Professor Scott Kable

My Expertise

Atmospheric Chemistry

Chemical Reaction Mechanisms

Spectroscopy (Electronic, vibrational, UV-vis, infrared)



Fields of Research (FoR)

Reaction kinetics and dynamics, Atmospheric composition, chemistry and processes, Chemical thermodynamics and energetics, Air pollution modelling and control, Structural Chemistry and Spectroscopy, Environmental Chemistry (incl. Atmospheric Chemistry)

SEO tags


Prof Scott Kable is the current Head of School of Chemistry at UNSW Sydney.  He has a PhD from Griffith University. Postdoctoral research at Cornell University followed. After a short stint in industry with Procter and Gamble in London, he started his independent academic career at the University of Sydney in 1992.  In 2014, he moved to UNSW as a research professor and was appointed Head of School in 2015.

As a researcher, Prof Kable studies...view more

Prof Scott Kable is the current Head of School of Chemistry at UNSW Sydney.  He has a PhD from Griffith University. Postdoctoral research at Cornell University followed. After a short stint in industry with Procter and Gamble in London, he started his independent academic career at the University of Sydney in 1992.  In 2014, he moved to UNSW as a research professor and was appointed Head of School in 2015.

As a researcher, Prof Kable studies fundamental chemical reaction dynamics, especially with relevance to atmospheric chemistry. His research group have discovered new chemical pathways that improve our understanding of important atmospheric processes, such as climate change, ozone depletion and pollution. He is a recipient of the Le Fevre Medal of the Australian Academy of Science, the Physical Chemistry Medal of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) and a Fulbright Senior Fellowship. He has twice served on the ARC College of Experts and was Chair of the Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences Panel in 2015.

Prof Kable is also a celebrated teacher.  He has won Vice Chancellor’s teaching awards three times at U. Sydney and once at UNSW.  He has been the recipient of Carrick (national) teaching awards twice, and teaching awards from the RACI.

My Grants

"The forgotten role of the ground state in atmospheric chemistry", ARC Discovery Grant (DP190102013), 2019-21, $520k

"Resolving the interstellar carbon crisis with multi-laser spectroscopy", ARC Discovery Grant (DP190103151), 2019-21, $403k

"Shared Laser Consortium", ARC LEIF (LE180100060), 2018, $983k

"Threshold - Mastery Learning in Chemistry 1", UNSW Strategic Education Fund,  2018-19, $170k

"Atmospheric photochemistry - it's a lot more complicated than we thought", ARC Discovery (DP160101792), 2016-18, $498k

"Reactive Intermediates in Atmospheric and Combustion Chemistry ", ARC Discovery (DP150102779), 2015-18, $649k

My Qualifications

  • PhD (Griffith Univ, 1988).
  • BSc.(Hons 1) (Griffith Univ., 1983).
  • Grad. Dip. Business Admin (QUT, 1986).

My Awards


  • 2016: Physical Chemistry Medal (RACI)
  • 2010: Fulbright Senior Fellow.
  • 2006: Aust. Academy of Science Travel Fellowship.
  • 1998: JILA Fellow (U. Colorado)
  • 1996: Le Fevre Prize (Aust. Academy of Science).
  • 2004: Centenary of Federation Teaching Award (RACI)
  • 1998: Excellence in Teaching Award (U. Sydney)


  • 2016: Vice Chancellor's Award (Support of the Student Experience, UNSW)
  • 2008: Vice Chancellor's Award (Support of the Student Experience, U. Sydney)
  • 2007: Carrick Program Award (Programs that Enhance Students Learning).
  • 2997: Vice Chancellor's Award (Support of the Student Experience, U. Sydney)
  • 2006: Carrick Citation (Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning)
  • 2004: Centenary of Federation Teaching Award (RACI)
  • 1998: Excellence in Teaching Award (U. Sydney)


