Our People at UNSW

The ARC Training Centre - Chemical Industries provides an innovative framework for graduate training through sustainable industry engagement with world-leading academic researchers

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Node director - Professor Martina Stenzel

Prof. Stenzel’s area of expertise is synthesis of well-defined bioactive polymers with controlled architectures.

Since commencing her academic career in 2002 as lecturer at UNSW, Prof. Stenzel has published more than 260 papers, many of them highly cited (h-index 64) and has supervised 21 PhD students to completion.

Prof. Stenzel brings considerable experience in managing large, multi-disciplinary research groups to the Centre Deputy Director role. She has served as co-Director of the Centre of Advanced Macromolecular Design (CAMD), leading 50 researchers.

As the Centre’s Deputy Director, she is strongly aware of the critical role she will play as a facilitator to bridge research fields and promote connections between Industries and Universities. She will contribute to the research program, and management of the Centre’s outreach and education programs.


Dr Donavan Marney

Don is the Centre Manager of the UNSW node, reaching out to service industry.

Don has a diverse background covering many aspects of the chemicals industry, leading and managing research from within CSIRO for the  manufacturing and water service delivery sectors  including areas such as fine chemicals synthesis & characterisation, polymers & composites, water quality along with the performance and durability water infrastructure in the asset management space.  

He has worked as a production and analytical chemist in the bulk pharmaceutical and water/environmental chemistry sectors respectively.  

His recent roles reflect a maturation within the chemicals industry, conducting industry engagement with ANSTO, developing new materials for the circular economy with the recycling sector at Victoria University, durability consulting with BCRC along with materials science and engineering research leadership & management within CSIRO. 

His interest in applied chemistry is reflected by some of his commercial projects which include corrosion protection of buried infrastructure, the detection of buried pipe damage, development of ceramifiable cable insulation, development of intelligent water networks and the development of fire retardant additives for polymers and timber. 

His research interests include the application of chemistry methodologies to address real world problems such as corrosion, fire retardants, early detection of (i) pathogens in potable water supplies using a metabolomic approach, and (ii) failing assets.


Dr Luke Hunter

Fluorine is a small element that packs a big punch. When fluorine atoms are incorporated into organic molecules, they can have a dramatic impact on the substances' physical and chemical properties. In the Hunter group we are particularly interested in using fluorine atoms to control molecular conformation (a kind of "molecular origami"). We produce novel bioactive molecules that are constrained into optimal 3D shapes, controlled by the precise positioning of fluorine atoms.


A/Prof Shelli McAlpine

The McAlpine group varies in size between 8-12 people, including 6-8 post-graduate students, 2-3 honours students, and several undergraduates.  Our creative and supportive environment brings out the best in students, and my students typically perform well on their final thesis.  Not only do our students produce 5-10 papers throughout their post-graduate career, former members get jobs in both industry and academia.  Given our interdisplinary group, each member learns about biological and synthetic aspects of their project.  Students have the option to do both chemistry and biology  using a combination of skills in both fields in order to complete the entire project.  Having trained in the United States, I have significant contacts with other academics and industrial positions and can place my students in desirable jobs throughout Australia and the U.S.  


Prof Pall Thordarson

 Prof Thordarson's research is the area of bio-mimetic chemistry with focus on nanomedicine, supramolecular and biophysical chemistry. To this end we apply a combination of synthetic organic and inorganic chemistry, bioconjugate chemistry (chemical modification of biological molecules), cellular biology (for activity assays) and supramolecular chemistry to make our target systems and we use various spectroscopic techniques such as UV, fluorescence and NMR as well as microscopy techniques such as AFM, STM and TEM, to analyse these systems.


A/Prof John Stride

My research interests primarily centre on the fundamental nature of molecular and molecule-based materials. Of particular interest are materials displaying novel magnetic interactions, nano-materials and the interactions between molecules in the solid state.

These ideas can be summarised as:

  • The study of novel molecular and molecule-based magnetic materials demonstrates a wealth of phenomena, ranging from low dimensionality (1D chains and 2D sheets), through to those systems which show no tendency to coalesce into a long range magnetic as a result of frustration - so-called spin liquids and spin ice.

Isolated clusters of several magnetic ions have been found to behave as nano-magnets, characterised as having a single, large magnetic moment per cluster. When these isolated moments have an inherent spin-relaxation anisotropy, they can behave as an ensemble of isolated, identical magnetic particles.

