MA (Cantab) Natural Sciences, PhD (Cantab) Organic Chemistry
Professor of Chemistry
+61 7 336 53605

I was an Overseas Research Fellow of the Royal Society in Rome, Italy (1977-1978), a Research Fellow at New Hall, Cambridge (1978-1981) and a Queen Elizabeth II Research Fellow at James Cook University of North Queensland (1983-1985). I have worked in the UK pharmaceutical industry (Smith Kline Beecham) and previously held a lecturing position at The University of Wollongong (1986-1990). I joined The University of Queensland in 1990.

Brief Research Description: 
Organic Chemistry - Chemistry and bioactivity of natural products
Research Focus and Collaborations: 

My research explores the chemistry and natural bioactivity of secondary metabolites from both the marine and terrestrial environment. A key area of interest are the biosynthetic processes by which terpene metabolites are formed in marine sponges, and particularly in the role of inorganic cyanide and thiocyanate in the generation of the isocyano and isothiocyanato motif found in a number of these metabolites. We have also explored the chemistry and chemical ecology of bioactive 3 alkylpiperidine metabolites from marine sponges, and the chemistry of nudibranchs, notably those from the genera Phyllidiella and Chromodoris, that associate with sponges. A recent interest has been the structure elucidation of metabolites from marine fungi and bacteria. Research into the chemistry of medicinal plants is carried out in collaboration with chemists from South East Asia.

Structure, Synthesis and Biological Activity of Australian Marine Natural Products [with Professor Martin Banwell (ANU)]
This program has explored the chemistry of 3-alkylpiperidines from Haliclona spp. and the in situ ecological effects of these alkaloids. A recent interest has been resolving the structures and stereochemistry of a group of anti-malarial cyclic peroxides from the sponge Plakinistrella sp, a study which has provided considerable insight into the mechanism of biosynthesis of these metabolites.

The Chemistry of Medicinal Plants from South East Asia [with Dr Rudiyansyah (Tangjungpura University, Pontianak, West Kalimantan)
This program has investigated complex lignan and triterpene metabolites from the economically-important genus Durio. Additionally, we have completed a detailed phytochemical study on four species from the genus Fagraea in collaboration with staff from Airlangga University in East Java.

The Chemistry of Marine Molluscs (with Dr Karen Cheney, School of Biological sciences, UQ, and with Dr Margherita Gavagnin, Dr Ernesto Mollo, and Dr Guido Cimino (Istituto Chimica Biomoleculare, Consiglio Nazionale di Ricerche, Italy)
This joint project studies the chemistry and chemical ecology of nudibranchs and opistobranch molluscs from South East Queensland, and includes biogeographical comparisons with the chemistry of molluscs collected from the Indo-Pacific and from the Mediterranean.


L: The marine flatwormmaritigrella marygarsonae was first collected by Professor Garson during a field trip to Heron Island Research Station

R. Bioactive 3-alkylpiperidines provide marine sponges such as haliclonaSPPp with a competititve advantage in their natural environment by preventing larvae of competitors from settling on the sponge surface; (a)Haliclona sp. 621 from Heron Island; (b) 3D-structure and naturally-occuring enantiomeric form of Haliclonacyclamine A

 sea slug

 sea sponge


structural diagram


Funded Projects: 

The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation Grant with Karen Cheney and Justin Marshall
2014 - 2017 "Understanding colour and chemical diversity in marine molluscs". Total value of grant; $46,539

ARC Discovery grants with Professor Martin Banwell, Research School of Chemistry, ANU

2011 - 2014 ARC Discovery Project Grant (with Australian National University), "Synthesis and biological evaluation of Australian sponge metabolites". Total value of grant; $720,000.

2007 - 2009 ARC Discovery Project Grant (with Australian National University), "Total synthesis and biological evaluation of Australian sponge meetabolites". Total value of grant; $554,736.

 2004 - 2006 ARC Discovery Project Grant (with Australian National University). "Synthetic molecular and biological studens on novel marine metabolites isolated from Great Barrier Reef sponges". Total value of grant: $600,000.

CHEM 1030 Chemistry Structure  & Reactions
CHEM 3004 Spectroscopy
CHEM 3008 Medicinal chemistry


Significant Professional Activities and Awards: 

President, Division III (organic and biomolecular), International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC),  for the bienium 2014-2015; Past President 2016-2017

Named as one of the "175 Faces of Diversity" by the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) in 2014

Received a Distinguished Woman in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering Award by IUPAC in 2013

Awarded the 2012 Leighton Memorial Medal  for distinguished service to the Royal Australian Chemical Institute

Member, International Editorial Advisory Board, Phytochemistry

Member, International Editorial Advisory Board, Journal of Natural Products

Titular member, Division III (organic and biomolecular), IUPAC, 2006- present, and Secretary 2008-2011

Chair of Board, Australian Science Innovations, 2004-2005

Chair of Board, Australian Science Olympiads, 2002-2004

Member, Australian delegation to the World Conference on Science (UNESCO), Budapest, 1999

Executive Secretary, World Chemistry Congress, held in Brisbane in 2001

Chair, International Relations Committee of RACI, 1996-2004

Member, National Committee for Chemistry, 1995-2004

President, Queensland branch and Member of Full Council of RACI, 1996-1997

Selected Publications: