Research Interests

Origin of Life and Systems Chemistry

Exploring the role of self-assembly in how life originated and how we can make life-like systems

Project example: Do Liposomes enhance the catalytic efficiency of RNA and peptides?

In collaboration with Dr. Scott Cohen (CMRI, Westmead) and Prof. Martin Van Kranendonk (BEES, UNSW)

Recently, Origin of Life research2 has started to turn its attention to a new hypothesis for how complexity could have arisen from a “pre-biotic soup” of chemicals. Dubbed here the “geyser” model, it focuses on how hydration/dehydration (HD) cycles in a geothermal pond (fed by geyser activity), could generate liposomes that encapsulate peptides and/or RNA of increasing complexity with each HD cycle (See also the Front Cover article of the Scientific American in August 2017).3 One of the many questions that this model begs, is if the liposomal environment might enhance the catalytic activity of peptides and RNA. In this project, you investigate whether encapsulating catalytically active RNA or peptides in liposomes changes their catalytic activity. This project will not only give you insight into what is arguably one of the most important questions in science, i.e., how did life originate, but you will also gain valuable experience in synthesis, self-assembly and the chemistry of peptide and RNA biomolecules.


  1. Pall Thordarson, “Emergence of Life” in Encyclopedia of Supramolecular Chemistry: eds: Jerry L. Atwood, Jonathan W. Steed, Marcel Dekker Inc., New York, 2004, 528-534.
  2. Martin Van Kranendonk, David W. Deamer and Tara Djokic, Life Springs, Scientific American, August 2017, 28-35.


Development of 3D Cell Culture materials for use in medical research and stem cell therapies

Protein Chemistry and Self-assembly for a better understanding of functional biological systems

Synthesis of novel peptides for nanomedicine, including drug delivery and tissue engineering

Complexity in Supramolecular Chemistry

Investigating the fundamental aspects of host-guest interactions


Open Science / Data Analysis

Developing FREE online tools for data analysis and storage.

Promoting open science and good data analysis practices

The OpenDataFit project including the popular website


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