News

From time to time, School of Chemistry staff and students will make the news! Below are excerpts from, and links to, recent news stories and articles about the School of Chemistry from print and electronic media.

Learning & Teaching Grant: A tutor in my pocket

Friday, 22 May 2015 - 4:30pm

Congratulations to Mick Moylan and Sonia Horvat who were awarded a Learning and Teaching Initiatives Grant from the University to develop “A tutor in my pocket”: an electronic teaching and learning resource to support small group tutorial sessions and formative assessment within our first year subjects. Featuring short movie clips, diagnostic quizzes and personalised feedback to both student and staff, this is sure to become an important resource that will enhance the Chemistry first-year experience.

NH Schuster Scholarship awards

Friday, 15 May 2015 - 5:00pm

Congratulations to PhD students, Nitin Patil and Wenyi Li, from the Separovic lab who each have been awarded a Norma Hilda Schuster Scholarship for 2015 to support research in biochemistry

Uncovering the secrets of fungal cell wall metabolism

Monday, 4 May 2015 - 6:00pm

Certain bacteria have the capacity to utilize the fungal cell wall as a source of energy and have evolved highly specialized enzymes that can attack the complex fungal cell wall carbohydrates. In collaboration with groups from the UK and Spain, the Williams group have completed a comprehensive structural study of a poorly understood endomannanase from Bacillus circulans, which is central for its capability to regard fungal cell walls. Using inhibitors and substrate analogues synthesised by PhD students from the Williams lab, Zalihe Hakki, Tyson Belz and Gaetano Speciale, X-ray structures of these ligands bound to the enzyme were determined and used to define the structural changes that occur along the endomannosidase reaction coordinate and the conformation of the enzymatic transition state. Their publication (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.) follows hot on the heels of their paper published earlier this year in Nature, which established the importance of these endomannanases produced by our gut microbiota in the digestion of the cell wall of fungi and yeast consumed in our diet.

Healy Travel Awards to PhD students

Monday, 4 May 2015 - 12:45pm

Congratulations to PhD students, Kyra Schwarz, Sarah Jaber and Luke Gamon, who are the recipients of Tom Healy Awards to enable them to travel to international conferences. They will be going to meetings in Korea, Germany and USA in 2015.

KM Brutton Bequest 2015 award to Yuning Hong

Wednesday, 15 April 2015 - 6:30pm

Congratulations to Dr Yuning Hong who has been awarded funding from the Kaye Merlin Brutton Bequest to study 'Targetting mitochondria in cancer cells'.

ME Reum Prize to Jenny Chambers

Monday, 13 April 2015 - 8:30pm

The Monica Elizabeth Reum Memorial Prize was awarded to Dr Jenny Chambers, who completed her PhD with the Rizzacasa group in 2014. The Prize is awarded to the person who submits for assessment an outstanding PhD thesis in an area of Organic Chemistry. Jenny received an NHMRC fellowship and is now working at Columbia University, USA.

Prof. Mark Rizzacasa, Dr Jenny Chambers and Prof. Frances Separovic

Report on Science meets Parliament 2015

Monday, 13 April 2015 - 8:15pm

William McMaster attended Science meets Parliament (SmP), Canberra, 24th and 25th March 2015, as a representative of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. The other RACI delegate was Dr Christopher Burns from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, who is an honorary Principal Fellow in the School. SmP was organised by Science & Technology Australia. Activities included meeting and presenting science to politicians; science policymaking; the role of the media in science news, policy and politics; a question and answer session with Opposition Senator the Hon. Kim Carr (responsible for higher education and science); a panel discussion on science and politics; and drinks with the Parliamentary Friends of Science. William met Mr Andrew Giles MP (Federal Member for Scullin, VIC), and even managed to get a brief word with the Hon. Ian Macfarlane MP, Minister for Industry and Science, at the gala dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House! SmP delegates were also present at the report launch and National Press Club speech on the economic impact of science by Prof. Ian Chubb AC, Chief Scientist for Australia.

PhD students profiled in Chemistry in Australia

Sunday, 12 April 2015 - 9:30pm

In late 2013, profiles of Caroline Kyi and Michael Leeming were published in Chemistry in Australia. In April 2015, an update on their progress was published. Read article: Postgrad check-up

Dyason Fellowship to Frances Separovic

Sunday, 12 April 2015 - 12:00pm

Professor Frances Separovic has been awarded a University of Melbourne Dyason fellowship for NMR structural studies of the antimicrobial peptide maculatin 1.1 together with colleagues at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany.

AINSE Student Scholarship

Friday, 13 March 2015 - 4:00pm

Congratulations to MSc student Marcus Giansiracusa from the Soncini & Boskovic Groups on the award of a 2015 AINSE Honours Scholarship. This scholarship will support his investigation into the single-molecule magnet properties of lanthanoid-polyoxometalates using inelastic neutron scattering.

Spencer Williams awarded David Syme Research Prize

Wednesday, 11 March 2015 - 10:00pm

Associate Professor Spencer Williams has been awarded the annual David Syme Research Prize for his ground-breaking research to develop a new drug for the treatment of kidney disease. The prize, which has been awarded annually since 1906, is for the best original research in biology, physics, chemistry or geology, produced in Australia during the preceding two years by a mid-career researcher. See article in MUSSE

RACI accreditation of BSc Chemistry program

Tuesday, 10 March 2015 - 12:15am

The Board of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute Inc. has endorsed the recommendation of the RACI Accreditation Committee report evaluating our BSc Chemistry program. The RACI accredits that the skills and knowledge of a graduate of a bachelor degree majoring in Chemistry from the University of Melbourne are articulated in the Chemistry Academic Standards statement. Chemistry at Melbourne is the first degree accredited by the RACI using the new outcome based standards. Assoc Prof Kay Latham, president of RACI Victoria, presented the certificate at the first School of Chemistry meeting of 2015. Read Kay's speech.

