Nicole Rijs

Nicole Rijs

Nicole Rijs

B.Sc.(Hons) Melb., Ph.D. Melb.

Lecturer, Scientia Fellow and ARC DECRA Fellow

Contact details

Phone: +61 2 938 57876


Room 721, Hilmer Building, UNSW Kensington

Research Group Website


Biographical Details

Bachelor of Science, degree with Honours, School of Chemistry, University of Melbourne 2003-2006; Doctor of Philosophy, School of Chemistry, University of Melbourne 2008-2012; Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow, Department of Chemistry, Technical University Berlin, 2012-2015; Research Group Leader, Institute for Nanotechnology, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, 2015-2017; Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) Fellow, since 2017; Scientia Fellow and Research Group Leader, School of Chemistry, UNSW Sydney, since 2018.

University of Melbourne Monica Reum Prize - 2012; Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship (2012);  ARC DECRA Fellowship (2016); Australian Academy of Science J. G. Russel Award (2017).

Research Interests

Understanding the intrinsic properties of molecules, molecular building blocks and aggregates is key to realizing the bottom-up design of functional molecules and materials, and catalysts. We explore such molecular units in isolation, for example, via the pristine gas phase environment of specially modified mass spectrometers. The end goal of this research is the rational design of efficient catalyst and enzyme-like molecules.

The significant industrial potential of self-assembly to fabricate highly functional materials is hampered by a lack of knowledge of critical reaction intermediates, mechanisms and kinetics. Our group’s research addresses this knowledge gap by developing methods to (1) directly observe the molecular evolution of model self-assembly reactions with high temporal and structural resolution and (2) interrogate the intrinsic gas phase functionality of the assemblies themselves, including aggregation, inclusion and disassembly behaviours. This will determine the critical link between the assemblies’ structure and function, and provide the rational framework needed for optimising and directing synthetic outcomes.

Mass spectrometry as a probe for molecular self-assembly

Electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) is an effective technique for characterising reaction intermediates in synthetic and catalytic transformations. Additionally, ion-mobility spectrometry (IMS) has emerged as a very powerful technique for monitoring self-assembly. IMS is ideal for examining the size and shape of non-covalent complexes. It offers the advantage of isomer separation on the millisecond timescale, and measurement of the assembly’s topology, and as such, enables the study of conformational dynamics within that time frame. Together ESI-MS and IMS represent two complementary analytical methods of monitoring SA reaction solutions on a millisecond timescale.

Unique techniques used in the group include:

-advanced mass spectrometry and ion-mobility mass spectrometry

-robotic analysis of dynamic combinatorial solutions, together with screening of large chemical data sets

-electronic structure and trajectory methods of computation for structure and function

along with a variety of kinetic, wet chemistry and chemical characterisation techniques.

Projects and collaborations include:

-Assembly and reactivity of n-confused porphyrins (P. Weis, KIT)

-Dynamic combinatorial solutions and self-assembly of bis-β-diketonates (J. Clegg, UQ)

-Unusual complexation behaviours of cyclotricatechylene clusters (B. Abrahams, UoM)

-Encapsulation of ions by cyclophanes in solution (T. Brotin, ENS Lyon)

-Effect of fluorine on catalytic and metal mediated reactions

-Development of ion mobility and mass spectrometric techniques for analysis of reaction intermediates in solution (W. A. Donald, UNSW)

Potential local and international students are highly encouraged to discuss their research interests with Dr Rijs.

Selected Publications

Please refer here for a complete publication list.