Wille Group

“We are exploring how important environmental radical and non radical oxidants are involved in diseases of the respiratory tract by damaging biological molecules that are in direct contact with the atmospheric environment.” Associate Professor Uta Wille

Research

I consider myself a physical organic chemist specialized in the area of free radical chemistry and reactive intermediates. The first arm of my research profile focuses on fundamental radical chemistry aiming at the development of new synthetic methodology, whereas the second arm is focused on work towards the understanding of free radical damage in biological and manufactured materials, using simplified model systems.

For example: 

  • What happens to molecules in the respiratory tract lining fluid when atmospheric pollutants are inhaled?
  • How do polymers undergo degradation in the environment?

Both research arms are closely linked together by my interest in chemical reaction mechanisms, which are studied through a combination of experimental and computational methods.

The Wille group's research aims to extend general and fundamental knowledge of the role of atmospheric pollutants on the free-radical induced oxidative stress.  This may lead to the development of novel drugs with the ability to step into and hold up these processes. Radical induced oxidative damage is also responsible for the degradation of manufactured polymers, such as plastics. We are interested to explore the fundamental steps of polymer degradation, which has not been fully understood at all – despite the heavy reliance of our society on polymer materials.

Our research activities focus on the areas of free radicals in organic synthesis and bio-organic and material chemistry; the development of new synthetic methodology and studies of reaction mechanisms; computational chemistry for mechanistic studies and the design of new reactions; and investigation of the adverse effects of atmospheric free-radical oxidants on biological and manufactured materials using product and kinetic studies.

Interests

  • Physical organic chemistry
  • Free radical chemistry
  • reaction mechanism
  • reaction kinetics
  • environmental radicals
  • oxidative damage of biological and manufactured materials
  • development of synthetic methodology
  • computational chemistry
  • mass spectrometry and gas phase radical ion-molecule chemistry
  • synthetic photochemistry

Techniques

  • Synthetic organic chemistry
  • GC/MS
  • Laser flash photolysis
  • UV photoreactors
  • Mass spectrometers

Group Members

Group Head

Uta Wille

Postdoctoral Fellow

Luke Gamon

​Anton Zalewski 

Wenxiao Yue

Graduate Students

PhD students

Joses Nathanael

Bethany Taggert 

​Mina Barzegar Amiri Olia

​Narges Zafarghandi 

Masters Student

Tomas Haddad

Benjamin Andikropoulos 

Honours Students

Helena Dixon 

Biography

Uta Wille graduated from her PhD in Science at the University of Kiel, Germany, in 1993. Her PhD thesis was performed in the area of Atmospheric Chemistry. She changed her research directions when she was offered a position for a Habilitation in Organic Chemistry at the same institution, which was completed in 1999. In 1997/98 she undertook a Postdoctoral Fellowship with Professor Bernd Giese at the University of Basel, Switzerland. In 1999, she was appointed as Privatdozent at the University of Kiel and was invited in 2000 as a Visiting Fellow in the School of Chemistry at The University of Melbourne. In January 2003, Uta Wille moved permanently to Australia, where she was appointed as a Lecturer in the School of Chemistry at The University of Melbourne. In 2006, she was promoted to Senior Lecturer and in 2011 to Associate Professor and Reader at the same institution. Uta Wille was a Chief Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Free Radical Chemistry and Biotechnology. Her research program targets the chemistry of reactive intermediates by merging radicals of atmospheric importance with organic, bio-organic and material chemistry.