Pushing the boundaries of fundamental chemistry

Fundamental research in our school spans all areas of chemistry to advance knowledge, better understand the universe and seed development of the next generation of technological breakthroughs.

Chemical science experiment

Chemistry is often referred to as the central science, given the strong connections between chemistry and the other natural sciences.

Our research focuses on advancing the current understanding of chemical science in terms of explaining the mechanisms of reactions, developing new methods in chemical synthesis, uncovering novel aspects of molecular structure and, revealing different modes of chemical bonding.

Our fundamental discoveries help propel chemistry as the central science by facilitating interdisciplinary outcomes in areas such as chemical biology and chemical physics.

Research topics

Chemical bonding and intermolecular forces

Arguably, the core of chemical science is our understanding of how individual atoms or groups of atoms form chemical bonds. We aim to understand bonding in novel solid-state compounds and transition metal complexes to build knowledge of the properties, reactivity and preparation of these substances.

Our research on intermolecular forces (bonding between different molecules) aims to understand and control the formation of molecular assemblies and the interactions between solvents and solutes.

Chemical synthesis and catalysis

Our researchers are exploring new methods for the synthesis of organic, transition metal and main group compounds. We aim to prepare substances that have never been made before or identifying novel, more straightforward methods for the preparation of known compounds. This research includes the design and development of novel catalytic processes to affect reaction outcomes. 

Reaction kinetics and mechanism

Determining how chemical reactions occur is essential for understanding and influencing the outcomes of these reactions. Research in this area aims to uncover the mechanism of fundamentally important reactions within organic, inorganic and biological chemistry, including the interaction of molecules with catalysts and enzymes. 

Chemistry as an enabling science

Advances in chemical science at the interface of biology, physics and environmental science aid discoveries in each of these fields.

Our staff use a chemical understanding to tackle problems in these disparate fields, such as probing the structure and function of enzymes to learn more about biological function or studying the interaction of molecules with light to understand physical processes that occur on extremely rapid timescales.

This research also explores the development of new analytical techniques and methods to detect and quantify molecules of importance to biological and physical processes. 

Our researchers

Associate Professor Bob Anderson

  • Time-resolved spectrophotometry
  • Radical mechanisms
  • Anticancer prodrugs

Associate Professor David Barker

  • Synthesis of novel small organic molecules
  • Synthetic methodologies for improved organic synthesis

Distinguished Professor Dame Margaret Brimble

  • Polyketide metabolites and marine toxins
  • Anti-tuberculosis agents
  • Species-selective toxicants

Professor Ralph Cooney

  • Interfacial nanoscience of porous oxides and polymers
  • Raman and infrared spectroscopy
  • Conducting polymers

Professor Brent Copp

  • Medicinal chemistry of anti-infectives
  • Natural products – isolation, synthesis, structure-activity

Dr Rebecca Deed

  • Wine microbiology
  • Aroma chemistry  

Associate Professor Bruno Fedrizzi

  • Analytical and bioanalytical mass spectrometry
  • Wine and food chemistry and biochemistry
  • Adding value to horticultural waste

Dr Daniel Furkert

  • Natural product synthesis
  • New reaction mechanisms
  • Drug discovery

Professor Christian Hartinger

  • Medicinal inorganic chemistry
  • Supramolecular chemistry
  • Bioanalytical chemistry

Dr Kang Huang

  • Nature-inspired biopolymers for food and agricultural application

Dr Jianyong Jin

  • Synthetic polymer chemistry
  • Advanced chain growth and step-growth polymerization techniques
  • Polymers for laser micromachining

Professor Paul Kilmartin

  • Electrochemistry

Dr Erin Leitao

  • Synthesis of new main-group molecules and polymers
  • Mechanism of catalytic main-group bond-forming reactions

Dr Ivanhoe Leung

  • Protein structures and enzyme mechanisms
  • NMR techniques to measure protein-ligand interactions and enzyme kinetics

Associate Professor Duncan McGillivray

  • Nanomaterials
  • Surfaces
  • Biophysical chemistry

Dr Davide Mercadante

  • Multiscale simulations of synthetic polymer dynamics
  • Simulations-driven rational design of polymers
  • Building molecular predictors of polymer properties

Professor James Metson

  • Light metals and their oxides
  • Surfaces and catalysis  

Associate Professor Gordon Miskelly

  • Chemistry in forensic science
  • Analytical chemistry

Associate Professor Siew-Young Quek

  • Bioactives, microencapsulation and functional foods
  • Food/byproduct processing - quality, safety and application
  • Lipid science and technology

Dr Viji Sarojini

  • Biomolecular turn-mimetics and other protein secondary structures
  • Synthesis of constrained amino acids and cyclic peptides  

Professor Cather Simpson

  • Ultrafast laser spectroscopy and chemical dynamics
  • Laser micromachining and microfabrication

Associate Professor Tilo Söhnel

  • Inorganic materials chemistry
  • Crystallography

Associate Professor Jonathan Sperry

  • Total synthesis of natural products
  • C-H bond functionalisation
  • Chemical probes  

Professor Jadranka Travas-Sejdic

  • Controlled radical polymerization
  • Multifunctional conducting polymers

Associate Professor Geoffrey Waterhouse

  • Electrocatalysts for water splitting, fuel cells and batteries
  • Solar-driven catalytic reactions
  • Carbon dioxide capture and catalytic conversion

Dr Cameron Weber

  • Intermolecular forces and solvent effects
  • Kinetics and reaction mechanism
  • Structure and properties of liquids

Professor David Williams

  • Solid-state inorganic materials
  • Surfaces
  • Electrochemical characterisation

Dr Geoff Willmott

  • Nanopipetting methods
  • Colloidal self-assembly

Professor L. James Wright

  • Metallabenzenes
  • New ligand design
  • Catalysis

Dr Fan Zhu

Dr Zoran Zujovic

  • Solid-state NMR spectroscopy and its applications to materials science and pharmaceuticals
  • Conducting polymers
  • Self-assembly of nanostructured conducting polymers