  • 2016: Fellow of the Royal Society of NSW
  • 2012: Citation for Service to the RACI
  • 1999: Fellow of the RACI

My Research Activities

My research is divided into four streams - 1) reaction dynamics, 2) atmospheric chemistry; 3) spectroscopy of radicals, and 4) science education. The first three are experimental research conducted in the Molecular Photonics Laboratories (co-led with Prof Tim Schmidt), while the third area is run in collaboration with researchers in the Advancing Science by Enhancing Learning in the Laboratory (ASELL)Project (

1. Reaction Dynamics and Mechanisms

Collaborators: Prof Jordan (U.Syd.), Dr Osborn (Sandia Nat'l Labs), Prof Bowman (Emory Univ.) Prof Houston (Cornell Univ.) In this project we excite isolated molecules with a laser and detect the reaction products with exceptional sensitivity. In detecting the products we measure the speed of the fragments, their internal energy, and their orientation. This high level of detail allows us to determine the mechanism of the reaction, and to discover new mechanisms when known mechanisms do not fit the experimental picture. Our most significant recent discoveries include: i) Roaming pathways. Conventional chemical theory cannot explain many details of these reactions. ii) Phototautomerization. We discovered recently that when small carbonyls absorb light they undergo tautomerization. This might explain the origin of organic acids in the atmosphere, which is vastly underrepresented in atmospheric models.

2. Atmospheric Chemistry

Collaborators:  Prof Jordan (Univ. Sydney), A/Prof Fisher (Univ. Wollongong), Dr Hansen (UNSW), Dr Fittschen (Univ. Lille). In this project we discover new reaction mechanisms and pathways relevant to atmospheric chemistry.  Photochemical pathways are probed in the laboratory, validated using computational chemistry and tested in global atmospheric models.  We determine fundamental photochemical processes using molecular beam experiments, and also photooxidation and photo reduction fates of these fundamental processes under atmospheric conditions. Our philosophy is that atmospheric processes can only be truly understood if the fundamental process are first determined.

3. Spectroscopy of Radicals

Collaborators: Prof Schmidt (UNSW), Dr Osborn and Dr Taatjes (Sandia), Prof Heard and Dr Whalley (Univ. of Leeds) Free radicals are the chain carriers in almost all complex chemical reactions. Although they feature in chemical models, many have not been discovered. In this project we create and isolate free radicals using an electric discharge. The radicals are cooled in the molecular beam and subjected to spectroscopic and mass analysis, which allows us to determine the radicals that are formed. We are specifically looking for radicals that might be formed in the interstellar medium, radicals that are formed in engines, and radicals that are formed in the atmosphere.

4. Science Education

Collaborators: Prof Sharma (U. Syd.), Prof Buntine (Curtin Univ.) and other members of the ASELL team. Prof Buntine and I started the science education project called "Advancing Science by Enhancing Learning in the Laboratory" about 10 years ago. The project has 4 objectives: i) to create and share a database of good undergraduate science experiments; ii) to provide professional development for science academics in educational theory and practice; iii) to provide links and fora for academics to get together and discuss lab education; and iv) to conduct research into how students learn and engage in the undergraduate lab.

My Research Supervision

Supervision keywords

Areas of supervision

My area of expertise is in atmospheric chemistry, reaction dynamics and spectroscopy.  I can co-supervise projects in computational chemistry and atmospheric modelling.   

PhD scholarships are available for all projects listed below.  Please send me an email mentioning this page.

Projects that would be led by me:

New Atmospheric Mechanisms:  I am offering projects in the discovery of new atmospheric chemistry reaction pathways.  Atmospheric models are only as good as the underlying chemistry that they contain. Over the past few years we have discovered a number of new chemical pathways relevant to the atmosphere.  Photo-isomerization accounts for the production of organic acids that was previous under-estimated in models.  We discovered photo-thermal oxidation as a new chemical mechanism and are evaluating its role in the atmosphere.  This project is laboratory-based, using our state-of-the-art laser laboratory.

