School of Chemical and Physical Sciences

News and Stories from our group

New funding for our Research

October 2012

Richard Tilley has received funding of $1,000,000 over 2 years for the project "Magnetic Nanoparticles for Biological Applications". Iron nanoparticles with dimensions less than 100 nm and have great potential in biological applications to replace weakly magnetic iron oxide particles that are currently used. Our aim, together with Auckland Universities, The Malaghan Institute for Cancer Research and Wellington Hospital is to develop and commercialize such nanoparticles for general bio-applications and as theragnostic agents. If you are interested in the development of magnetic nanoparticles you can read more on this reseach project and even apply for a PhD position within the project.

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Congratulations to Dr Wai Ruu Siah

October 2012


Dr Najeh Al-Salim, Dr Wai Ruu Siah, Dr Robin Fulton and Dr Richard Tilley (left to right)

The whole Tilley research group congratulates Dr Wai Ruu Siah, who successfully
defended her PhD thesis and has worked with us over the last three years on bi-functional nanoparticles with both optical and magnetic properties.

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First NZ GREET visitor in our research group

September 2012


Prof. Richard Tilley (right) welcomes A/Prof Sara Skrabalak (left) and Nancy Ortiz in Wellington.

During September and October PhD student Nancy Ortiz is visiting the Tilley research group. Nancy is participating in the ACS Global Research Experiences, Exchanges and Training Program (GREET) and is the first visitor in this 2011-initiated program to come to New Zealand. The venture also enables her supervisor A/Prof Sara Skrabalak from Indiana University in Bloomington, USA to visit our group in Wellington. Nancy is working closely with our group in the catalysis project.

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9th annual Cluster and Nanoparticle Symposium

November 2011


The Tilley group at Clusterday: AProf. Dr. Richard Tilley with his students Siobhan, Angelique, Alec, Moritz and John (left to right) at Margrain Vineyards in Martinborough.

The 9th Cluster and Nanoparticle Symposium aka Clusterday was held in Martinborough this year. This yearly event started out with a walk at the Wairarapa coast and later, a visit to Lake Ferry. Around 30 participants from Victoria University of Wellington, University of Canterbury and Industrial Research Limited enjoyed the Pinnacles Track on the sunny but windy day and headed for Martinborough afterwards. The next day the Symposium began amidst the wonderful scenery of Margrain Vinyards with a talk by Prof. Roy Johnston from the University of Birmingham followed by three sessions of student and academic talks. In each talk an overview of the most recent work and data was given. The Tilley group gave a general overview of their work through several talks at the meeting. This lead to some interesting discussions afterwards and ensured that everyone was kept up to date with the work of the other participants. In the evening, and after the general knowledge of the participants was tested in a quiz, everyone headed for dinner in Martinborough and enjoyed local wines and great food. The following day, two more sessions were held at Margrain before heading back to Wellington.

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Magnetic particles poster wins

June 2011

In June, group supervisor Assoc. Prof. Richard Tilley was invited to deliver a talk at the International Conference on Materials for Advanced Technologies, ICMAT 2011 in Singapore. He was accompanied by PhD student Dave Herman, and the two were the only representatives from NZ at the conference which had over 2600 delegates from over 30 countries. Assoc. Prof. Richard Tilley delivered an overview of the groups magnetic nanoparticle project and Dave complimented his talk with a poster presentation on his iron nanoparticle research, which won a best poster presentation award. This was the first time results from the groups magnetic project had been presented at an international conference, and was recieved very well.

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Six of the best

December 2010

Associate Professor Richard Tilley had the pleasure of watching six of his PhD students graduate last Tuesday. The students from left are: Dr John Beal, Dr Amane Shiohara, Dr John Watt, (Dr Richard Tilley), Dr Soshan Cheong, Dr Sujay Prabakar, Dr Xu Ying

Their PhD topics ranged from catalytic nanoparticles in green chemistry, using nanoparticles to remove toxic gases from car exhausts, light emitting quantum dots for early cancer detection, and research into semiconducting nanomaterials that can be used in solar cells and biomedical applications.

In total 10 students from the School graduated with a PhD.

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HRC funding for clinical cancer research

February 2010

Wellington clinicians Mr Martin Hunn and Dr Peter Ferguson have recently been awarded prestigious Clinical Research Training Fellowships from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC), to undertake cancer research at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research and Victoria University.

The goal of Dr Ferguson's HRC-funded PhD research is to improve early cancer detection by enhancing the ability of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to "see" cancer cells. 

Magnetic resonance imaging uses a powerful magnetic field and radio frequency pulses to provide an unparalleled view inside the human body.  However, the technology does have its limitations, particularly when it comes to visualising very small tumours. 

A novel synthesis process to produce superparamagnetic nanoparticles has been developed and patented by Dr Richard Tilley and colleagues at Victoria University of Wellington.  Dr Ferguson believes that these novel particles might hold the key to enabling MRI to detect even the smallest of developing tumours.

"My research goal is to translate the superior magnetic properties of the nanoparticles into contrast agents that enhance the ability of MRI to detect cancer", said Dr Ferguson.

Dr Ferguson's initial focus is to improve the detection of melanoma, the incidence and mortality rates of which have more than doubled in New Zealand over the past three decades.  Early diagnosis could improve the outcome for a large number of patients.

"Technical advances in magnetic resonance imaging will increase its resolution and permit targeted imaging.  New Zealand needs to play a part in this developing field to reap the benefits for patients, clinicians and the economy."

The Malaghan Institute would like to acknowledge the HRC's funding of these talented individuals and the important contribution their research will make to the lives of New Zealanders affected by cancer.

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Easterfield Medal - Dr Richard Tilley

November 2010


Dr Richard Tilley (left) and Prof John Spencer

Dr Richard Tilley was awarded the prestigious Easterfield Medal which is awarded by the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry and the Royal Society of Chemistry in Britain.

Dr Tilley, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, studies nanoparticles and particular synthesising them for a variety of uses.

"We focus on making nanoparticles in solution, changing their shapes and properties so we can make the most of this technology," said Dr Tilley.

"By combining nanoparticles with quantum dots we can make a special light-emitting nanoparticle which could be used for biological imaging such as finding and illuminating cancers in the body."

He has also worked with magnetic nanoparticles which are used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify tumours and cancers in the body. His group is working with the Malaghan Institute, the largest independent medical research organisation in the country, to make the technique better and cheaper.


Dr Richard Tilley in the Transmission Electron Microscope suite

"It's a tremendous honour to receive the Easterfield Medal. It's very humbling because everyone in my group has worked very hard.

We've also been part of wonderful collaborations with organisations like the Malaghan Institute as well as companies and academics in Britain and Japan."

In recent years, Dr Tilley has won two sizeable research grants, a $1.3 million and a $1.8million grant from the Foundation of Research, Science and Technology (FRST).

One of Dr Tilley's postgraduate students, John Watt, won the 2009 MacDiarmid Young Scientist of the Year.

Victoria University scooped three of the most prestigious awards at the Royal Society's Science Honours dinner last night.

Dr Richard Tilley won the Easterfield Medal, Professor Ken McNatty the Pickering Medal and Professor Colin Wilson won the Hutton Medal.

Victoria Vice-Chancellor Professor Pat Walsh said that the success was a credit to Victoria's researchers.

"It is fitting we have won the Easterfield Medal because Thomas Easterfield was one of Victoria's four founding professors and played a leading part in New Zealand science, establishing chemistry at Victoria and later the successful Cawthron Institute."

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Nadiah Ali becomes world champ

June 2010

Nadiah Ali, a student in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, won the world nanoparticle counting championships in Christchurch recently.

Nadiah competed against other nanoparticle researchers from England, South Africa and New Zealand at a competition using IZON's apparatus, to be the first to correctly count 100 nanoparticles in a test solution.

Nadiah regularly uses the apparatus to detect and measure nanometre sized particles as part of her Masters research work with Dr Richard Tilley's Nanoparticle and Quantum Dot Research group at Victoria University. The instruments use a nanopore to detect and measure particles as they pass through holes in a membrane.

The competition was part of Izon Science's launch of the world's first commercial nanopore technology device.

Watch a video of the competition

Visit the IZON Science website

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School signs MOU with NIMS, Japan

February 2009


Dr Richard Tilley, Senior Lecturer, Victoria University (left) and Dr. Yoshihiko Takeda, Senior Researcher, NIMS

Dr Richard Tilley, for the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for 'Research and Development on Functional Optical Nanomaterials' with the NIMS (National Institute for Materials Science) Quantum Beam Center, Japan.

A potential research tie-up had been discussed after an initial meeting at the Particles 2008 International Conference, held in Florida. The agreement was formalised in April this year at a NIMS-NZ workshop on nanomaterials.
This is the first MOU with a New Zealand research institute for NIMS, and both sides are looking forward to working together.

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