Potential projects

Please contact academics to discuss alternative projects. They may be able to tailor projects to your particular interests.

Inorganic chemistry

Professor Anthony Hill: Projects are focused on the synthesis of new compounds that display unusual bonding situations. Key areas of current interest are:

(i) The synthesis of bimetallic compounds that are spanned by a linear chain of carbon atoms (‘carbon wires’) that are interrupted by a main group element. If the element is from group 15 (P, As, Sb, Bi) then there is the possibility of coordinating a Lewis acid to the lone pair on the element. Conversely, if the element is from group 13 (B, Al, Ga, In) then an empty orbital is available for coordination of a Lewis base (i.e., Ligand). This therefore offers a means of ‘switching’ the electronic communication between the metal termini, in effect a molecular transistor.

(ii) Trivalent boron typically serves as a Lewis acid to a range of electron pair donors (phosphines, thioethers, amines, ethers, etc.). When a late transition metal (i.e., groups 8-10) has a high d-occupancy (d8, d10) the possibility arises that the metal can act as a Lewis base towards main-group electrophiles, thereby reversing the traditional role of the metal as an electron pair acceptor for ligands. We are currently exploring compounds which have a dative (polar covalent) bond from a transition metal to boron, with a view to applying this unusual bonding situation to the development of catalysts.

Skills acquisition: All projects involve the manipulation of air-reactive materials under anaerobic conditions (vacuum line, dry-box techniques) and their characterisation with a wide range of instrumental techniques including IR, UV-vis, MS and 1 or 2-D NMR spectroscopies in addition to X-ray crystallography.

Organic chemistry

Professor Martin Banwell: Synthesis and mechanism: A key focus of our research group is on the total synthesis of biologically active natural products and various analogues. The development of new methodologies that underpin such efforts is another focus and often involves the use of either, (i), strained organic molecules and reactive intermediates or, (ii), microbial oxidation products for such for such purposes. Medicinal chemistry based projects concerned with the development of orally available drugs for treating type-1 diabetes and certain neurological disorders as well as exploring the molecular basis of action of anti-mitotic drugs are being undertaken in collaboration with industry partners and/or overseas institutions. Email: martin.banwell@anu.edu.au for more information on specific projects.

A/Professor Mal McLeod: Sports drug testing and medicinal chemistry: The McLeod group employs a wide range of techniques to study drug metabolism. These include chemical and enzymatic synthesis of drugs and their metabolites, methods of in vitro metabolism coupled with analysis by GC-MS-MS or LC-MS-MS, and molecular biology to engineer improved enzymes with anti-doping applications. The group is also active in the are of medicinal chemistry of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). Here our goal is the development of new drugs to treat neurological disorders. Email malcolm.mcleod@anu.edu.au for more information on specific projects.

Professor Mick Sherburn: Synthesis: my group aims to develop better ways to synthesise and study organic substances. Faster access to organic compounds – and a better understanding of organic structure and reactivity – leads to new and better medicines, smarter materials, and less environmental impact from chemical processes. We devise new domino reaction sequences and apply them in the shortest syntheses of biologically active natural products. We also devise the chemical synthesis of fundamental organic compounds that others have tried and failed to prepare. Overall, our goal is to advance the science of synthesis. For more information, see http://sherburngroup.org. For information on specific projects, contact Prof Mick Sherburn, michael.sherburn@anu.edu.au.

Dr Nicholas White: Our research focuses on self–assembly – the construction of relatively large, complex species such as cages and frameworks through reversible interactions such as hydrogen bonding and halogen bonding. In particular, we are interested in anion-templated self–assembly – systems where positively-charged ligands are held together by anionic templates. We are interested in both the fundamental aspects of this work: what kind of interesting and complex species can we make using this approach? as well as its potential applications: can we use our materials to bind organic pollutants? CO2 gas? This project will investigate the preparation of complex materials such as cages and frameworks using hydrogen bonding. The project will involve organic synthesis, studies of anion binding properties (by 1H NMR techniques), and X-ray crystallography. You do not need to have used any of these techniques before, but an enthusiasm for working out problems and making new things would be a definite plus! see www.nwhitegroup.com or email nicholas.white@anu.edu.au for more information on specific projects.

