Professor Sally Brooker
Department of Chemistry, University of Otago
Area/discipline of science
Transition Metal Coordination and Macrocyclic Chemistry
- PhD, Chemistry, University of Canterbury
- BSc(Hons) first class, Chemistry, University of Canterbury
My research involves building molecular structures out of transition metal ions (which can have two different magnetic states) and designer organic components, including macrocyclic molecules (which contain atoms connected in a ring). Using these molecules, we can make molecular ‘switches’ (which can switch between magnetic states). Ultimately, such switches may be able to be used in future generations of computers, as they are really tiny compared to currently used memory components, so would facilitate downsizing as well as increased speed.
Other areas of interest in my research group include the development of ‘greener’ catalysts (moving away from the use of heavy metals to first row transition metals), self-assembly of ‘noughts and crosses’ grids of metal ions and of networks, luminescent lanthanide complexes as bio-labels and testing of organic precursors for antimicrobial activity in collaboration with colleagues in the Biochemistry Department.
As a University Chemistry Professor I have the privilege of interacting with lots of energetic talented young people. I may get older, but they will forever be young!
Bringing the best out in the researchers who choose to work in my group, and then seeing them step onwards and upwards from there, is a particularly rewarding part of my job.
When you enjoy what you do, it’s not work! What I do each day depends on the time of the year. During teaching time I will be busy preparing and giving undergraduate lectures and laboratories, marking lab reports, setting and marking exams. My research group is presently made up of about 10 students and postdocs, so every day I interact a lot with them, discussing our research projects. Right now we have a lot of research papers and two PhD theses being written up, so a major part of my day is working closely with my team on those.
I loved reading, maths and science at school. My first science teacher introduced me to the amazingly intense purple colour of potassium permanganate and I was hooked. I was then lucky to have one wonderful science teacher, Mr Clive Smith, throughout high school. His curiosity and fascination with science was contagious. At University, the Chemistry Department staff were very friendly and supportive, and I enjoyed both labs and lectures. My love of colour continued, and led to me doing my first research projects in the area of first row transition metal chemistry.