Portrait image of Dr Tara Sutherland.

Dr Tara Sutherland

Dr Tara Sutherland: researching advanced biomimetic materials

Dr Tara Sutherland is developing new biomimetic materials by researching naturally occurring structural proteins from insects and other invertebrates.

  • 30 July 2009 | Updated 16 May 2014

In this article

  1. Overview
  2. Publishing History


Page 1 of 2

Current activities

Dr Sutherland is Leader for the Biomimetic Materials team at CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences. She is developing new materials based on naturally occurring structural proteins from insects and other invertebrates.

By using systematics to group naturally produced materials, she is able to identify previously uncharacterised materials, primarily focusing on silks, protective egg cases and prey capture threads.

Her group uses proteomics and transcriptomic approaches to identify the genes involved in material synthesis, protein chemistry and biochemistry to characterise the materials, and molecular biology to reproduce them artificially.

The team uses evolutionary biology to identify conserved features within groups or convergently evolved features between groups.

This information guides the design of new materials that incorporate design features of the natural materials.

The aim of this research is to develop programmable materials for advanced material development.


Dr Sutherland completed her Doctorate at ANU, before taking a Postdoctoral Research Associate position at the Department of Entomology, University of Arizona, United States of America (USA) from 1994-97.

At the end of 1997, Dr Sutherland returned to CSIRO as a Postdoctoral Fellow working on discovery and optimisation of enzymes for the bioremediation of pesticides, particularly endosulfan, organophosphates, pyrethroids, carbamates and atrazine.

More recently she moved from catalytic proteins to structural proteins. She now focuses on developing the use of proteins for materials science.

Academic qualifications

After completing her Master of Science, Dr Sutherland received her Doctorate in Insect Molecular Genetics and Physiology from the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia in 1994.

Her doctoral thesis was titled Regulation of juvenile hormone synthesis in Lucilia cuprina.

Learn more about our research with Bioindustries in CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences.