BSc (LaTrobe) Chemistry, PhD (La Trobe) Coordination Chemistry Position: Deputy Associate Dean Academic, Faculty of Science
Emeritus Professor of Chemistry

Emeritus Professor of Chemistry


I joined The University of Queensland in 1984 after a period spent as a Senior Tutor at Monash University (1983), a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Research School of Chemistry at the Australian National University (1977-1982) and Postdoctoral positions in the UK (1977) and United States (1976).

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

(in association with A/Prof Gary Schenk (SCMB), Professor Graeme Hanson (CAI) and Professor David Ollis (RSC, ANU))

Analogues of Bacterial phosphoesterases
Organophosphate esters have been in use as pesticides for well over half a century. Typical of compounds of this type are parathion, paraoxon and demeton. These compounds are thought to operate by the irreversible inhibition of acetylcholinesterase, preventing nerve signal transduction and causing, ultimately, death. They are effective and have found application in various areas where control of pest infestation is important. The downside is that these compounds can have a residual effect in ground waters and food. The EPA allows 0.002 milligrams of methyl parathion per litre of drinking water for lifetime exposure of adults and a maximum of 0.1-1 part methyl parathion per million parts of certain types of food.

Metalloenzymes which hydrolyse these organophosphate esters are known; they are usually bimetallic zinc(II) containing enzymes although the metal ions can be replaced by a host of other divalent metal ions with little reduction in activity. The aim of our work is to prepare analogues of the active site of known phosphoesterases, their divalent complexes, and to investigate their reactivity towards organophosphate esters. We employ analogues and inhibitors (e.g. substituted phosphonates ((RO)2POR'; R = methyl, ethyl, propyl, phenyl; R' = benzyl, cyclohexyl, 4-methoxybenzyl), phosphorothionates) to probe kinetic properties of the complexes and the structures of possible reaction intermediates.

Funded Projects: 

ARC LIEF LE100100197, 2010
Murray, K.S., Spiccia, L., Deacon, G., Batten, S., Boskovic, C., Gahan, L.R., Hanson, G.R., Schenk, G., Abrahams, B.
National Magnetochemical Facility

NHMRC 569694, 2009-2013
Prof Rod F Minchin; Prof Michael S Roberts; Dr Darren J Martin; Dr Suzanne V Smith; A/Pr Michael J Monteiro; Prof Lawrence R Gahan
Toxicology of Nanomaterials

ARC Discovery, 2009-2011
DP0986292 Dr G Schenk; Dr RP McGeary; Dr LW Guddat; A/Prof LR Gahan; Prof AC Hengge
Structure-based design of anti-osteoporotic drug leads: an integrated approach

ARC Discovery, 2009 -2011
DP0986613 Prof DL Ollis; Dr G Schenk; A/Prof LR Gahan
Organophosphate pesticide degradation: evolved enzymes and biomimetics for bioremediation and medicine

ARC Discovery, 2012 -2014
DP120104263 Prof DL Ollis; Dr G Schenk; A/Prof LR Gahan
Evolved enzymes and biomimetics for organo phosphate degradation

German Academic Exchange Service” (DAAD) under the program “International promovieren in Deutschland (IPID)” 2011-2014 GR Hanson, G Schenk, LR Gahan and others. Mechanisms of Molecular Transformations

ALTC 2010-2011. LR Gahan, G Lawrie, K Matthews, Peter Adams CG9-1112 IS-IT learning? Online interdisciplinary scenario-inquiry tasks for active learning in large, first year STEM courses

ARC LIEF 2013. Drew, Dr Simon C; Masters, Prof Colin L; Barnham, A/Prof Kevin J; Wille, A/Prof Uta; Wedd, Prof Anthony G; Hanson, Prof Graeme R; Schenk, A/Prof Gerhard; Gahan, Prof Lawrence R; Micallef, Dr Aaron S; Smythe, A/Prof Mark L. "Extending frontiers of structural chemistry and biology through high resolution pulsed Electron Paramagnetic Resonance."



Previous teaching:

CHEM1030  transition metal chemistry

CHEM3010  magnetism of transition metal complexes

CHEM3016  experimental chemistry

Significant Professional Activities and Awards: 


  • American Chemical Society
  • Royal Australian Institute of Chemistry
  • Royal Society of Chemistry


Teaching Awards

1992       Esso Teaching Award, First Year Engineering Students

2008       Deans Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

2009       Faculty of Science Teaching Excellence Award

2009       University of Queensland Teaching Excellence Award

2010       Australian Teaching and Learning Council (ALTC) Citation