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Latest research news

Architectures of the nanoworld

October, 2015

Markus joined the School in June this year as a lecturer in polymer and physical chemistry. His research emphasises on the design and study of macromolecules with a strong focus on elaborate polymeric architectures, such as cylindrical polymer brushes (CPBs), which can be subsequently used in template chemistry, sensing and biomedical applications. Read more.


Sydney chemist wins ABC science communication prize

October, 2015

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Dr Alice Williamson, was named one of ABC’s RN and UNSW’s ‘Top 5 Under 40’ - a nationwide competition to find the next generation of passionate science communicators.  Read more.


Collaborative research to study vanadium anti-diabetic drugs

October, 2015

Professor Debbie Crans and Professor Peter Lay receive the University of Sydney’s International Research Collaboration Award.

Professor Crans is Professor Laureate, College of Natural Sciences & Professor of Chemistry and Cell and Molecular Biology at the Colorado State University in the USA. She has been at the forefront of vanadium biochemistry for several decades and will spend three weeks within the School of Chemistry from October 19th to November 6th to establish collaborations with Peter Lay, who has complementary expertise in this field. Read more.

Exoplanets and alien life

October, 2015

An insight into NASA’s International Astrobiology Conference on the theme of Habitability, Habitable Worlds, and Life

To say this conference was epic would be an understatement. Topics ranged from individual molecules to entire galaxies, and touched on everything in between, including questions (and answers) about Life, the Universe, and Everything. It swept across disciplines, time, countries, and scale, and left behind a sea of ideas. Read more.

First 3D printed fiber optics

October, 2015

A team of researchers at the University of Sydney, led by Professor John Canning, may have been the first to create fiber optics with 3D printing.  Read more.
A bright future for AINST

October, 2015

Nanoscience is revolutionising our world, so to discover and harness new science at the nanoscale, the University has built the Sydney Nanoscience Hub (SNH), part of its new Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology (AINST).  It is our University’s latest step in the creation of a new breed of flexible, interdisciplinary institutes that are devoted to bringing the best people and infrastructure together in the support of frontier research. Read more.

Revealing the distribution of the atoms within individual bimetallic catalyst nanoparticles

April, 2015

From sunscreen to optoelectronics, sensors, catalysis and drug delivery, nanometer-scale particles are important in a rapidly growing range of applications. Important commercial examples of nanoparticles are metallic catalysts. Nanostructuring of catalytic metals allows catalytic reactivity to can be greatly enhanced and the selectivity strongly influenced. Multimetallic particles offer even greater scope for fine-tuning.  Read more.

Fascinating world of sugar

April, 2015

We often hear someone saying, ‘I want to reduce my sugar intake!’ or we always look for sugar contents on food products at the supermarket. Why are we so worried about sugar, is sugar really that bad? It’s not all bad!   Read more.

Unlocking the secrets of crystals

April, 2015

A/Prof Chris Ling and his students use crystallography to discover and improve new solid-state materials for energy conversion and storage devices – and even when their experiments fail, they still make pretty pictures.  Read more.

3D printing enables a smartphone's transformation into a dual spectrometer

April, 2015

A project conducted by researchers in the interdisciplinary Photonics Laboratory (iPL), the School of Chemistry and the School of Electrical and Information Engineering at The University of Sydney, have built a functional, dual absorption and fluorescence spectrometer combining a smartphone and its set of electronic sensors (and CMOS chip) and a 3D printed enclosure.   Read more.

Top 5 under 40 winners announced

March, 2015

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Dr Alice Williamson, was named one of ABC’s RN and UNSW’s ‘Top 5 Under 40’ – a nationwide competition to find the next generation of passionate science communicators. Read more.

Finding an affordable way to use graphene is the key to its success

March, 2015

Scientists have long been excited about the potential for graphene to revolutionise technologies, and even consider it a technology itself. Graphene is the best known conductor of electricity and heat. It is also the thinnest surface and represents the next generation wonder material for everyday applications in electronics.  Read more.



Congratulations to Honours student, Ms Madeleine Carr (third place) and and PhD candidate, Mr Christopher Tangvisethpat (second place), who took out two of the three top places at the 2015 RACI NSW Analytical Division Honours and Master-by-Research Students Presentation Evening on the 18 November at Macquarie University. Both Madeleine and Christopher gave exemplary presentations in a very competitive field.  Well done guys!

Congratulations to both Dr Liz New and Dr Anna Renfrew, who have been promoted to level's C and B, respectively, effective January 1, 2016. Well done!

Congratulations to Dr Girish Lakhwani and colleagues, who have been awarded an ARC Discovery Project Grant (Round 1) for 2016.  Funding: $360,000.