Research into such materials has potential applications in high density magnetic storage media, magnetic films and sensing devices.

  • The manner in which individual molecules align and condense in the crystalline state is a result of the intermolecular forces that act upon molecules. Long range ordering occurs as a direct result of the translational self-similarity in these forces. Due to the non-spherical nature of most molecules, the final crystalline structure is therefore a balance between the Gibbs free energies of competing potential stacking arrangements.

Supramolecular chemistry is a general term used to cover those studies that attempt to perturb these competing effects to induce one particular ordering motif (or geometry) over another. We aim to study these often very complex interactions first in simple model systems, before building in complexity and moving toward systems displaying apparent emergent behaviour.

Another area in which intermolecular interactions are dominant is nano-science which aims to deliver materials intimately structured on the nano-scale - thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair.  We synthesise and study materials as diverse as single sheets only one atom thick - e.g. graphene - and highly fluorescent nanoparticles such as quantum dots.  These materials sit at the interface between the chemistry of individual molecules and the collective physical properties of bulk materials; thechnologically they represent the ultimate in miniturisation.

  • Research in the Stride Group makes heavy use of neutron scattering techniques and I retain an interest is the development of new neutron instrumentation and methods. These are exciting times for the international neutron scattering community, with new facilities coming online over the next few years. This effort is not lost on Australia; the new national neutron facility at the Bragg Institute, provides doorstep access to world class instrumentation for Australian researchers in fields as diverse as physics, chemistry and materials science, through to the geo-sciences and biology.


Dr Jonathon Beves

Jon's research interests cover much of supramolecular and applied coordination chemistry, ranging from crystal engineering to molecular sensors, light-switchable molecular devices and machines.


Dr Thanh Vinh Nguyen

Dr. Vinh Nguyen (also known as: Thanh Vinh Nguyen or Thanh V. Nguyen on academic publication) was born in Vietnam. After high school, he went to Sydney, Australia to study industrial chemistry at University of New South Wales. He then moved to undertake his PhD in organic chemistry with Professor Michael Sherburn at the Australian National University, Canberra. He had worked to develop new synthetic methodologies for application in natural product synthesis and worked on the design and synthesis of enormoussynthetic host molecules for drug-delivery modelling. After graduating in 2010, he came to work on organocatalysis in Professor Dieter Enders group at the Institute of Organic Chemistry, RWTH Aachen, Germany under the auspices of an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellowship.  In June 2013, he moved to Curtin University (Perth, Australia) to start his own independent research group. In June 2015, he moved again to UNSW (Sydney) to take up a Lecturer/DECRA fellow position at the School of Chemistry. His current research interests are organocatalysis, aromatic cation activation, synthesis of naturally occurring and bioactive compounds, asymmetric synthesis and medicinal chemistry.

In August 2018, Vinh received $739,125 for a project to develop synthetic applications of tropylium ions as versatile building blocks, to access a broad range of organic structures that used to be problematic to synthesise. This project expects to use tropylium ions as chromophores to derive novel ‘push-and-pull’ organic dyes with highly applicable physicochemical properties. This will provide access to a family of novel complex organic structures in a new chemical space, as well as new materials for opto-electronic and sensing applications. 


Prof Richard Tilley

Prof. Tilley's research revolves around the synthesis, characterisation and applications of nanoparticles and nanomaterials. Nanoparticles hold a great fascination because they have different fundamental physical properties compared to bulk solids due to the very small size. Unique properties of nanoparticles include particle size dependent luminescence from semiconductor materials, superparamagnetism in magnetic materials and new and unusual crystal structures. The aim of the Tilley research team is to synthesize and characterize novel, cutting edge nanoparticle materials. We approach this problem using solution phase chemical techniques which allow for the synthesis of very uniform nanoparticles with superb control over their size and shape. The nanoparticles are characterized using a wide range of techniques with particular focus on high resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM).


Dr. Chin Ken Wong

Dr Wong was appointed as a post-doc to the Centre in 2018 to coordinate the preparation of industrial chemistry learning materials for the Master of Industrial Research.

Ken has a strong research background in polymer chemistry and self-assembling systems, publishing highly cited papers on polymersomes for drug and protein delivery.