Dr Lee Alissandratos and Professor Chris Easton: Through novel approaches at the interface of chemistry and synthetic biology we seek to create real-world solutions to some of the most pressing issues: chemical & energy sustainability, global health and biosecurity. Available projects fall into two broad areas: (i) sustainable conversion of renewable feedstock (lignocellulosics) and pollutants (carbon dioxide, ammonia) into fuels and chemicals through new multi-enzymatic routes, and (ii) the production of biological diagnostic devices for the detection of human, animal and plant pathogens, suitable for use in low-tech settings and in the developing world. All students will have the opportunity to receive training in synthesis, molecular biology, enzymology, microbiology as well as chemical and biochemical analytical techniques. Email: apostolos.alissandratos@anu.edu.au for more information on specific projects.

Biological chemistry

Professor Thomas Huber: Projects are available in computational protein design and protein structure determination from sparse experimental data. We use computer algorithm to simulate and understand the principles of biomolecular structures. Combining this principle knowledge with easy to perform experiments we then computationally determine the structure of proteins, or design completely new proteins with novel functions. Email t.huber@anu.edu.au for more information on specific projects.

A/Professor Colin Jackson: We  are interested in protein engineering, design and evolution. There are a number of research programs in the lab that you could be part of: (1) understanding the molecular basis of evolution through ancestral protein reconstruction, where we computationally predict the sequence of ancient proteins, to understand how mutations have led to the multitude of functions we see today; (2) understanding the role of protein dynamics to function, especially in enzymes, and how this can be changed through evolution/engineering; (3) the design and engineering of a new family of oxidoreductases for biocatalysts and use in the production of fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals; (4) the design and construction of new biosensors for neurotransmitters; (5) understanding the molecular basis of insecticide resistance and designing new pesticides; (6) computational design of new inhibitors for a drug target involved in cancer. Email: colin.jackson@anu.edu.au for more information on specific projects.

Professor Gottfried Otting: NMR spectroscopy of proteins. The project intends to contribute to training the next generation of NMR spectroscopists in Australia. It focuses on the design and implementation of novel NMR pulse sequences on the 600 and/or 800 MHz NMR spectrometer at the RSC. This project is for you, if you are interested in understanding the physics of multi-dimensional NMR spectroscopy and gaining hands-on expertise with using a modern NMR spectrometer. Prerequisites: understanding of NMR spectra of low molecular weight compounds and some experience with programming and/or Linux. Email: gottfried.otting@anu.edu.au for more information on specific projects.

Professor John Carver: Our research interests are in peptide and protein structure, function and interactions. Of late, the group has been concentrating on molecular chaperone proteins and their mechanism of stabilizing other proteins, particularly those involved in diseases of protein aggregation, e.g. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and cataract. Another area of interest involves examination of the oligomeric structure of milk proteins, particularly the caseins, a topic of fundamental importance to the fields of dairy science and nutrition. We utilise a diversity of spectroscopic, biophysical and protein chemical techniques for our research, with NMR spectroscopy being at the forefront. Email:john.carver@anu.edu.au for more information on specific projects.

Material science

Professor Yun Liu: "Wet chemical synthesis of metal oxide composites" - This project aims to synthesize  crystalline nano particles for further fabrication of a new composite  that gives an excellent dielectric property for use in electronic devices. The student will  be trained in the field of materials chemistry, including wet chemical synthesis approach, structural analysis, microstructural characterisation and physical property measurement, and thus gains the knowledge and skills for further study as a honours student or  PhD student in this field.  A background in Materials Chemistry is essential. Additional background in Applied Physics and/or Materials Science as well as Applied Mathematics is preferred. Email: yun.liu@anu.edu.au for more information on this project.