I am a Chemical Engineer who specialises in the design of advanced materials that exhibited useful properties at the nano-length scale. My research focuses on the fabrication of magnetic, electromagnetic and photo responsive nanomaterials that are driven by function. My goal is to bridge the gaps between fundamental research and applications of these advanced nanomaterials in areas of technological and broad societal interest. I was awarded a total of $3.99 millions in competitive research funding from the Australian Research Council to undertake research in novel material design and fabrication, and understanding of how these materials can be incorporated into new devices or engineering processes. To date, the materials my team designed have been used for cancer drug delivery, water treatment, and high performance electrochemical sensing.
I also teach in the Chemical Engineering Program at UNSW's School of Chemical Engineering. As a Fellow of the UNSW Scientia Education Academy, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and the 2020 recipient of the Faculty of Engineering Education Innovation Fellow, I innovate and contribute to the design of engineering science, design and laboratory courses. My teaching philosophy aligns with a quote from Jacques-Yves Cousteau who said, “People protect what they love, they love what they understand, and they understand what they are taught” -- I see education as an act that transforms our beliefs, values and mindsets, with the potential to emancipate and empower its participants.
My research has focused on the development of nanomaterials with tailored magnetic, photocatalytic, morphological and anti-microbial properties for biomedical and environmental applications. Underpinning the development of these advanced nanomaterials are studies on how their functions and performances are influenced by their physical, chemical and biological interactions with the system of interest.
‘Smart’ nano-scale magnetic nanoparticles for high performance electrochemical sensors. I developed a synthesis method that enabled a complete gold shell to be grown on the surface of highly magnetic nanoparticles (Chemistry of Materials, 21:4, 673-683, 2009). I applied these gold-coated magnetic nanoparticles as ‘dispersible electrodes’ in biosensors that were capable of detecting trace analyte in a large sample matrix with unprecedented sensitivity and response time (Chemical Communications, 46, 8821-8823, 2010; Angwwandte Chemie, 51:26, 6456-6459, 2012; ChemPlusChem 79:10, 1498-1506, 2014). The magnetic gold nanoparticle synthesis method has been adopted by other investigators to prepare magnetic gold nanoparticle for a wide range of applications, including magnetic separation, biomedical imaging, drug delivery and gene technology.
Magnetic and photocatalytic nanomaterial for environmental applications. I applied magnetic titanium dioxide based water treatment technologies to the rapid adsorption and separation of water pollutant for off-site treatment (Langmuir 26:14, 12247-12252, 2010; Chemical Engineering Journal 246, 196–203, 2014; Chemical Engineering Science 104, 46-52, 2014). My approach overcomes two challenges in the use of nanomaterials in drinking water treatment: (1) Slow pollutant degradation rate; (2) high-energy requirement for photocatalyst activation and separation. I also developed a low-temperature method for coating heat-sensitive polymeric membrane with a uniform layer of crystalline titanium dioxide (Journal of Membranes Science 380:1-2, 98-113, 2011). Underpinning this body of research is the use of water characterisation techniques such as High Performance Size Exclusion Chromatography (HPSEC) and Liquid Chromatography-Organic Carbon Detection (LC-OCD) to demonstrate how the chemical composition of water pollutants affects its treatment process (Separation Science and Technology 42:7, 1391-1404, 2007; Environmental Science and Technology 42:16, 6218–6223, 2008; Chemosphere 72:2, 263-271, 2008; Organic Geochemistry 41:2, 124-129, 2010; Water Research 44:8, 2525-2532, 2010; Water Research 46:15, 4614-4620, 2012; Journal of Hazardous Materials 263:2, 718-725, 2013).
Understanding nanomaterials and biological system interactions. I demonstrated how the order in which the three component of a magnetic gene vector (magnetic nanoparticles, DNA and polymer) is assembled affects its efficacy in gene therapy (Langmuir 26:10, 7314-7326, 2010; Biomacromolecules 11:9, 2521-2531, 2010; Journal of Colloid and Interface Science 354:2, 536-45, 2011). This lead to further research on the mechanism behind serum protein induced reduction of nanoparticles size in biological media (Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 13:9 3801-3813, 2011; Langmuir, 27:2, 843-850, 2011), and how this in turn affects the uptake kinetics and biological impact of nanoparticles towards biological cells (ACS Nano, 6:5, 4083-4093, 2012). I also showed that zinc oxide nanoparticles underwent different dissolution and re-precipitation process depending on the type of biological media it was suspended in, thus affecting its toxicity towards biological cells (RSC Advances, 4:9, 4363-4370, 2014), and how polymer coatings can affect serum-nanoparticle interactions (Polymer Chemistry, 3:10, 2743-2751, 2012; Langmuir, 28:9, 4346-4356, 2012; Journal of Materials Chemistry B 2:15, 2060 – 2083, 2014).
My approach to learning and teaching is based on the principles of andragogy. When teaching Level 2 engineering science courses (CEIC2001 Fluid and Particle Mechanics, 2009-current), I apply the principle of self-concept by designing a series of adaptive online and face-to-face activities which allow students to be self-directed in their learning. By engaging them in collaborative problem-based learning, my students bring their own experience to the learning process and benefit from the experience of others, and thereby develop their metacognitive and problem-solving skills.
I extend these approaches to my Level 3 laboratory and engineering design (CEIC3003 Chemical Engineering Laboratory, 2012-2017; CEIC3004 Process Equipment Design, 2014-current; DESN2000 Engineering Design and Professional Practice, 2021-current) where students are placed in diverse team tasked with the design of real-world chemical processes. The collaborative project-based approach orients the students towards the development of skill sets that are practical and relevant to the engineering profession, such as information literacy, scientific communication, project management, teamwork and leadership.
As my school’s Industrial Training and Taste of Research Coordinator (2014-2017), I was responsible for coordinating a Work Integrated Learning Program where students first made the transition from being a student to becoming a professional engineer. To support the students, I develop a series of activities which develop their employability skills and professional network. I also secure funds to develop tools which track, evaluate, as well as provide feedback and academic credentials to the students on their readiness to make the transition.
School Level Contributions
Faculty Level Contributions
Institution Level Contributions
Presentations and Invited Talk