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Chemistry research

There is a wide variety of leading research being done in this department. This includes work on novel drugs, environmental analysis, supramolecular chemistry, optoelectronics, spectroscopy and sensors.

Research themes in the department include:

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Organic Synthesis and Biological Chemistry

Organic synthesis is used in the construction of biological molecules and drugs, and this department has excellent research links with other departments such as biochemistry, physiology and pharmacy. New methodology is also being developed for the enantioselective synthesis of chiral compounds.

Dr Eng Wui Tan
Selective Radical Reactions
Professor David Larsen
Synthesis of Antibiotics. Carbohydrate mimetics and Glycosylation Reactions, Phosphatidylinositol Mannosides
Dr Alan Hayman
Peptidic hosts, Cyclodextrin Chemistry, Enzyme mimics, Surfactants
Professor Nigel B. Perry
Isolation of Biologically-Active Natural Products. Structure-activity Studies on Natural Products
Associate Professor James Crowley
Metallo - antibacterial and anticancer agents

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Materials and Polymers

This department is expanding rapidly its polymer and material research, especially in the areas of medical products, gels, actuators, and supramolecular polymers. One product developed here is already in human trials with more planned.

Professor Lyall Hanton
Biomedical Gels, Supramolecular Gels, Gel Actuators, Metal Containing Polymers
Research Associate Professor Stephen Moratti
Biomedical Gels, Supramolecular Polymers, Gel Actuators, Conducting Polymers
Dr John McAdam
Gel Actuators, Ferrocene-containing Polymers
Associate Professor Nigel Lucas
Synthesis and properties of carbon-rich molecular materials, Metal-containing Liquid Crystals
Professor Keith Gordon
Design, synthesis and characterization of multifunctional electronic materials for use in organic light emitting diodes and solar cells.
Professor Sally Brooker
Spin crossover (SCO) and single molecule magnet (SMM) complexes as potential molecular switches and memory devices or as sensors. Design and synthesis of polymerisation catalysts for ROP of lactide, co-polymerisation of the greenhouse gas CO2 and epoxide, or ethylene polymerisation.
Associate Professor James Crowley
Synthetic Molecular Machines and Motors, Molecular Actuators, Mechanically Interlocked Architectures.

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Inorganic, Supramolecular and Coordination Chemistry

The development of novel metal complexes that have many potential uses, including catalysis, as magnetic materials, in actuators, and in photovoltaics is an area of active research.

Professor Sally Brooker
Polynucleating macrocycles, Spin crossover complexes, Self assembly of polymetallic grids, Supramolecular chemistry, Mixed valent complexes, Luminescent lanthanide cages, Thiolate-complexes as models for hydrogenases, X-ray structure determinations.
Professor Lyall Hanton
Metal Complexes, Supramolecular Polymers.
Associate Professor James Crowley
Self-Assembly of Functional Nanostructures, macrocycles, cages, rotaxanes, "click" ligands and complexes, NHC complexes, catalysis.
Associate Professor Nigel Lucas
Supramolecular Interactions and Self-assembly, Organometallic Catalysis, Metal-containing Liquid Crystals. Graphene Materials.
Dr Dave McMorran
Hydrogen-Bonded Metal Complexes.
Professor Keith Gordon
Metal polypyridyl complexes as electronic materials.
Research Associate Professor Stephen Moratti
Polymeric catenanes and supramolecular polymers.

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Analytical Chemistry and Geochemistry

Analytical chemists develop new methods to determine what matter is and how much of it exists. At Otago, we develop analytical approaches to address some of the world’s most pressing problems. Specialist units that support these research activities include:

Professor Russell Frew
Trace metals in natural waters, stable isotope geochemistry, paleo-chemistry.
Dr Christina McGraw
The design, development and construction of chemical sensors.

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Theory and Modelling

Modelling is important to fully understand and predict the chemistry and reactivity of molecules, and to help assign spectral features for analysis. While many researchers here use computational models occasionally, the groups of Ennis, Garden and Gordon employ a full raft of high level techniques as a large part of their work.

Dr Courtney Ennis
Periodic Density Functional Theory (DFT) of Molecular Crystal and Supramolecular Polymer Vibrational Frequencies
Professor Keith Gordon
Electronic Structures of Chromophores for Photovoltaics.
Dr Anna Garden
Theoretical modelling of heterogeneous catalysis and nanoparticle structure.

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Physical Chemistry and Spectroscopy

Spectroscopy is used to study and help model a wide variety of areas, including atmospheric interactions, bio-adsorption and solar cells. Spectroscopic methods are also used, with chemometrics, for composition analysis in pharmaceuticals, foods and fossils.

Dr Courtney Ennis
Infrared and Terahertz Frequency Spectroscopy of Thin Films, Matrix Isolation of Radicals, Solid-state Astrochemistry
Professor Keith Gordon
Light harvesting Complexes, Raman Spectroscopy, Solar Cells, Chemometrics.
Dr Christina McGraw
Optical fibre sensors for the laboratory and field.