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PhD(Otago), BSc(Bristol)

Tel +64 3 479 8354
Room 4s6, Science 2 Building

Research interests

Natural products chemistry is about the compounds that give colour and flavour to our foods, scent to flowers, and inspiration for many of our life-saving drugs. My research areas are:

  • New Zealand natural products: working with Māori on discovering new compounds in native plants, animals and microorganisms; by isolation directed by biological assays, and structure identification by combined NMR spectroscopy and molecular modelling. We also study biosynthesis in plants and ecological roles of natural products.
  • Food bioactives: using NMR, LC, GC, MS and Raman microscopy, to locate and quantify plant metabolites, food bioactives and flavour chemicals; e.g. a stable vitamin C glycoside in apples.
  • Synthetic organic chemistry (with Bill Hawkins and Dave Larsen): studies on biomolecules to understand the relationship between structure and biological activity, and to produce more active and selective compounds.

My group is part of Plant & Food Research, a Crown Research Institute, with collaborators in other University of Otago departments including Botany and Marine Science, and links to other universities, industry and government researchers around New Zealand and abroad. We collaborate with Ngāi Tahu and other iwi on developing new products from taonga species native to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Research group and students

  • Catherine Sansom
  • Dr John van Klink
  • Josh Bristowe
  • Nigel Joyce (Plant & Food Research Lincoln, LC-MS)
  • Sekotilani Aloi (PhD candidate): Bioactive natural products from Samoan medicinal plants
  • Ioan Fuller (PhD candidate): Bioactive phospholipids in molluscs important as kai moana to Māori
  • Liam Hewson (MSc candidate): Natural product chemistry of kānuka
  • Katherine Handey (BSc Honours candidate): Kiwiberry chemistry

Recent students

  • David Rubin (MSc 2021): Exploring the chemotypes of the sticky mountain daisy Celmisia viscosa
  • Dr Alistair Richardson (PhD 2019): Chemistry of a Stable Vitamin C Glycoside in Apples ( Malus spp.) and Other Fruit Crops
  • Dr Oliver Watkins (PhD 2016): The Chemistry of the Bioluminescence of the New Zealand Glow-Worm


Pretz, D., Heyward, P. M., Krebs, J., Gruchot, J., Barter, C., Silcock, P., Downes, N., Rizwan, M. Z., Boucsein, A., Bender, J., Burgess, E. J., Boer, G. A., Keerthisinghe, P., Perry, N. B., & Tups, A. (2023). A dahlia flower extract has anti-diabetic properties by improving insulin function in the brain. Life Metabolism, 2(4), load026. doi: 10.1093/lifemeta/load026

Rubin, D., Sansom, C. E., Richards, D. J., Lucas, N. T., Garden, A. L., Saldivia Pérez, P. R., Lord, J. M., & Perry, N. B. (2022). Halimane diterpenes in the alpine daisy Celmisia viscosa: Absolute configuration, 2,6-dideoxyhexopyran-3-ulosides, conformational flexibility, and intraspecific variation. Journal of Natural Products, 85, 1893-1903. doi: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.2c00206

Rubin, D., Sansom, C. E., Lucas, N. T., McAdam, C. J., Simpson, J., Lord, J. M., & Perry, N. B. (2022). O-acylated flavones in the alpine daisy Celmisia viscosa: Intraspecific variation. Journal of Natural Products, 85, 1904-1911. doi: 10.1021/acs.jnatprod.2c00207

Fuller, I. D., de Lange, P. J., Burgess, E. J., Sansom, C. E., van Klink, J. W., & Perry, N. B. (2022). Chemical diversity of kānuka: Inter- and intraspecific variation of foliage terpenes and flavanones of Kunzea (Myrtaceae) in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Phytochemistry, 196, 113098. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2022.113098

Sansom, C. E., & Perry, N. B. (2022). Analytical artefacts: H2 carrier gas hydrogenation of plant volatiles during headspace solid-phase microextraction gas chromatography. Phytochemical Analysis, 33, 386-391. doi: 10.1002/pca.3096

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