Separovic Group

“With the increase in antibiotic resistance, antimicrobial peptides that target bacterial membranes have become an area of significant research for development as therapeutic agents against infections.” - Frances Separovic.


Professor Emeritus Frances Separovic is a Biophysical Chemist based at the Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne, Australia. Frances grew up in Broken Hill and, after the birth of her son, did a BA at Macquarie and a PhD at UNSW while working full-time at CSIRO, Sydney. Following a post-doctoral fellowship at National Institutes of Health (USA), Frances joined the University of Melbourne in 1996, where she became the first woman professor of chemistry (2005) and Head of School (2010). In 2012 Frances became the first woman chemist elected to the Australian Academy of Science, and since 2017 has been Deputy Director of the Bio21 Institute. Frances has developed solid-state NMR techniques to determine the structure and dynamics of molecules in biological membranes with a focus on peptide antibiotics and toxins within phospholipid membranes.

Awards and Recognition

2012 – Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science

2017 - IUPAC Distinguished Women of Chemistry/Chemical Engineering

2017 - UNSW Alumni Award: Science & Technology

2018 - Victorian Honour Roll for Women 

Read Professor Separovic's reflections on being Head of the School of Chemistry.

Read Pursuit piece about Frances being a trailblazer for women in science.

Read Pursuit piece 'Don't ask women leaders to act like men'.


The Separovic laboratory is studying the structure-function relationships of biomolecules in membranes at the atomic level using primarily nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR). The group's main research interest is the determination of the structure and dynamics of the components of biological membranes in situ using solid-state NMR techniques. The molecular structure of the antibiotic gramicidin A and the bee toxin melittin within phospholipid membranes have been determined and the techniques used to study these polypeptides are being extended to membrane proteins. Together with a team of collaborators, insight into the structure-function relationships of membrane-active peptides and proteins relevant to disease states and treatments is gained. Projects include studies of antimicrobial peptides, amyloid Abeta, protein toxins, antibiotics, lipid phases and ionic liquids.


Biophysical chemistry and NMR of model membrane systems, including powder samples, hydrated dispersions and aligned samples; both static and magic angle spinning (MAS) solid-state NMR techniques.

Group Members

Group Head

Frances Separovic, FAA - Professor of Chemistry

Research Fellows

Marc-Antoine Sani – Research Fellow

Dr Vinzenz Hofferek – Research Fellow

Dr Fazel Shabanpoor – Visiting Researcher

Graduate Students

PhD Students

Shiying Zhu

Masters Students

Yufei Jiang

Huynh Vu

Hugh Phillips – Visiting MSc student

Dean Sheard – PGDip student