Talented student program

TSP students, Ms Inga Topolnicki and Ms Carmen Tran

TSP students, Ms Inga Topolnicki and Ms Carmen Tran, photo courtesy of Ms Dimetra Skondras-Silva

What is the talented student program

The Talented Student Program (TSP) is a special program of study intended for students of exceptional merit who are enrolled in degrees administered by the Faculty of Science. Entry to the Talented Student Program is by invitation from the Dean. For more information, visit the TSP page on the Faculty of Science website.

There are many opportunities for chemistry TSP students to get involved in research in the School, and to learn from more experienced researchers. For more information about any of the opportunities below, please contact the TSP coordinator, .

TSP showcase

The TSP showcase is the first opportunity for first year students to become involved in research at the university, and is a chance for third year students to experience mentoring. The TSP showcase is organised by the Faculty of Science, and more information will be available early in first semester.

TSP projects

As a Talented Student, you have the opportunity to complete a research project within a research group in the School. Students typically perform projects for 3 or 6 credit points.

  • First year students – in the second semester of first year, students will have the opportunity to perform research projects in small groups (typically 2-4 students).
  • Second and third year students can undertake individual projects in both semester 1 and semester two. A list of available projects will be listed here by the middle of February.
  • TSP mentorship Each chemistry TSP student will be assigned an academic mentor. Mentors will be able to help students map out the best university program for them, and can also give advice about careers in science.


1st year projects (to be completed in small groups)

Students in a lab
  • Device simulator for organic solar cells. This project involves solving differential equations to simulate flow of current in organic solar cells to figure out the role of charge traps on device performance. (Dr Girish Lakhwani)
  • Fluorescent assays for metal ions. New fluorophores will be synthesised and used in a fluorescent assay to study metal ions in complex solutions. (Dr Liz New)
  • Selective sensors for anions. Receptors for biologically important anions (e.g. pyrophosphate) will be synthesised and their ability to selectively bind to those ions will be evaluated using a range of spectroscopic techniques. (Prof. Kate Jolliffe)
  • Solutions in salts. Ionic liquids are salts that melt near room temperature, and they seem to be remarkable solvents with near-zero vapour pressure. We are investigating how different kinds of solutes dissolve into these liquid salts. (Prof. Greg Warr)
  • Studying surface plasmon resonances and application to sensing. Surface plasmons will be excited and characterised and applied to measuring material properties and their potential as sensors evaluated. (Prof. John Canning, A/Prof. James Beattie)

2nd and 3rd year projects (to be completed individually)

Computational and theoretical chemistry
  • Computer simulations. In this project, you will use computer simulations (Monte Carlo) to study how intermolecular and surface forces can be manipulated to control the self-assembly (including orientation) of rod-shaped Au and CdS particles in order to create printable nano-structured electronic devices (e.g. solar cells). (Dr Asaph Widmer-Cooper)
Molecular design and synthesis
  • Catalysis. A project is available in the discovery of new catalysts for an enantioselective reaction. The project will involve synthesis and some kinetics in the analysis of a reaction mechanism. (A/Prof. Mat Todd)
  • New boron fluorophores for near-IR biological applications. This project will investigate the synthesis and photophysical properties of new BODIPY fluorophores which have to potential to fluoresce strongly in the near-IR. (A/Prof. Lou Rendina and Dr Liz New)
  • Scientific Writing. A non-laboratory project is available in the completion of a review of an organic chemical reaction for publication. (A/Prof. Mat Todd)
Material chemistry
  • Radical MOFs: from microporous conductors to CO2 capture materials. This project involves the design, synthesis and characterisation of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) based on redox-active ligands and metal clusters which exhibit stable radical states that can be reversibly ‘switched’ using chemical, electrical or light stimuli. (Dr Deanna D’Alessandro)
  • Structure and magnetic properties. This project will aim to gain better understanding of multifunctional materials. (Dr Suzanne Neville)
Molecular spectroscopy and photonics
  • Charge transfer between organic donor-acceptor molecules. The objective of this project is to experimentally probe optical properties of molecules and understand the mechanism behind charge transfer between donor and acceptor molecules. (Dr Girish Lakhwani)
  • Development of large area thin films of self-assembled nanoparticles. Moving from wires to films requires resolution of the cracking issue involved with self-assembly. (Prof. John Canning, Prof. Max Crossley)
  • Multi-capped and multi-structured nanoparticles. This project will focus on building up alternate layers of red, green bad blue dyes to make white luminescent nano particles which can be integrated into white light emitting microwires. (Prof. John Canning, Prof. Max Crossley)
  • Novel sensor dyes for mobile phone diagnostics. Building on recent work, this project involves synthesising special fluorescent dyes that are tailored for sensing applications using mobile phones as the diagnostic platform. (A/Prof. Peter Rutledge, Prof. John Canning)
  • Optical sensing molecules sensitive to polarised light. The aim of this project is to experimentally study light-matter interactions in optically active organic molecules and study their photosensitive properties (Dr Girish Lakhwani)
  • Regeneration of phosphosilicate fibre gratings. This project involves applying and exploring the limits and conditions required to regenerate phosphosilicate fibre gratings. (Prof. John Canning)
  • Self-assembled microfibres and laser processing. Using UV light we will pattern surfaces and explore what degree of control can be obtained in the properties of these self-assembled wires. (Prof. John Canning)
  • Trapping proteins and other materials inside self-assembled wires and plates. The aim here is to explore trapping of proteins and other structures inside self-assembled wires and plates. (Prof. John Canning, Prof. Max Crossley)
Drug discovery and medicinal chemistry
  • Azaspirocycles as piperazine bioisosteres targeting sigma receptors. A library of spiroazetidine structures will be synthesised for potential use as anxiolytics, antidepressants, and neuroprotective agents with novel modes of action. (Prof. Michael Kassiou)
  • Boron clusters for medicinal chemistry. This project will expand the chemical space of medicinal chemistry by the use of carborane clusters, which possess many desireable chemical properties, and can be readily functionalised for the targeting of biological receptors. (A/Prof. Lou Rendina)
  • Drug Discovery. The project will involve primarily organic synthesis of novel molecules along open source principles. See opensourcemalaria.org for more information. (A/Prof. Mat Todd)
  • Lanthanide complexes for binary cancer therapies. This project will investigate the use of new mitochondrial agents based upon lanthanides such as gadolinium(III) for application in cutting-edge neutron capture therapy and photon activation therapy of intractable and aggressive cancers such as gliomas. (A/Prof. Lou Rendina)
  • Small molecule oxytocin receptor agonists. This project will involve designing new oxytocin receptor agonists as potential therapeutic agents for psychiatric disorders. (Prof. Michael Kassiou)
  • Synthetic cannabinoids as "designer drugs". Recently identified synthetic cannabinoids will be synthesised, along with their metabolites, which will enable understanding of how these drugs work. (Prof. Michael Kassiou)
  • Tau aggregation inhibitors for Alzheimer’s disease. Aminothienopyridazines (ATPZs) act to inhibit tau aggregation. This project will develop new ATPZ analogues. (Prof. Michael Kassiou)
Supramolecular chemistry
  • Selective sensors for anions. Receptors for biologically important anions (e.g. pyrophosphate) will be synthesised and their ability to selectively bind to those ions will be evaluated using a range of spectroscopic techniques. (Prof. Kate Jolliffe)
Biological chemistry | Chemical biology
  • Chemical Sensing. Synthesis of new fluorescent nanoparticles for the sensing of ion gradients in the extracellular matrix. (A/Prof. Mat Todd and A/Prof. Peter Rutledge)
  • Influence of medicinal metal ions on protein-protein interactions. Modifications of protein-protein interactions by metal ions, which will be studied by the BLItz technique, is an important strategy for the development of anti-cancer drugs. (Prof. Peter Lay and Dr Aviva Levina)
  • New fluorescent probes. Fluorescent sensors will be synthesised for use as sensors of redox state or metal ions. This project will involve organic synthesis followed by spectroscopy. (Dr Liz New)
  • Responsive MRI contrast agents. This project will involve synthesis of metal complexes complexes, and assessing their potential for use as MRI contrast agents in NMR experiments. (Dr Liz New)
  • Development of glycolipid-based vaccine adjuvants. Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) produces a cell wall glycolipid trehalose 6,6'-dimycolate (TDM) as a protective barrier. Recently, the synthetic analogue trehalose 6,6'-dibehenate (TDB) was identified as a promising vaccine adjuvant. This project involves design of more potent adjuvants that mimic the ability of mycobacteria to stimulate a response to immunization that can be employed in vaccine development. (Dr Santosh Rudrawar)
  • Chemical tools for studying carbohydrate-processing enzymes. This project involves synthesis of bisubstrate inhibitors of O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) enzyme over-expressed in tumour cells. These chemical probes will provide a means to analyse the activity of OGT in cells that will have enormous impact for applications in cancer diagnosis. (Dr Santosh Rudrawar)
Soft matter
  • Solutions in salts. Ionic liquids are salts that melt near room temperature, and they seem to be remarkable solvents with near-zero vapour pressure. We are investigating how different kinds of solutes dissolve into these liquid salts. (Prof. Greg Warr)

Contact details

Dr Elizabeth New


Dr Liz New
TSP Coordinator
Room 543
T: +61 2 9351 1993