Thordarson Group: Systems Chemistry and Synthetic Biology

Welcome to our group website!

Our research is the area of systems chemistry and synthetic biology with focus on nanomedicine, supramolecular and biophysical chemistry. The approach we have taken is the bio-mimetic one, i.e. to look to Nature for inspiration for solving the challenges ahead, especially as Nature provides us with many functional examples of nanotechnology in action. Ultimately, our passion is also driven by the fundamental desire to understand better how the world works from the molecular level and up, including how chemistry became life (origin of chemistry) and how we can change chemical systems to living ones (systems chemistry and synthetic biology).



Project: Peptides, Membranes, Ancient Geology and the Origins of Darwinian Evolution

Deadline 21st July 2017. More information here and APPLY HERE.

Prof. Pall Thordarson

Pall Thordarson

Pall Thordarson (Palli) was born and raised on a farm in Vopnafjörður, Iceland. He undertook his B.Sc. (Chemistry) at the University of Iceland before heading to Australia in 1997 to do a Ph.D. in the group of Prof. Maxwell J. Crossley at the University of Sydney. After completing his thesis in 2001 he obtained a Marie Curie Fellowship to work with Prof. Roeland J. M. Nolte and Prof. Alan E. Rowan at the University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Dr. Thordarson returned to Australia in 2003 to take up an independent position as a Sesqui Research Fellow with a joint position at the Electron Microscope Unit and the School of Chemistry, The University of Sydney. He held an Australian Research Fellowship from the Australian Research Council (ARC) from 2006-2010. Dr. Pall Thordarson moved to the School of Chemistry at UNSW to take up a position as a Senior Lecturer in November 2007. In 2012 he was awarded a four year Future Fellowship from the Australian Research Council (ARC). He was promoted to the position of Associate Professor in 2013 and then to the position of a full Professor starting in January 2017.  Prof. Pall Thordarson is the current Director of Research in the School of Chemistry, UNSW.


Prof. Pall Thordarson has been awarded the New South Wales Young Tall Poppy Science Award in 2008, The International Society of Porphyrins and Phthalocaynines (SPP) / Journal of Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines (JPP): SPP/JPP Young Investigator Award for 2010 and the Le Févre Memorial Prize from the Australian Academy of Science for 2012.

His publication record includes a paper in Nature and several papers in high-impact chemistry journals such as J. Am. Chem. Soc., Chem. Commun. and Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. More details about the work of Assoc. Prof. Pall Thordarson are available in his CV.


Research interest

Nanomedicine (includes links to the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology)
  • Self-assembled gels for drug release
  • Cancer cell targeting peptides
  • Gels as 3D cell culture mimicking
  • AFM as a tool in drug discovery
Pre-biotic, Biophysical and Protein Chemistry
  • The origin of life and self-assembly
  • Light-activiated bioconjugates
  • Proteins and polymer self-assembly
  • Controlling protein self-assembly
Supramolecular Chemistry
  • Supramolecular chemistry of peptides and proteins in water
  • Non-linear interactons in supramolecular chemistry
  • The formation of self-assembled gels
  • Bio-mimetic light-harvesting and donor-acceptor arrays
  • Binding constants and statistical treatment of supramolecular binding data


For further information about our work, please browse through this website and have a look at our research, techniques, and publications pages.



The School of Chemistry at UNSW features a modern chemistry building (opened in 2006) with state-of-the-art facilities for chemistry research. The School is conveniently located on top of the Analytical Centre that houses centralised NMR, MS, Surface analysis and Microscopy facilities for UNSW, including two AFM's that were purchased for grant funding obtained by Assoc. Prof. Pall Thordarson. Our group has all the instrumentation required for modern synthetic chemistry and for protein handling and purification (FPLC). The group has also ready access within the School to instrumentation for peptide synthesis (microwave-peptide synthesisers, freeze-dryer, analytical and preparative HPLC), rheological gel characterisation, polymer characterisation (GPC, DLS...) and electrochemistry equipment. We also have strong ties with Prof. Timothy Schmidt's laser spectroscopy laboratory that moved to the School in early 2014 and we collaborate with several medical science, cell biology, protein chemistry and protein crystallography groups around campus with good access to their facilities as required.


Want to work with us?

Industry: We also have substantial experience in collaboration with industry, including solving problems regarding agriculture, food and renewable energy. We welcome inquiries about consultation or research collaboration with industry.

Academics: Our research is highly inter-disciplinary and we are always interested in working with like-minded researchers on important scientific challenges. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you are interested in our work, e.g. for student exchanges or to apply for fellowships to work with us.

Students: Interested students with Australian or New Zealand permanent residency and a first class B.Sc. Honours are most welcome to apply for a position in our group. Currently, UNSW is offering up to $35,000 per year in a Ph.D. Scholarship for top B.Sc. Honours students from Australia and New Zealand. International students are advised that fees for international students are currently above $25,000 and the competition for International Post-graduate Research Scholarships (IPRS) is extremely strong. That said, international students with interest in our work, top academic performance (at least > 85% average for B.Sc.), some research experience and good communication skills are encouraged to seek further information about research opportunities in our group.

For further information our contact details are listed below or give Palli a call on +61-(0)2-9385-4478.

Contact Details

Postal address:

Prof. Pall Thordarson
School of Chemistry
The University of New South Wales
NSW 2052 Australia

Phone and Fax numbers:

Tel: +61-(0)2-9385-4478
Fax: +61-(0)2-9385-6141

Office location:

Room 133
Dalton Building
The University of New South Wales - see map