Breadcrumbs

Chemistry

Research

Research in the field of chemistry at the School of Science covers a broad range of areas, including synthetic chemistry, analytical chemistry, materials chemistry, geochemistry and environmental chemistry, natural products chemistry and applied chemistry. The department is well equipped with modern instrumentation, with access to a wide range of additional facilities hosted by the Faculty of Science & Engineering. Our research projects are supported by multi-million dollar investments from national and local government, many of which have significant iwi and other community involvement. The various research interests of individual staff members are detailed below.


Advanced Materials

We aim to build up unique and world-class expertise in developing novel processes for producing advanced materials and near net shape components and in developing high performance structural and functional materials.

We also aim to develop advanced materials and related technologies that can be utilised by New Zealand Industry.

Advanced materials is a multidisciplinary research area comprising academics from both the School of Science and the School of Engineering

Find out more about the Waikato Centre for Advanced Materials (WaiCAM).

Academic staff researching in this area:
Michael Mucalo
Brian Nicholson
Kim Pickering
Janis Swan

Analytical Chemistry

The department is extremely well-equipped for research in all areas of analytical chemistry including gas and liquid chromatography and a variety of forms of mass spectrometry. In addition NMR spectroscopy is available for characterization of, for example, toxins. Typical areas of interest include water quality (both inorganic and organic contaminants), tracking pollutants in the environment, fate of herbicides and pesticides in the environment, characterisation of biological toxins and tracking of antibiotics in the environment.

Academic staff researching in this area:
Alistair Wilkins
Merilyn Manley-Harris

Computational Chemistry

My research involves the use of high performance computing to solve a broad range of problems of chemical interest. Some of my current research projects involve simulating chemical reactions in the atmosphere and the design of nanoporous materials for carbon dioxide capture.

Academic staff researching in this area:
Joseph Lane

Coordination & Organometallic Chemistry

Coordination and organometallic chemistry of the platinum group metals and gold, with an emphasis on complexes with S and N donor ligands. Studies on the metalloligands [Pt2(mu-E)2(PPh3)4] (E = S, Se) using an electrospray mass spectrometry-directed synthetic approach. Chemistry of ferrocene-phosphines and -arsines.

Academic staff researching in this area:
Bill Henderson
Graham Saunders

Electrochemistry

Electrochemistry can broadly be described as the chemistry of reactions occurring at the interface between a solution (“electrolyte”) and a solid (“electrode) when it is driven by an external voltage in an electrical circuit containing this interface.

Dr Mucalo's interests lies primarily in the area of “Infrared Spectroelectrochemistry” which is where infrared spectroscopy, a molecular fingerprinting technique, is used to identify what chemical species are being created during electrochemical reactions. Before the ascension of this technique, this direct molecular fingerprinting had not been possible with the conventional techniques in use.

Research is being carried out on the corrosion of various metals in aqueous or non-aqueous media containing unusual chemical species using this technique to see whether any interesting compounds may turn up in the process.

Academic staff researching in this area:
Michael Mucalo

Environmental Chemistry

The School of Science is extremely well set up for environmental chemistry, many aspects of which overlap with the description of analytical chemistry.

Academic staff researching in this area:
Alistair Wilkins
Merilyn Manley-Harris

Exploratory Synthesis

Synthesis and investigation of coordination and organometallic compounds, in particular of fluorinated ligands, to develop new synthetic methodologies, reactivities and catalytic properties. The use of fluoroarene-arene interactions to control solid state structures and properties. Development and investigation of extremely hydrophobic surfaces, especially on industrially important metals.

Academic staff researching in this area:
Graham Saunders

Geochemistry

Academic staff researching in this area:
Shaun Barker

Honey

Honey is the focus of the Bees n Trees project, a large collaborative group which includes representatives of industry, horticulturalists and collaborators in Australia and Thailand. The focus of this research is mānuka honey in particular the specific properties of mānuka and other Leptospermum trees, which give rise to the chemical precursor of the bioactivity in honey. Other aspects of research include a study of the kinetics of conversion of the precursor in maturing honey.

The Honey research area is multidisciplinary and comprises academics from Biological Sciences, and Chemistry.

Academic staff researching in this area:
Merilyn Manley-Harris
Alistair Wilkins
Ray Cursons
Michele Prinsep
Pawel Olszewski

Materials Chemistry

Areas of materials chemistry being researched include:

  • the use of cattle bone to make bone replacement materials for human and veterinary applications.
  • controlled release drug/nutrient delivery where active drugs or nutrients are incorporated into a matrix which is designed to release the substance of interest slowly over a period of time for steady delivery of the substance either to human or animal subjects.
  • the synthesis and characterisation of metal nanoparticles, a thoroughly topical area of research at the moment which falls under the theme of “nanotechnology”.

Academic staff researching in this area:
Michael Mucalo

Natural Product Chemistry

Natural Products or secondary metabolites, are produced by organisms via specialised biosynthetic pathways and are nonessential for life. Natural products are of interest for many reasons, such as their unusual chemical structures and biological activity (ability to affect the physiology of other organisms).

Dr Prinsep's research on natural products at Waikato involves investigation of marine and freshwater organisms to discover novel compounds, ideally with interesting bioactivity such as anticancer or antimicrobial activity. This utilises chromatographic techniques such as reversed phase and size exclusion chromatography and analytical and structural elucidation techniques such as mass spectrometry (in several forms) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.

Prof Wilkins’ recent research interests include the isolation and structural eludication of natural product terpenoidal, indole alkaloid based mycotoxins and marine algal toxins using 400 and 600 MHz one and 2D-NMR, GC-MS and LC-MSn techniques.

Academic staff researching in this area:
Michele Prinsep
Alistair Wilkins

Radiocarbon Dating

The Waikato Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory is a national radiocarbon facility undertaking both Standard Radiometric Dating and Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Dating (AMS). We are a part of the Faculty of Science & Engineering at the University of Waikato.

For more than 30 years we have been providing radiocarbon assays for scientists and researchers from around the world and have been at the forefront of ground-breaking research into the technique and its application.

The Waikato laboratory has a commitment to customer service, innovation, and continual improvement.

Academic staff researching in this area:
Alan Hogg
Fiona Petchey

Specialist facilities

The School of Science boasts a number of world-class chemistry facilities for staff, students and external parties alike.

Check out our Services and Facilities Fees Schedule for a comprehensive list of the available services and related fees.



Partnerships

The School of Science has collaborated with a number of external institutions in advancing research in chemistry both nationally and internationally. Some of these include:

Hill Laboratories Institute of Environmental Science and Research Scion Crown Research Institute<="" a="">Dow AgroSciences