Collaboration really works: Spencer Williams profiled

Monday, 2 March 2015 - 7:15pm

Organic chemist, Assoc Prof Spencer Williams from the School of Chemistry and Bio21, explains how collaboration has been the backbone of a career in science. See http://voice.unimelb.edu.au/volume-11/number-2/collaboration-really-works

Puzey scholarship to chemistry PhD student

Monday, 2 March 2015 - 7:15pm

Congratulations to Gemma Gransbury, new PhD student in the Boskovic Group, who was recently awarded the Elizabeth and Vernon Puzey Scholarship. The scholarship was established by a donation from Elizabeth Bernaldo Puzey in 1992 to encourage well-qualified Australian citizens to undertake research in medicine, science and engineering in Australia. Gemma joined the School after completing her BSc(Hons) degree at the University of Adelaide.

Grimwade Prize in Industrial Chemistry

Saturday, 28 February 2015 - 11:00am

The Faculty of Science 2014 Grimwade Prize in Industrial Chemistry has been awarded to Assoc Prof Paul Donnelly for his research on "Medicinal Chemistry: New Agents for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease and Cancer". The Grimwade Prize was established in 1905 by the Honourable Frederick Sheppard Grimwade, a drug wholesaler and part-owner of Felton, Grimwade & Co. The company later became Felton, Grimwade and Bickfords Pty Ltd, the largest drug wholesaler in Victoria. See list of prizewinners.

Front-cover article in J Comp Chem

Saturday, 28 February 2015 - 10:15am

Dr Lars Goerigk, in collaboration with Dr Amir Karton of UWA, has shown by using highly accurate thermochemical protocols (called Wn-F12) that a widely used and popular quantum chemical approach – the CBS-QB3 composite method – produces unusually large deviations for pericyclic reaction barrier heights. This unexpected finding has a significant impact on studies carried out for the assessment of density-functional-theory methods and on their application to better understand experimental results. The examples discussed in this article are a reminder to be cautious in the application of CBS-type composite methods in similar situations Journal of Computational Chemistry 2015, 36, 622-632.

Energy from the sun, printed on plastic

Saturday, 28 February 2015 - 10:00am

See recent article about Dr David Jones and his team from the School of Chemistry at Bio 21 on improved performance of organic solar cells in Voice, http://voice.unimelb.edu.au/volume-11/number-2/energy-sun-printed-plastic

Chemistry student at Global Young Scientists Summit 2015

Thursday, 12 February 2015 - 10:30am

Nick Kirkwood, PhD Chemistry student in the Mulvaney laboratory, Bio21, attended the Global Young Scientists Summit 2015, Singapore, in January. “It was a very inspiring experience indeed - a unique opportunity to learn from highly distinguished invited Nobel Laureates and other speakers and engage with a very enthusiastic and innovative group of early career researchers from a very broad range of scientific disciplines,” he said. Organised by the National Research Foundation of Singapore, the event brought together 239 young researchers scientists from all over the world. The multidisciplinary summit – covering a range of topics from physiology, medicine, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science & engineering – featured 20 eminent speakers, including 12 Nobel Laureates. Learn more at MUSSE.

Improved solar panels & printed electronics

Thursday, 15 January 2015 - 6:30pm
New and improved solar panels could result from the discovery of a new liquid crystal material, making printable organic solar cells better performing. Work published in Nature Communications could lead to vastly improved organic solar cell performance. Lead author, David Jones of the School of Chemistry, said these cells will be easier to manufacture, with the new crystals now able to work in cells that are double in thickness on the previous limit of 200 nm. 
"It had been theorized that a certain group of nematic liquid crystals would provide excellent electronic properties – as well as being printable – and, therefore, have been sought for a long time,” said Dr Jones. “With this research, we have shown for the first time these high performing materials.”
The research was conducted with international researchers in Singapore, China and Germany, and received funding from the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium, and the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics.

Beer and bread yeast-eating bacteria aid human health

Thursday, 8 January 2015 - 6:00pm

Bacteria that have evolved to eat their way through yeast in the human gut could inform the development of new treatments for bowel diseases. Publishing their findings in Nature, 517:165 (8 Jan 2015), the international research team* say discovery of this process could accelerate development of prebiotic medicines to help people suffering from bowel problems and autoimmune diseases. Scientists from UK, Australia, Canada, USA & Belgium have unraveled how Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, a dominant member of the human microbiome, has learned to feast upon difficult to break down complex carbohydrates called yeast mannans.

"Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron is an important part of our microbiota, the community of bacteria that live within us. By consuming carbohydrates that we can’t, which they convert to short-chain fatty acids that they secrete into our distal gut, these bacteria establish a symbiosis that nourishes the cells that line our gut wall and provide important immune signals that establish a healthy immune response.” says Assoc. Prof. Spencer Williams, School of Chemistry, who contributed to the work.
*The research team are from: Institute for Cell & Molecular Biosciences at Newcastle University, Complex Carbohydrate Research Centre at the University of Georgia, the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at University of Michigan Medical School, Department of Chemistry at University of York, School of Chemistry & Bio21 Institute at University of Melbourne, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at University of Kansas School of Pharmacy, Oxyrane, Ghent, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Biochemistry & Microbiology, University of Victoria, Canada and USDA, Agricultural Research Service, National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, Iowa.