BSc(Hons) PhD Cantab
Professor of Chemistry, Chair of SCMB Engagement Committee


After graduating from The University of Queensland with First Class Honours in Organic Chemistry I received a Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Overseas Scholarship to carry out my PhD on the biosynthesis of Vitamin B12 at the University of Cambridge. Upon completion of my studies, I moved to the Johns Hopkins University as a Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Postdoctoral Fellow and investigated the mechanism of action of the enediyne antitumour antibiotic calicheamicin. I then moved to the University of California San Francisco where I became interested in molecular biology and the enzmyes of the Cytochrome P450 family. I returned to The University of Queensland in 1995 as a Senior Lecturer and was appointed Professor in 2008.

Brief Research Description: 
Biological and synthetic chemistry
Research Focus and Collaborations: 


My group is interested in problems at the interface of chemistry and biology.  We apply chemical principles and techniques to understanding biologically important reactions.  We are broadly interested in the way in which nature makes various compounds, the structure and bioactivity of these compounds and in the enzymes that are involved in these pathways. As the work carried out in my group is at the interface of chemistry and biology we use techniques that are drawn from both disciplines including recombinant DNA technology, protein purification and structure determination, organic synthesis, and small molecule structure determination by MS, NMR etc. 

Cytochrome P450s

One group of enzymes that we work with are the cytochrome P450s.  These are oxidative proteins that contain a prosthetic haem group and catalyse a fascinating array of transformations which range from simple epoxidations all the way through to oxygen insertion into unactivated C-H bonds and C-C bond cleavage.  P450s are essentially ubiquitous in nature and we have projects involved with: bacterial P450s, including ones from Mycobacterium tuberculosis in collaboration with Prof. Paul Ortiz de Montellano at the University of California San Francisco; P450s from the human pathogen Leishmania sp.; fruit-fly P450s (in collaboration with Prof. W. Kitching); in vitro evolution of some human P450s (in collaboration with Dr. E. Gillam).

Natural Products from Herbal Medicines


Herbal medicines have a long history of traditional use and are still widely used today with up to 70% of Australians in a recent survey reporting that they used Complementary and Alternative Medicines. The herbal medicine industry is a rapidly expanding and estimated to have annual revenues of up to $60 billion per annum world wide. Unfortunately, despite their widespread use, the chemical constituents of many of these herbal medicines are often poorly characterised. In collaboration with a local company we have embarked upon a program of phytochemical characterisation of a number of therapeutically prescribed herbs. The results have been surprising with a number of previously unknown compounds isolated from supposedly well-characterised species. We identify these compounds mainly via a range of 1D and 2D NMR techniques and in some cases we undertake the total synthesis of these new compounds.

Funded Projects: 

ARC Linkage Project (2014-2017)
Bioproduction and bioavailability of steroidal saponins, bioactives in herbal

ARC Discovery Project (2014-2016)
Understanding the mechanism of two important cytochrome P450 catalysed
reactions: dehydrogenation and C-C cleavage



Organic Chemistry in First, Second, Third and Fourth Year

Organic Reactions and Mechanisms

Introduction to Structure Elucidation

Enantioselective Organic Synthesis

Stereoelectronic Effects in Organic Chemistry

Selected Publications: