ISSUE 24, 2014

Headline news! 

As is so often the case these days, 2013 was a time of significant change for the School with a number of academic staff departing for other venues, and changes in the administrative and technical teams as well, including both permanent arrivals and departures as well as maternity leave and secondment replacements. This means 2014 is an exciting time as we make some new appointments. In particular I’d like to welcome Dr Girish Lakhwani – a new lecturer arriving in the School this May and Dr Santosh Rudrawar, a DECRA research fellow who commenced in January, as we farewell Professor Scott Kable, Professor Sébastien Perrier, Associate Professor Tim Schmidt and Professor Jeff Reimers.  While it is sad to see people leave the School, it is always a real pleasure to welcome new staff and see the new skills, ideas and energy they bring into the School and I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the year as more new faces arrive.  To give you an idea of some of the new research areas in the School our 2013 arrivals (Dr Suzanne Neville, Dr Anna Renfrew and Dr Mohammad Choucair) are all featured in this issue of Alumni News, and the feature article describes some of the exciting research underway in Associate Professor Richard Payne’s group.
We’ve also had some changes in infrastructure – one of the most popular being the introduction of new seats into Chemistry lecture theatres 3 and 4. Those of you with favourable memories of the lecture theatres 50 years ago can still sit on the original seats in lecture theatres 1 and 2 (although the new ones are definitely more comfortable!) but I expect they won’t last long, so why not come along to a Chemical Society lecture (for details of upcoming lectures see over the next few months to make sure you experience those wooden slats one final time.  We also now have Wi-Fi access throughout the Chemistry building, providing students, staff and visitors alike with readily available internet access.

One exciting nation-wide activity that the School is involved in at present is the development of a ‘Decadal Plan for Chemistry’ though the Australian Academy of Science. This will be the first ever formal plan for chemistry in Australia and presents a great opportunity for us to work together as a community of chemists to outline our priorities and to lobby policy makers and government to strongly support scientific activities. There will be a series of ‘town-hall’ style meetings held throughout the country over the rest of 2014 (dates yet to be advised) as well as a dedicated website to gather information from the wider chemical community and it would be great to see some of our alumni contribute to these.

Finally, a thank you to everyone who has donated money to our various funds over the past year.  In the current economic environment this support is becoming ever more important to the School and University and it is fantastic to see that our alumni are willing to support our students, funds and Foundations.

Professor Kate Jolliffe
Head of School


Feature story: Development of novel glycopeptide-based cancer immunotherapies

Over 120,000 Australians are diagnosed with cancer each year, and more than 43,000 died of cancer in 2011 alone. Our laboratory is among a number around the world working towards finding better treatments for cancer sufferers, and one of nearly 500 supported by Cure Cancer Australia, an initiative that began in 1967 to provide research support to Australian laboratories searching for cures for cancer. Read more.

Honours graduates

Did you graduate with BSc (Hons) between 2009 and 2012?

If so, we are looking for a short profile about your work experience since you graduated from the School of Chemistry at The University of Sydney.  This information will be used for publicity purposes, in particular, on the School's graduate and honours page.

We hope to inspire and encourage prospective students to study chemistry at The University of Sydney and give them an idea of where an Honours degree can lead them.
     If you would like to participate please contact Anne Woods at ASAP.

