Prof. Penelope Brothers Elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand

15 March 2021

Congratulations to our Director, Prof. Penny Brothers for being elected to the Academy as a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. This is wonderful recognition of a long and successful career in the field of chemistry, which has spanned many diverse research interests.


Professor Penelope Brothers has achieved high distinction in chemistry research through fundamental discoveries that have had significant positive impacts in energy capture, toxic metal encapsulation, chemical sensors, and drug discovery. In particular, her research has shifted fundamental understanding of how an important class of molecules form bonds and drive chemical reactions. Porphyrins and their chemical cousins are the active sites in key biological molecules, including haemoglobin for carrying oxygen in blood and chlorophyll in photosynthesis. These naturally-occurring complexes contain iron or magnesium, but Penny has expanded this chemistry to explore complexes with other elements, such as light non-metals (lithium, boron, phosphorus) and heavy metals (gold, antimony, bismuth). In particular, her work on boron porphyrins is unique and known for the unexpected structures and chemical reactivity she discovered. Following a 30-year career at the University of Auckland, she was appointed Director of the Research School of Chemistry at the Australian National University in 2019. However, she continues to have a strong connection to New Zealand through her continuing position at the University of Auckland, as a Principal Investigator at the MacDiarmid Institute, and by serving on the Marsden Fund Council. In 2007 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, UK.