in Brisbane 2017. He is an editorial board member of the journal Metabolites, and regional editor of Current Metabolomics.

Dr Schirra's main field of research is Metabolic Systems Biology. He uses NMR-based metabolomics to investigate the basic principles of metabolic regulation and the role they play in fundamental biological processes, environmental change, and in the development of disease, especially obesity and cancer. His research aims to integrate metabolomics with other –omics methods and metabolic simulations.

  • NMR-based metabolomics and analytical systems biology using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and other biochemical and biophysical techniques to understand how external triggers, such as drugs, illness, mutations etc., influence and change the metabolism of a subject. Pushing the boundaries of NMR-based metabolomics by integrating the technique with genomic and proteomic methods and by expanding the toolbox of computational methods to analyse metabolomic data.
  • Metabolic regulation: characterising the role of the enzyme dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenase in metabolic regulation.
  • Clinical diagnosis: Applying NMR-based metabolomics to improve the understanding of metabolism in health and disease and to improve diagnosis. Projects include: (1) development of obesity and related diseases, (2) diagnosis of prostate cancer, (3) investigating dietary intervention in epilepsy.
  • Environmental research: the application of NMR-based metabolomics and systems biology in environmental research, specifically food security and livestock science.