Reaction dynamics:  Chemical reaction dynamics is the study of fundamental reaction mechanisms.  The chemical "mechanism" refers to the specific motion of electrons and nuclei as a molecule proceeds from reactant to product(s).  Understanding of this mechanism allows prediction of the fate of an energised molecule and also the rate of reaction.  Over the past two decades, we have been pioneers in the investigation of "roaming" reactions. This project would involve the extension of our knowledge about roaming reactions into larger molecules, including acetone, and the development of knowledge about vector properties of roaming. This project is laboratory-based, using our state-of-the-art laser laboratory.

Molecular Spectroscopy:  The projects above all involve a detailed knowledge of molecular spectroscopy as the probe of chemical reactions.  This project involve the measurement and analysis of spectra that have never been measured before.  Target molecules are free radicals that are intermediates in complex chemical pathways, including radicals in atmospheric, combustion and astrophysical chemistry. This project is laboratory-based, using our state-of-the-art laser laboratory.

Projects that would be co-supervised by me:

Atmospheric fate of new refrigerants gases (project led by Dr Chris Hansen).  Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) are the new generation of refrigerant gases, replacing chlorofluorocarbon and hydrofluorocarbon gases that have now been banned by the Montreal Protocol and amendments.  This project will test a range of HFOs and their decomposition products in the atmosphere to determine whether these compounds are benign, or whether their use should also be regulated.

Computational chemistry or atmospheric processes (project led by Prof Meredith Jordan at U. Sydney).  Prof Jordan and I have collaborated for many years on atmospheric chemistry and reaction dynamics.  Computational chemistry is a crucial element of the interpretation of  laboratory results and confirms the discovery of new chemistry.  Computational chemistry can also predict the outcomes of new mechanisms that can be tested in the lab.  This project will be performed in conjunction with any of the three experimental project above.  The project is strongly computational in nature and can be conducted at either UNSW or U.Sydney.

Atmospheric Modelling (project led by A.Prof Jenny Fisher at U. Wollongong).  In support of the "New Atmospheric Mechanisms" and "New Refrigerants" experimental projects above, A/Prof Fisher collaborates with us to determine the consequences of our new chemistry discoveries in the atmosphere.  New discoveries in the lab are tested in extensive, global, atmospheric models.  In reverse, ideas about new chemical processes can be tested in models before exploring in the lab.  This project could be undertaken at either UNSW or UOW.


Advice for prospective students

UNSW students: Send me an email or knock on my door and we can discuss options for undergraduate, Honours or PhD projects.

Aust/NZ students (non-UNSW): If you are interested in doing an Hons or PhD project in any of these areas drop me an email. UNSW offers relocation scholarships to assist in transferring to UNSW for suitably qualified students.

International students: UNSW offers a variety of scholarships, ranging from tuition scholarships and full tuition plus stipend. Please see the UNSW scholarships website, or send em an email (mentioning this webpage).

Currently supervising

Mr Blair Welsh.  PhD Project: "Atmospheric Photothermal Oxidation as a New Atmospheric Mechanism"

Ms Jyoti Campbell.  PhD Project:  "Atmospheric Fate of CF3CHO - a decomposition byproduct of HFO-1234yf"

Ms Maria Paula Perez.  PhD Project:  "Atmospheric Modelling of New Chemical Reactions"

Ms Lorrie Jacob.  Master Project: "Atmospheric pathways in the decomposition of acetone = - one of the largest volume anthropogenic organic compounds in the atmosphere.

Mr Josh Thomson.  Honours Project:  "Atmospheric pathways in the decomposition of methylvinylketone - one of the largest volume natural organic compounds in the atmosphere."

My Teaching

Courses I teach

CHEM 1031/1051: Higher Chemistry (1st year).

CHEM2011:  Physical Chemistry - Molecules, Energy and Change



View less