This project seeks to advance our basic understanding of the energy transfer processes which are crucial to the operation of organic optoelectronic devices. Controlling energy transfer is central to the operation of electronic devices. As devices become smaller and more complex, the transfer of energy across interfaces between different materials begins to dominate their operation and characteristics. This project plans to use a range of complementary experimental approaches to study energy generation, transfer and diffusion across the nanoscale interface between organic and inorganic materials. Knowledge gained would provide a roadmap for bottom-up improvements to the efficiency of energy transfer across hybrid organic–inorganic interfaces, with a range of applications in optoelectronic devices, including photovoltaics.

Congratulations to Professor Richard Payne who has been awarded an ARC Discovery Project Grant (Round 1) for 2016.  Funding:  $452,738.

Rich’s project aims to develop novel technologies to enable the synthesis of modified proteins that are of widespread biological and therapeutic interest. More than 70 per cent of all human proteins are modified with a range of functionalities after translation from the ribosome. Although these modifications are of crucial importance for biological activity, characterising the effect of a given modification on function is difficult due to problems in obtaining the protein in pure form. The goal of this project is to develop a peptide ligation methodology to access pure modified proteins in a rapid manner through the exploitation of a new reaction recently discovered in our laboratory. The project plans to explore the scope and mechanism of the new reaction as well as its application in the total chemical synthesis and structure-function studies of important modified proteins.

Congratulations to Professor Dr Thomas Maschmeyer and Associate Professor Anthony Masters who have been awarded an ARC Discovery Project Grant (Round 1) for 2016.  Funding:  $508,300.

The project aims to generate an understanding of electrode-supported ionic liquid gel films to form the basis for the rational design and development of new energy storage technology. For the world to truly move into a new age of low carbon power, it needs transformational battery technology. The creation of novel ionic liquid systems to capture redox-active species would allow for revolutionary designs with the potential to eliminate membranes, with major advantages for charging/discharging speed and deep cyclability. This would directly translate to storage systems that combine high power with high energy density.

Congratulations to Professor Peter Lay who has been awarded an ARC Discovery Project Grant (Round 1) for 2016.  Funding:  $495,700.

Peter’s project aims to study the biological chemistry of chromium, vanadium, molybdenum and tungsten in glucose/fructose metabolism. Metal supplements are consumed widely for purported fat reduction and anti-diabetic activities but pose many questions about their efficacy, safety and essentiality. The project plans to explore evidence for an essential role for vanadium and molybdenum in carbohydrate metabolism and to investigate the transport, uptake and biological activities of the above metals. These fundamental chemical and biochemical studies could provide the basis of future research into improved prevention and treatment methods to reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes.

Congratulations to Professor Michael Kassiou and colleagues who have been awarded an ARC Discovery Project Grant (Round 1) for 2016.  Funding:  $399,000.

This project seeks new insights into the effects of anaesthetics on brain function and repair. Anaesthesia is used in small-animal imaging to immobilise the animal, but in many cases the anaesthesia itself affects the neurophysiological parameters under study. It has also been shown that many anaesthetics enhance recovery after brain injury in small animals. This project plans to exploit a novel functional brain-imaging technique for conscious animals to gain new insights into the effects of anaesthetics on brain function and recovery from injury. The knowledge gained is expected to improve knowledge of anaesthetic action, guide future anaesthetic use in small animal imaging to improve the accuracy of image-derived research data, and help to clarify how anaesthetics confer neuroprotective effects in brain injury.

Congratulations to Professor Peter Harrowell who has been awarded an ARC Discovery Project Grant (Round 1) for 2016.  Funding: $439,078.

The aim of Peter’s project is to identify the physical origins of fast crystal growth in three important classes of materials: metallic alloys, chalcogenide alloys and organic molecules. Fast crystal growth is crucial to the development of solid state memory based on phase change. In metallic glasses and many pharmaceuticals, fast growth is a problem, destabilising the desired glassy state. The anticipated outcomes of the project will include the capability to chemically manipulate the crystal growth rate to design new functional phase changes devices, to identify new types of glass forming materials and to replace the 80-year-old theory of crystal growth with one that accurately reflects the microscopic mechanisms of ordering at the growing interface.

Congratulations to Professor Richard Payne and colleagues have been awarded a Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) Grant (Round 1) for 2016.  Funding:  $550,000.

This project aims to introduce a complete systems biology capability to the Ramaciotti Centre for Genomics. This is intended to provide a complete systems biology workflow, including improved data analysis for next-generation sequencing, tissue preparation and imaging, and mass spectrometry for proteomics and metabolomics. This would enable a truly systems approach to biological problems, supporting researchers and projects that focus on microbial and mammalian metabolism, carbohydrate chemistry and synthetic biology.

Congratulations to PhD candidate, Ms Amandeep Kaur, who has won a travel grant worth $500 to present her research at the 23rd annual meeting of the Society for Free Radical Research Australasia, to be held at Christchurch, New Zealand from 7-10 December 2015.

Congratulations to Dr Liz New, who has been recognised with the prestigious Young Tall Poppy Science Award. As part of the Young Tall Poppy campaign, she will spend a year sharing her knowledge with school students, teachers and the broader community through workshops, seminars and public lectures.

Liz, with four other University of Sydney winners, received her award at a ceremony at the Museum of Applied Arts and Science in Sydney on 20 October.

Liz’s research involves developing chemical tools to study biological systems. Her group is developing probes for fluorescence imaging, as well as for magnetic resonance imaging, focusing on the study of oxidative stress and metal ions in biology. These techniques will enable them to watch cells over time, and observe how they change as they develop diseases such as Alzheimer’s or diabetes, or when they are treated with potential therapeutic drugs.

Liz, who was the 2014-2015 Nyholm Youth Lecturer for the RACI, said: “I’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity to share my love of science with high school students, and I look forward to continuing to do this through the Tall Poppy program.”

Congratulations to Professor John Canning who has received the Asian region of the 2015 Edmund Optics Educational Award for the development of smartphone spectrometer which utilizes a UV LED integrated onto the phone with the use of a collimating lens to act as the source of the fluorimeter. This instrument is run with the use of a customized application which is downloaded onto your phone. The CMOS chip is used as the detector and the homemade nano-imprinted diffraction grating is used as the spectrometer. A lens is then used to collect the light and the scattering, while it is all held in a 3D printed box. Canning and his team plan for this device to be the world’s first dual absorption and fluorescence smartphone spectrometer built with widely available optics and 3D printing. Another interesting aspect of Canning and his team’s research is how this new technology can revolutionize numerous areas of study by merging lab-in-a-phone technology with the Internet of Things (IoT).  Amount:  $5,000

Congratulations to A/Prof Siggi Schmid, Dr Toby Hudson, A/Prof Louis Rendina, A/Prof Peter Rutledge, Dr Asaph Widmer-Cooper and  A/Prof John O'Byrne (Physics) who have been awarded a Educational Innovation Grant in this year’s second round of Large Grants.  Title: Circumventing the second year slump: Active learning and enhanced student engagement across Second Year Chemistry and Physics.  Amount: $34,862.

The School of Chemistry has just been awarded $113,334 from the Faculty of Science Learning & Teaching Equipment Scheme to improve the student experience in our undergraduate laboratories. This money will be used to purchase new UV/Vis spectrophotometers, new fluorescence and NMR spectrometers, an upgrade to our IR spectrometers, and new polarimeters, for use across all three years of our undergraduate program.

PhD candidate, Mr Edward O’Neill has won first prize for his poster at the Centre for Advanced Imaging Annual Symposium, University of Queensland. Well done!

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dr Karolina Jankowska, has won a Bioconjugate Chemistry Award for her poster at the 2015 World Molecular Imaging Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Associate Professor Chris Ling has received a 2-year grant from the Royal Society for "Energy Materials: Structure-Property Relationships in Oxide Ion Conductors". (£12000)

Honours students, Mr Sean Injac and Ms Cheryl Wong have been awarded prizes for the best honours student presentation at the NSW meeting of the Australian X-Ray Analytical Association on the 15 September. Well done!

The 2015 Selby Research Award has been awarded to Dr Liz New.  This prestigious award from the Selby Scientific Foundation provides funds to  assist an outstanding early career academic establish his or her research career in Chemistry or a Chemistry-related discipline. The value of the award in 2015 is $18,000.

Dr Deanna D’Alessandro (synthetic inorganic chemistry and molecular materials) has been awarded the prestigious 2015 ChemComm Emerging Investigator Lectureship.  This annual lectureship recognises an emerging scientist in the early stages of their independent academic career. Deanna will deliver her inaugural ChemComm EMI Lecture at a symposium on Metal-Organic Frameworks: Synthesis, Properties and Applications at Pacifichem 2015 in Hawaii this December.

Congratulations to Professor John Canning who has won a place as a finalist in the Asian region of the 2015 Edmund Optics Educational Award.  This award is based on his work in spectroscopy and spectrometers for use in undergraduate research teaching. 

