Stephen Colbran

Stephen Colbran

Stephen Colbran

B.Sc. (Hons) and Ph.D., Otago

Associate Professor

Contact details

Phone: 61-(0)2-938 54737


Room 225, Dalton Building
UNSW, Kensington 2052

Research Group Website


Biographical Details

Steve Colbran gained his Ph.D. from the University of Otago, New Zealand, in 1984. He then undertook post-doctoral research with Professor the Lord Jack Lewis, FRS, and Professor Brian Johnson, FRS, at the University Chemical Laboratories, University of Cambridge, England, 1984–1987. Steve was appointed to the academic staff of UNSW in 1987, and he spent 1994 on leave from UNSW as a Visiting Scientist in the Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.

Research Interests

Steve Colbran's research expertise is in transition metal chemistry and (spectro-)electrochemistry.

Current research interests:

  • Biological catalysis: using computational and synthetic models to uncover insights about multi-electron redox processes in biology; for example, in respiratory proton pumps, in nitrogen reductases and in metallo-(de)hydrogenases.
  • Bio-inspired catalysis: using insights from metallo-protein catalysts to design and realise new transition metal catalysts for multi-electron reduction processes.
  • Catalyses for a sustainable future: energy-efficient catalyses of the multi-electron reduction of carbon dioxide to methanol fuel.
  • Design, synthesis and use of transition metal systems with redox-active, multifunctional ligands.
  • Copper chemistry and its relevance to biology and medicine.

Further information about Steve Colbran’s current research can be found at the UNSW Research Gateway, and a flyer for the Colbran Group plus a brief summary of current research underway within the group can be found here.

Selected Publications

  • McSkimming, A.; Bhadbhade, M. M.; Colbran S. B. Bio-inspired catalysis of imine reduction by rhodium complexes with tethered Hantzsch pyridinium groups: evidence for direct hydride transfer from dihydropyridine to metal-activated substrate, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2013, 52, 3411-3416 (+ Front cover).
  • McSkimming, A.; Shrestha, S.; Bhadbhade, M. M.; Thordarson, P.; Colbran, S. B.: Macrocyclic Bis(phenanthroline-pyrrole): A Convenient One-Pot Synthesis, Structure(s), Spectroscopic, and Redox Properties, and the Binding of Amine Guests, Protons, and Lanthanide Ions. Chemistry-an Asian Journal 2014, 9, 136-145 (+ Frontispiece page).
  • McSkimming, A.; Colbran, S. B.: The coordination chemistry of organo-hydride donors: new prospects for efficient multi-electron reduction. Chemical Society Reviews 2013, 42, 5439-5488.
  • McSkimming, A.; Bhadbhade, M. M.; Colbran S. B., Hydride ion-carrier ability in Rh(I) complexes of a nicotinamide-functionalised N-heterocyclic carbene ligand, Dalton Transactions, 2010, 39, 10581-10584
  • Rawling, T.; Austin, C.; Buchholz, F.; Colbran S .B.; McDonagh A. M., Ruthenium Phthalocyanine-Bipyridyl Dyads as Sensitizers for Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells: Dye Coverage versus Molecular Efficiency, Inorganic Chemistry, 2009, 48, 3215-3227.
  • Moberg, V.; Mottaqlib, A. M.; Sauer, D.; Poplavskaya, Y.; Craig, D. C.; Deeming, A. J.; Colbran, S. B.; Nordlander, E., Chiral and achiral phosphine derivatives of alkylidyne tricobalt carbonyl clusters as catalysts for (asymmetric) inter- and intra-molecular Pauson-Khand reactions, Dalton Transactions, 2008, 2442-2453.
  • Lonnon, D. G. Lee, S.-T.; Colbran S. B., Valence tautomerism and coordinative lability in copper(II)–imidazolyl–semiquinonate anion models for the CuB centre in cytochrome c oxidase, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2007, 129, 5800-5801.

A full listing of Steve Colbran’s recent research publications can be found at the UNSW Research Gateway.

News item on Colbran group research

Catalyst in a teacup: new approach to chemical reduction