Australia Day Award

PhD candidate, Ms Jessica Stanley, has received a 2014 Australia Day Award by the National Council of Women NSW, sponsored by the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts (SMSA).  Jessica received her award by Verity Firth, CEO of the Public Education Foundation, in the distinguished presence of Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO Governor of NSW, at the “Celebrate Being an Australian” Australia Day Luncheon at Parliament House, Sydney on 23 January, 2014.
Jessica graduated B Liberal Studies majoring in Chemistry, Ancient History and French with First Class Honours in Chemistry.  She is now in the 3rd year of her PhD studies researching novel applications of catalysis for “Green Chemistry”.  This is a co-tutelle joint study with Ca’ Foscari University of Venice involving one year of research in Venice. (See ChemNEWS, Issue 23.)
     Her work has been recognized by a variety of awards and prizes, amongst which are one of four 2013 Royal Society of New South Wales Scholarships, a Conference Grant and Student Fellowship from the 6th Asia Pacific Catalysis Conference in Taiwan, and funding for her research from the Italian Government under the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research’s International Cooperation Link program.  She has also been awarded some of three University of Sydney Chemical Society 2013 Le Fèvre Awards for PhD students.
     To accomplish all of this, in different geographic and academic areas, she has proven to be an independent researcher of considerable skill, motivation and initiative.
     These achievements have not come easily, Jessica’s home is in Armidale, so she has relocated to Sydney for her studies, which has separated her from her family during a difficult time in which her mother faced two separate major medical problems.  Most importantly, during a period of personal and emotional hardship she has conducted herself with courage, dignity and grace, and earned enormous respect from all familiar with her circumstances.

Photo L-R: A/Prof. Tony Masters (USyd), Ms Winsome Allen (sponsor from the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts (SMSA)), Ms Jessica Stanley (USyd) and Dr Jane Baker (convener of the Australia Day Awards NCW NSW).

More news, including this story, can be found here.

Maths and Science Ambassador a perfect post for Adam Spencer

Adam Spencer has been appointed as the University of Sydney's Mathematics and Science Ambassador, the first time such a role has been created at an Australian university.
Professor Trevor Hambley, Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Sydney said, "Adam's rare blend of media expertise and maths and science knowledge makes him the perfect choice for this role.
    "A first-class honours graduate in pure maths from the University of Sydney, he has gone on to have a varied and successful career, while always maintaining his curiosity and excitement about maths and science.
     "He has a deep appreciation of their relevance to every aspect of our lives and of why it is essential that we keep students interested in these areas throughout their education."
    The Dean made the official announcement of the role at a national Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education (IISME) conference, hosted by the University of Sydney.
     The event was held to address the concern of teachers and academics about how insufficient maths knowledge is leaving high school students poorly prepared to pursue tertiary studies and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
     Commenting on his appointment Adam Spencer said, "The position of ambassador is a thrill and an honour - my years studying mathematics at Sydney were stimulating and extremely formative. I can't wait to spread the gospel of the importance of mathematics and science education."
     "Now more than ever Australia needs to build its knowledge economy and at the heart of this will be mathematicians and scientists. I'll be doing everything I can to encourage talented young Aussies to get on board."
     Adam Spencer has been a popular media presenter for almost twenty years, most recently as the host of ABC breakfast radio.
     His passion for science led him to host ABC television programs Quantum and FAQ. In partnership with Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, the Julius Sumner Miller Fellow at the University of Sydney, Adam has presented the TV series Sleek Geeks, which combines comedy and groundbreaking science, and toured the show for National Science Week.
     The author of the Little Book of Numbers, Adam explained his love of prime numbers and the magic of maths to an enraptured TED audience in early 2013. Since being posted online the talk has had over a million views.

More news, including this story, can be found here.

Chemistry in Movember!

Last November, the male members of the Payne Group faced much opposition from their better halves and female members of staff for embarking on a journey into manhood, growing a moustache.
Whilst most people ridiculed our early attempts at facial hair growth, the members of the Payne group persevered knowing the reputation of Movember was behind them. Ending the month as a band of ‘furry-lipped’ brothers, we raised over $2000 for the Movember foundation. Donations to Movember aim to have an everlasting impact on the face of men with a focus on men’s health, prostate and testicular cancer, and mental health.
     This year, we hope that many more members of the School will join us, raising much-needed funds for the Movember Foundation.

More news, including this story, can be found here.
Profile: Dr Mohammad Choucair
Mohammad's profile can be found here.
Profile: Dr Anna Renfew
Anna's profile can be found here.
Profile: Dr Suzanne Neville
Suzanne's profile can be found here.
Lotus leaves and gecko hairs - how nature makes materials
From lotus leaves to geckos' feet, the intricate structures of natural materials still hold many secrets that intrigue humans, and can benefit them.
   On 20 February at a Sydney Ideas lecture at the University of Sydney, Professor Ullrich Steiner, the John Humphrey Plummer Professor of the Physics of Materials at the University of Cambridge, described the latest research based on recreating the extraordinary properties of natural materials.