Congratulations to the three successful winners of the University of Sydney International Research Collaboration Award. The University of Sydney International Research Collaboration Award is offered to overseas researchers of high standing at any stage in their career to share and disseminate new and original ideas and/or techniques, initiate and undertake collaborative research and facilitate interaction and training of University staff and students. They were:

Congratulations to PhD candidate, Mr Phil Norcott, who has won the inaugural RACI 2015 Pat Rodgers Postgraduate Research Prize.  The Selection Panel was impressed by Phil's research efforts to apply innovative chemistry to streamline the synthesis of complex natural products.  In particular, his investigations into the application of 'on-water' catalysis in approaches to the heliespirones and murrayaquinones were commended.  They remarked on the thoroughness of the investigations, and his persistence in developing an alternative when 'on-water' chemisty was found unsuitable for achieving the necessary bond formation in the work on the heliespirones. Phil started his PhD in 2012 under the supervision of Dr Chris McErlean.

Congratulations to PhD candidate, Mr Liam Scarratt, who won runner-up at The University of Sydney Finals of the "Three Minute Thesis" competition. Liam presented his three minute thesis on his work with superhydrophobic surfaces on Saturday, 29 August 2015 and was competing as one of 12 students.  The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is a competition for postgraduate research students to present their research topic to an intelligent, non-specialist audience in an engaging way. They have just three minutes to present a compelling presentation on their thesis topic and its significance.

Liam did his Honours with A/Prof Chiara Neto and A/Prof Brian Hawkett last year, and has continued on with a PhD in the same area. He is interested in surface modification for the purpose of creating up-scalable coatings with special properties for industrial applications. 

Congratulations to Professor Peter Lay (led investigator) with Des Richardson, Richard Banati, Maté Biro, Mary Bebawy, Manuel Graeber, Georges Grau, Professor Trevor Hambley, Dr Elizabeth New and Dr Elizabeth Carter, who have been awarded a 2015 Cancer Institute NSW Research Equipment Grant.  This equipment grant will be used towards portable infrared spectroscopy equipment for cancer diagnosis, research into prevention of cancer by understanding the role of diet, and for drug development and studies on efficacy.  Funding $102k.

Congratulations to Des Richardson (led investigator) with Richard Scolyer, Georgina Long, Gary Halliday, Michael Murray, Cheok Soon Lee, Naresh Kumar, Rebecca Mason, Professor Richard Payne and Professor Peter Lay, who have been awarded a 2015 Cancer Institute NSW Research Equipment Grant.  This equipment grant will be used towards a Biacore T200 molecular interaction analysis system for the open access, multi-disciplinary Sydney Cancer Research Core Facility.  Funding $354,048.

Professor Debbie Crans from the University of Colorado will spend three weeks in Professor Peter Lay's research group setting up a number of long term collaborations, as well as interacting with other researchers in the School of Chemistry and other parts of the University thanks to The University of Sydney International Research Collaboration Award (IRCA). The IRCA is offered to overseas researchers of high standing at any stage in their career to share and disseminate new and original ideas and/or techniques, initiate and undertake collaborative research and facilitate interaction and training of University staff and students.

Look out for Issue 27 of ChemNEWS to find out more about this exciting research collaboration.

Dr Alice Williamson, with A/Prof Lou Rendina, A/Prof Mat Todd, A/Prof John O'Bryne (Physics) and A/Prof Peter Rutledge, were awarded a $9,920 Small Educational Innovation Grant for 'Open Research in the Undergraduate Laboratory'.

Professor Adam Bridgeman has received a prestigious fellowship from the federal government’s Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) to develop approaches that empower teachers to develop individualised, adaptive learning environments and personalised student experiences for large classes. Read more.

Congratulations to Jun Liang who was one of four recipients of student prizes for a combined poster and oral presentation at the International Conference on Biological Inorganic Chemistry (~600 people registered) in Beijing.  He did an excellent job with both his poster and oral presentations.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) has granted more than $2.2 million to researchers from the Faculty of Science under its Linkage Projects scheme in 2015. Richard Payne and Mat Todd were included in the 2015 round.  Read more.

