Prof Scott Kable is the President of the Academic Board at UNSW Sydney. His disciplinary home is the School of Chemistry, where he was Head of School from 2015-2023.
Prof Kable has a PhD from Griffith University. Postdoctoral research at Cornell University followed. After a short stint in industry with Procter and Gamble in London, he started his independent academic career at the University of Sydney in 1992. In 2014, he moved to UNSW as a research professor and was appointed Head of School in 2015.
As a researcher, Prof Kable studies fundamental chemical reaction dynamics, especially with relevance to atmospheric chemistry. His research group have discovered new chemical pathways that improve our understanding of important atmospheric processes, such as climate change, ozone depletion and pollution. He is a recipient of the Le Fevre Medal of the Australian Academy of Science, the Physical Chemistry Medal of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) and a Fulbright Senior Fellowship. He has twice served on the ARC College of Experts and was Chair of the Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences Panel in 2015.
Prof Kable is also a celebrated teacher. He has won Vice Chancellor’s teaching awards three times at U. Sydney and once at UNSW. He has been the recipient of Carrick (national) teaching awards twice, and teaching awards from the RACI.
"The forgotten role of the ground state in atmospheric chemistry", ARC Discovery Grant (DP190102013), 2019-21, $520k
"Resolving the interstellar carbon crisis with multi-laser spectroscopy", ARC Discovery Grant (DP190103151), 2019-21, $403k
"Shared Laser Consortium", ARC LEIF (LE180100060), 2018, $983k
"Threshold - Mastery Learning in Chemistry 1", UNSW Strategic Education Fund, 2018-19, $170k
"Atmospheric photochemistry - it's a lot more complicated than we thought", ARC Discovery (DP160101792), 2016-18, $498k
"Reactive Intermediates in Atmospheric and Combustion Chemistry ", ARC Discovery (DP150102779), 2015-18, $649k
My research is divided into four streams - 1) reaction dynamics, 2) atmospheric chemistry; 3) spectroscopy of radicals, and 4) science education. The first three are experimental research conducted in the Molecular Photonics Laboratories (co-led with Prof Tim Schmidt), while the third area is run in collaboration with researchers in the Advancing Science by Enhancing Learning in the Laboratory (ASELL)Project (www.asell.org)
1. Reaction Dynamics and Mechanisms
Collaborators: Prof Jordan (U.Syd.), Dr Osborn (Sandia Nat'l Labs), Prof Bowman (Emory Univ.) Prof Houston (Cornell Univ.) In this project we excite isolated molecules with a laser and detect the reaction products with exceptional sensitivity. In detecting the products we measure the speed of the fragments, their internal energy, and their orientation. This high level of detail allows us to determine the mechanism of the reaction, and to discover new mechanisms when known mechanisms do not fit the experimental picture. Our most significant recent discoveries include: i) Roaming pathways. Conventional chemical theory cannot explain many details of these reactions. ii) Phototautomerization. We discovered recently that when small carbonyls absorb light they undergo tautomerization. This might explain the origin of organic acids in the atmosphere, which is vastly underrepresented in atmospheric models.
2. Atmospheric Chemistry
Collaborators: Prof Jordan (Univ. Sydney), A/Prof Fisher (Univ. Wollongong), Dr Hansen (UNSW), Dr Fittschen (Univ. Lille). In this project we discover new reaction mechanisms and pathways relevant to atmospheric chemistry. Photochemical pathways are probed in the laboratory, validated using computational chemistry and tested in global atmospheric models. We determine fundamental photochemical processes using molecular beam experiments, and also photooxidation and photo reduction fates of these fundamental processes under atmospheric conditions. Our philosophy is that atmospheric processes can only be truly understood if the fundamental process are first determined.
3. Spectroscopy of Radicals
Collaborators: Prof Schmidt (UNSW), Dr Osborn and Dr Taatjes (Sandia), Prof Heard and Dr Whalley (Univ. of Leeds) Free radicals are the chain carriers in almost all complex chemical reactions. Although they feature in chemical models, many have not been discovered. In this project we create and isolate free radicals using an electric discharge. The radicals are cooled in the molecular beam and subjected to spectroscopic and mass analysis, which allows us to determine the radicals that are formed. We are specifically looking for radicals that might be formed in the interstellar medium, radicals that are formed in engines, and radicals that are formed in the atmosphere.
4. Science Education
Collaborators: Prof Sharma (U. Syd.), Prof Buntine (Curtin Univ.) and other members of the ASELL team. Prof Buntine and I started the science education project called "Advancing Science by Enhancing Learning in the Laboratory" about 10 years ago. The project has 4 objectives: i) to create and share a database of good undergraduate science experiments; ii) to provide professional development for science academics in educational theory and practice; iii) to provide links and fora for academics to get together and discuss lab education; and iv) to conduct research into how students learn and engage in the undergraduate lab.
My Research Supervision
Mr Blair Welsh. PhD Project: "Atmospheric Photothermal Oxidation as a New Atmospheric Mechanism"
Ms Jyoti Campbell. PhD Project: "Atmospheric Fate of CF3CHO - a decomposition byproduct of HFO-1234yf"
Ms Maria Paula Perez. PhD Project: "Atmospheric Modelling of New Chemical Reactions"
Ms Lorrie Jacob. Master Project: "Atmospheric pathways in the decomposition of acetone = - one of the largest volume anthropogenic organic compounds in the atmosphere.
Mr Josh Thomson. Honours Project: "Atmospheric pathways in the decomposition of methylvinylketone - one of the largest volume natural organic compounds in the atmosphere."
CHEM 1031/1051: Higher Chemistry (1st year).
CHEM2011: Physical Chemistry - Molecules, Energy and Change