University of Otago, New Zealand


Te Tari Hua-Ruanuku


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:


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
Prof. David Larsen:
Synthesis of Antibiotics. Carbohydrate mimetics and Glycosylation Reactions, Phosphatidylinositol Mannosides.
Dr Alan Hayman:
Peptidic hosts, Cyclodextrin Chemistry, Enzyme mimics, Surfactants
Dr Guy Jameson:
Ion-Containing Biological Systems, Metallo-enzyme Mechanisms
Dr Nigel B. Perry:
Isolation of Biologically-Active Natural Products. Structure-activity Studies on Natural Products
Assoc. Prof. James Crowley:
Metallo - antibacterial and anticancer agents

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.

Prof. Lyall Hanton:
Biomedical Gels, Supramolecular Gels, Gel Actuators, Metal Containing Polymers
Assoc. Prof. Stephen Moratti:
Biomedical Gels, Supramolecular Polymers, Gel Actuators, Conducting Polymers
Dr John McAdam:
Gel Actuators, Ferrocene-containing Polymers
Dr Nigel Lucas:
Synthesis and properties of carbon-rich molecular materials, Metal-containing Liquid Crystals
Prof. Keith Gordon:
Design, synthesis and characterization of multifunctional electronic materials for use in organic light emitting diodes and solar cells.
Prof. 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.
Assoc. Prof. James Crowley:
Synthetic Molecular Machines and Motors, Molecular Actuators, Mechanically Interlocked Architectures.

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.

Prof. 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.
Prof. Lyall Hanton:
Metal Complexes, Supramolecular Polymers
Assoc. Prof. James Crowley:
Self-Assembly of Functional Nanostructures, macrocycles, cages, rotaxanes, "click" ligands and complexes, NHC complexes, catalysis.
Dr Nigel Lucas:
Supramolecular Interactions and Self-assembly, Organometallic Catalysis, Metal-containing Liquid Crystals. Graphene Materials.
Dr Dave McMorran:
Hydrogen-Bonded Metal Complexes
Prof. Keith Gordon:
Metal polypyridyl complexes as electronic materials
Assoc. Prof. Stephen Moratti:
Polymeric catenanes and supramolecular polymers

Environmental Chemistry and Geochemistry

This is the leading Environmental Chemistry tertiary research group in New Zealand. Specific areas of interest include: marine and freshwater chemistry, biogeochemistry, paleo-climatology, paleo-oceanography, cosmochemistry, isotope geochemistry, and the the fate of organic contaminants. Specialist units that support these research activities include: Isotrace, the Centre for Trace Element AnalysisNIWA/University of Otago Research Centre for Oceanography, and the Centre for Organic Geochemistry and Paleoclimate Studies.

Prof. Keith Hunter:
Trace metal speciation, chemical equilibria in marine and fresh waters, colloids and surfaces in marine and freshwater systems
Prof. Russell Frew:
Trace metals in natural waters, stable isotope geochemistry, paleo-chemistry
Dr Kimberly Hageman:
Fate and impacts of organic contaminants in the environmental
Dr Claudine Stirling:
Analysis of the metallic element isotope systems by MC-ICPMS; U-series isotope geochemistry and past and present climate change; biogeochemical cycling of the metallic elements; cosmochemistry
Dr Sylvia Sander:
Trace metal speciation in marine and fresh water, and hydrothermal systems; characterization of organic metal binding ligands; application and development of electroanalytical techniques
Dr Rob Middag
Trace metals in the marine environment

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 Garden and Gordon employ a full raft of high level techniques as a large part of their work.

Prof. Keith Gordon:
Electronic Structures of Chromophores for Photovoltaics
Dr Anna Garden
Theoretical modelling of heterogeneous catalysis and nanoparticle structure

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.

Prof. Keith Gordon:
Light harvesting Complexes, Raman Spectroscopy, Solar Cells, Chemometrics
Dr Guy Jameson:
Mössbauer Spectroscopy of Biological Systems