Dr Maxine McCall

Dr Maxine McCall.

Dr Maxine McCall: exploring the human health and environmental impacts of nanotechnology

Dr Maxine McCall's nanosafety research team is working to ensure Australia captures the benefits of nanotechnology in a safe and socially responsible way.

  • 13 August 2008 | Updated 6 June 2013

In this article

  1. Overview
  2. Publishing History


Page 1 of 2

Current activities

Dr Maxine McCall is currently leading CSIRO's efforts to assess the safety aspects of nanomaterials.

She leads a team of scientists looking into the human health and environmental impacts of nanotechnology applications with a focus on:

  • analysing the life-cycles of nanoparticles to identify where humans and the environment may be at risk from exposure
  • monitoring workplace exposure to nanoparticles
  • determining the impact on human health upon workplace exposure, and from use of products containing nanomaterials
  • determining the fate and transport of nanoparticles in the environment 
  • determining nanoparticle toxicity to ecosystems in soil and water
  • fully characterising the properties of nanoparticles and determining the nanoparticle metrics associated with any toxic effect
  • developing a set of human and environmental predictive models for the toxicological effects of nanomaterials
  • developing safer nanomaterials when required.


Dr McCall has more than 30 years of research experience in molecular structure, molecular biology and nanotechnologies, with specific areas of expertise in the following areas:

  • molecular structure: X-ray and neutron crystallography of small molecules, proteins, nucleic acids, and inorganic materials; detailed knowledge of DNA structure and properties dependent on base sequence
  • molecular biology: design, synthesis and use of synthetic oligonucleotides in molecular biology; cancer diagnostics; DNA methylation; transgenic animals
  • nanotechnologies: methods for attaching synthetic DNA to nanoparticles including carbon nanotubes; DNA-directed assembly of nanoparticles
  • nanosafety: detection of nanoparticles in complex matrices; correlation of cellular toxicity with nanomaterial properties; nanoparticles in sunscreen.

Prior to joining CSIRO in 1989 Dr McCall enjoyed a distinguished academic career including postdoctoral fellowships with Cambridge University and Leeds University in the United Kingdom (UK), and as a Research Associate at The University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Academic qualifications

Dr McCall has been awarded a:

  • Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Physical and Inorganic Chemistry, Flinders University, South Australia
  • Doctor of Philosophy in X-ray Crystallography, also from Flinders University.


Dr McCall has authored more than 50 publications and has been awarded five patents. Her achievements include:

  • correlation of crystal structures with solution data to determine the structure of G/C-rich DNA. The results challenged the accepted dogma that all DNA molecules have the Watson-Crick 'B-DNA' structure in solution. Publication in Nature
  • development of minizymes and DNA-armed ribozymes with enhanced catalytic activity. This work contributed to the successful development of minizymes resulting in transfer of the technology from CSIRO to Gene Shears Pty Ltd
  • development of a novel DNA microarray with improved specificity for DNA hybridisation
  • leadership of an Australian consortium that combined substantial information to the OECD Sponsorship Program to determine the safety of manufactured nanomaterials.

Read more about Understanding nanosafety.