Available projects (2021)

If you are interested in doing an undergraduate research project (SCIE3500), honours or PhD project please get in touch with me. The following gives an idea of undergraduate research projects available at the moment:

a) Macromolecular therapeutics by high throughput synthesis:

Increasingly, new drug leads are arising from biomolecules (such as proteins, antibodies, and cytokines), because their size and complex structure enables them to communicate with cells in a way that small molecules are not able to. We are using a high throughput polymerisation method established in our lab to make synthetic mimics of proteins (called TRAIL) that can control cell fate by clustering protein receptors on their surface. Our technology enables the rapid generation of polymer libraries in very small volumes, and the screening of their biological activity. This project will involve high throughput polymer synthesis at UoN and collaboration with a PhD student based at UNSW for biological screening.

b) Folding polymers to make synthetic proteins:

The beauty and activity of proteins comes from their unique ability to fold into complex 3D shapes in solution – this allows them to form highly active and specific therapeutics and catalysts. Inspired by this we are designing ways to fold polymers into secondary structures, in order to make synthetic protein mimics. In this project we will do this by building nucleic acids and peptide nucleic acids (the binding components of DNA) into the polymer. We will use the high throughput polymer synthesis techniques established in our lab to study the effect of structure on the polymer’s ability to fold.

c) Improved polymer flocculants for waste-water treatment:

Most water treatment processes make use of positively charged (‘cationic’) polymers to flocculate contaminants and solids before filtration. Despite almost universal adoption these polymers don’t work very well, leaving large amounts of water in the sludge. We are designing polymer flocculants which work via a different mechanism of action, with the aim of improving performance and reducing the amount of flocculated solid that needs to be transported and disposed of.