Field of Research (FoR)
I am a Professor in the School of Chemistry, joining UNSW in 2014 after a long career at the Univ. of Sydney. I have three main research interests i) Spectroscopy of Radicals, where we make and characterise new free radicals using laser spectroscopy. We target radicals of interest in the atmosphere, in combustion and in interstellar space. ii) Photochemical Reaction Mechanisms, where we probe the mechanism by which...view more
I am a Professor in the School of Chemistry, joining UNSW in 2014 after a long career at the Univ. of Sydney. I have three main research interests i) Spectroscopy of Radicals, where we make and characterise new free radicals using laser spectroscopy. We target radicals of interest in the atmosphere, in combustion and in interstellar space. ii) Photochemical Reaction Mechanisms, where we probe the mechanism by which molecule are converted from reactant to product after absorbing light. iii) Chemistry Education. I have a passion for reearching how students learn in undergraduate laboratory classes with the aim of improving the laboratory experience.
- PhD (Griffith Univ, 1988).
- BSc.(Hons 1) (Griffith Univ., 1983).
- Grad. Dip. Business Admin (QUT, 1986).
My Research Goals
- Discover new chemical reaction mechanisms - ideally ones that change the way we think about chemistry.
- Discover new free radicals, preferably radicals that play an important role in the atmosphere or combustion.
- Work out atmospheric pathways that account for species that are measured in the atmosphere.
- Develop the most engaging undergraduate lab program that we can, where students learn chemical principles by doing experiments.
My Research in Detail
My research is divided into three streams - i) reaction dynamics, ii) spectroscopy of radicals, and iii) science education. The first two 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 (www.asell.org)
1. Reaction Dynamics and Mechanisms
Collaborators: A/Prof Jordan (U.Syd.), Dr Osborn (Sandia Nat'l Labs), Prof Bowman (Emory 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. 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.
3. 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.
Current Student Projects (PhD and Honours)
1. Experimental Probes of Roaming and Triple Fragmentation (Mr Mitchell Quinn)
2. Developing a Theoretical Model of Roaming and Triple Fragmentation (Mr Duncan Andrews, U. Syd.)
3. Ultrafast Study of Roaming in H2CO and (CH3)2CO (Mr Kelvin Lee)
4. Phototautomerization of Small Carbonyls (Ms Miranda Shaw, U. Syd.)
5. Free Radicals in the Atmosphere (Mr Callan Wilcox)
6. Photoisomerization under Atmospheric Conditions (Mr Alireza Kharazmi)
There are projects available for Hons and PhD students in any of the three areas described briefly above. Projects can be tuned to be as much experimental and as much theoretical as you like.
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).
TEACHING & OUTREACH
Courses I teach
Professional affiliations and service positions
- Board Member and Honorary General Secretary, Royal Australian Chemical Institute (2013-15).
- Member, ARC College of Experts (2013-15).
- co-Chair, Symposium on Atmospheric and Combustion Chemistry, Pacifichem, 2015.)
- co-Chair, East Asian Workshop on Reaction Dynamics, Gold Coast, 2015.
- Director of Teaching (Strategy), School of Chemistry UNSW.
AWARDS & ACHIEVEMENTS
- 2010: Fulbright Senior Fellow.
- 2006: Aust. Academy of Science Travel Fellowship.
- 1998: JILA Fellow (U. Colorado)
- 1996: Le Fevre Prize (Aust. Academy of Science).
- 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)
- 2012: Citation for Service to the RACI
- 1999: Fellow of the RACI