  • Professor Richard Payne, in partnership with Novo Nordisk, has been awarded $305K.  Rich's project aims to understand the role of carbohydrate modifications on the structure and function of the fat cell-derived hormone adiponectin, which has shown protective effects against obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Advancing knowledge of the molecular mechanisms that regulate fat is crucial to unravelling the processes involved in the development of these diseases. The project plans to use novel synthetic technologies to access a library of adiponectins with defined patterns of carbohydrates attached to the peptide backbone, thus potentially enabling detailed dissection of the role of these modifications on structure, cell signalling and insulin sensitising activities.
  • Associate Professor Mat Todd, in partnership with Medicines for Malaria Venture, has been awarded $410K.  Mat's project plans to synthesise new compounds that bind the protein ATP4, an essential ion pump in the malaria parasite. It plans to generate a three-dimensional map to understand how these compounds stop ATP4 from working. Several promising new medicines for malaria target ATP4, yet we do not understand properly how they do so. The project’s intended aims will be achieved using new methods in synthetic chemistry and membrane biology, and by leveraging global scientific inputs through online research methods allowing anyone to participate.

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Dr Binh Pham, has been awarded an AINSE research grant valued at $10,000 for research into radiolabelling of iron oxide nanoparticles as multimodality imaging agents.

Dr Elizabeth New has been awarded the 2015 Vice-Chancellor award for Outstanding Teaching (Early Career).

Professor Max Crossley has been elected to Fellowship of the Royal Society of New South Wales.

Postgraduate candidate, Mr Stephen Ogilvie, has been awarded a Faculty Postgraduate Research Prize in recognition of his outstanding Postgraduate student academic achievements, particularly during the early phases of his candidature. This prize is valued at $500. The criteria for this prize is the significance and quality of a manuscript which has been accepted for publication, and the role the student played in that particular research project.

Emeritus Professor Noel Hush has been invited to meet with the perovskite theory group in the Department of Physics at Shanghai University from 28 May to the 13 June as Li Quaing visiting professor. 

Professor Richard Payne has been awarded a Chemical Society of Japan Distinguished Lectureship Award. 

Professor Richard Payne is the recipient of the 2015 MedChemComm Emerging Investigator Lectureship.  Read more.

Chemistry alumna, Dr Karena Chapman, has received the prestigious international 2015 MRS Outstanding Young Investigator Award for contributions to energy-relevant systems.  Currently a scientist working in the X-ray Science Division of Argonne National Laboratory, Karena received her BSc and PhD degrees in chemistry from The University of Sydney in the Kepert Research Group.

Following on from his recent Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellowship, A/Prof. Lou Rendina has been appointed as an Adjunct Professor at the International Institute of Nano and Molecular Medicine (I2NM2) in the USA, the first time an Australian scientist has been appointed by the Institute.  I2NM2 is a world-leading research centre dedicated to the discovery and application of fundamental and translational medical science based upon previously unexplored chemistry combined with nanotechnology and the biosciences, funded by the University of Missouri, NIH, DOE, NSF, and Honeywell.  The design of new boron and gadolinium agents for binary cancer therapies and the application of boron clusters in medicinal chemistry were two of A/Prof. Rendina's research areas highlighted by the Institute.

Professor Cameron Kepert has been awarded the Burrows Award, presented following his delivery of the Burrows Lecture at the RACI National Congress in Adelaide. The Award is presented by the Inorganic Division of the RACI and commemorates George Joseph Burrows (1888-1950). Burrows was appointed to the staff of the University of Sydney in 1919 and made important contributions to coordination chemistry during the following 21 years, especially in the field of metal-tertiary arsine complexes. The Award is based on consideration of the candidate’s scientific work published in the past 10 years, together with other evidence of his or her standing in the international community.  Read more.

Professor Richard Payne has been awarded the 2015 Leo Dintenfass Memorial Award for Excellence in Research by The Rebecca L. Cooper Medical Research Foundation for his research entitled “Automated purification platform for accelerated tuberculosis drug discovery”.  Awarded to applications judged by the Directors of the Foundation to be the most interesting or innovative of the year.  Professor Payne has also been awarded a Rebecca L. Cooper Medical Research Foundation Grant. Read more.

Professor Richard Payne has been awarded the 2014 Edgeworth David Medal by the Royal Society of NSW. He will receive the medal during 2015.  Read more.
Dr Asaph Widmer-Cooper has been awarded an ARC Future Fellowship to characterise the interactions between colloidal nanorods and their self-assembly in the presence of interfaces and directional interactions. While nanoparticles can currently be made in a staggering array of shapes, patterns and materials, organising such objects into extended structures that could revolutionise technology remains a challenge. The goal of the project is a robust strategy for making monolayer films of rods aligned perpendicular to a variety of interfaces for the fabrication of solar cells, microfiltration membranes and biosensors.
Congratulations to Richard Payne and Adam Bridgeman who have both been promoted to Professor.  Further congratulations to Chiara Neto who has been promoted to Associate Professor. Well done!

Latest funding outcomes


Congratulations to everyone who has received funding for 2015.  Read more.