More news, including this story, can be found here.

Joan R. Clark Scholarship recipients share their stories
PhD candidates, Anita Das, Emily Reynolds and Josie Auckett were awarded a Joan R. Clark Scholarship to undertake research at a leading university overseas during 2013.  All three share their experiences with ChemNEWS.

For more info please visit here.
Nanjing University exchange programme
In late 2013, four third year chemistry students participated in the inaugural exchange between the chemistry schools of the University of Sydney and Nanjing University. The four students, Cecile Elgindy, Elisabeth Tondl, Isaac Carney and Jonathan Chung, who are currently pursuing Honours in the School, joined the research groups of Professors Zhu-Jun Yao, Luming Peng and Yan Zhang at Nanjing. The exchange programme has been established to foster stronger scientific and cultural relationships between Sydney and Nanjing, with a view towards promoting scientific linkages.  Read more here.

To view individual stories please click on the link:  Cecile Elgindy; Elisabeth Tondl; Isaac Carney and Jonathan Chung.
2013 donors
The School of Chemistry would like to take this opportunity to thank the following people for their generous donations during 2013.  Without these donations many of our programs would not be possible. A full list a donors can be found here. We thank:-

Dr Thomas W Barlow
Ms Catherine Bishop
Ms Noela Bishop
Mr Dominic Boyle
Dr Paul A Duckworth
Mr Stephen B M Harrison, AO
Dr Benjamin Y S Kong
Professor Peter A Lay
Mr Shane Longmore
Mr Robert McInnes
Mr Gregory J W Petfield
Mr Thomas M Savage
Mr Kenneth C Seale
Mr Darren M Spies
Mr John E Stutchbury
Mr John Suster
Tavumi Pty Ltd
Dr Geoffrey N Vaughan, AO
Ms Karen Whitelaw
Mr Ross Whitelaw

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 OBITUARIES  | Dr Jim Eckert and Sir John Cornforth

The School of Chemistry has been sadden by the passing of two of its alumni, Dr Jim Eckert (1936-2014) and Sir John Warcup Cornforth (1917-2013).

Dr Jim Eckert (1936 to 2014)
It is with great sadness we pass on the news that our friend, colleague and Chemistry alumnus Dr Jim Eckert passed away peacefully on 14 March 2014 at the age of 77.  Many of you will remember Jim from his fascinating historical articles that can be viewed here. Jim's cousin, Helen Brennan wrote a tribute to Jim which can be found here.

Sir John Warcup Cornforth (1917 to 2013)
The University of Sydney acknowledges the passing of one of its most prestigious graduates, Australia's only Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, Sir John Warcup Cornforth.  To read the University's tribute to Sir John please visit

 SEMINAR PROGRAM  | Upcoming Seminars

Everyone is welcome to attend the School of Chemistry's seminars.  It is free and no bookings are required.  Check seminar page for information.  If you are not already on the School's seminar email mailing list and would like to be, please contact Dimetra Skondras-Silva at and she will arrange it for you or visit here. Weekly seminars are also advertised on Facebook and Twitter.

 FACULTY OF SCIENCE  | Public Events and Lectures

The Faculty of Science runs many public events and lectures throughout the year.  Please visit their events website for details of upcoming events.

 SUCS  | Sydney University Chemical Society Seminars

Everyone with an interest in chemistry is welcome to join the Society. For more information please see the SUCs website or check out our facebook group at

 LATEST NEWS  | 2014 achievements and news

Check out what our staff and students have been achieving in 2014!

Back issues of the Chemistry newsletter can be found here.

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Phone +61 2 9351 2222 ABN 15 211 513 464 CRICOS Number: 00026A


Ms Anne Woods
Level 4
School of Chemistry, Building F11
The University of Sydney
Telephone: +61 2 9351 2755

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