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Leadership team

Sydney Nano leadership

Our leadership comprises a team of pre-eminent researchers and scholars led by Associate Professor Alice Motion. Our mission is to transform our economy, society and everyday life through multidisciplinary research in nanoscale science and technology. 

We aim to be globally trusted and recognised experts in nanoscience and technolgy. We are working towards achieving this by enabling and facilitating activities and translational outcomes that would not be possible through our existing university structures. 

The Sydney Nano Executive Committee, chaired by the Interim Director, Alice Motion, comprises the Chief Operating Officer and five Deputy Directors, who work as a team to affect our academic, strategic and financial goals.

Leadership team

Alice Motion

Associate Professor Alice Motion

Interim Director 

Associate Professor Alice Motion is a chemist and science communicator based at The University of Sydney. Her research focuses on open science and Science Communication, Outreach, Participation and Education (SCOPE). Finding ways to connect people with science and to make research more accessible is the overarching theme of Alice’s interdisciplinary research. 

After completing her PhD at the University of Cambridge, Alice moved to Australia to take up a research position at the University of Sydney, where she now leads the SCOPE Research Group and projects in open-source drug discovery, citizen science and creative science education and communication.

Alice is the founder of the Breaking Good project - a citizen science project that aims to empower high school and undergraduate students to be active researchers in projects that will improve human health. She is recognised as a leading international science communicator and was awarded the Eureka Prize for Promoting Public Engagement with Science in 2020. Alice is a regular guest on ABC Weekend Breakfast, columnist for Chemistry World, and host of science radio segments and podcasts.

Alice is also currently the Sydney Nano Deputy Director for External Engagement and Academic Development.

Gunther Schmidt

Dr Gunther Schmidt

Chief Operating Officer

Dr Gunther Schmidt has over 20 years of international leadership and executive management experience in the business-to-business (B2B) and consultancy environment in a wide range of industry segments. He is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Gunther has a recognised expertise for the development of business innovation and driving operational excellence projects.

Dr Schmidt also has an academic background holding a Masters degree in Chemistry and a PhD (summa cum laude) in Materials Science from the University of Hamburg, Germany. He was a post-doctoral research fellow at the Ian Wark Research Institute, University of South Australia and the Museum of National History, Stockholm, Sweden.


Deputy Directors

Associate Professor Girish Lakhwani profile

Associate Professor Girish Lakhwani

Academic Partnerships

Girish Lakhwani is an Associate Professor in chemistry at the University of Sydney and the Deputy Director of ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science. Girish completed his integrated Master of Science degree in 2005 from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur and received his PhD in 2009 from Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands. After two postdoctoral appointments at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Cambridge, Girish joined the School of Chemistry at the University of Sydney in 2014. 

In his research, Girish uses chiroptical and time-resolved optical spectroscopy to study the origin and evolution of optoelectronic properties in novel nanoscale semiconductor materials to deliver solutions for solar energy harvesting, optical switches, and polariton lasers. He has sustained an excellent track record of successfully and productively directing externally funded ARC and industry commissioned research projects, published 40 research papers in high impact journals of his field, has attracted several international collaborations and received the 2019 Vice Chancellor’s award for outstanding teaching and research.

Associate Professor Alice Motion profile

Associate Professor Alice Motion

External Engagement & Academic Development

Alice is currently acting as the Interim Director for Sydney Nano alongside her Deputy Director role. Read her biography here.

Associate Professor Yixiang Gang  profile

Associate Professor Yixiang Gan

Member Engagement

Yixiang Gan is currently Associate Professor at the School of Civil Engineering. He studied in China and Germany and received his Dr.-Ing from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. After joining The University in 2010, he has been developing his research group with unique data-driven modelling and experimental capabilities to optimise engineering solutions for energy storage. 

His research contains a balance between engineering applications addressing grand challenges and curiosity-driven topics transforming fundamental understanding. He has been an active researcher in the mechanics and physics of granular materials from microstructure-informed approaches. His research areas include mechanics of granular and porous media, mechanics of interfaces, and energy geotechnics. He was a recipient of ARC DECRA, SOAR Fellowship, and Endeavour Leadership Awards.

Yixiang enjoys working with others from multiple disciplines and backgrounds. The nature of his research involves extensive collaborations with domestic and international teams on energy storage and micromechanics.

Professor Stephanie Watson profile

Professor Stephanie Watson

Industry, Innovation & Commercialisation

Professor Stephanie Watson is a clinician scientist known for her ground-breaking research in corneal therapies. She leads the Corneal Research Group at the Save Sight Institute and is Head of the Corneal Unit, Sydney Eye Hospital. Stephanie was awarded her PhD, from UNSW for studies at UCL’s Institute of Ophthalmology whilst a corneal fellow at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London. She has over 200 publications and has raised over $11 million for her research programme. Data from Stephanie’s research has featured widely in Australian and international media, including in the New York Times, and a Sydney Morning Herald article with reach of over 8,309,604 and the film Vitamania. 

As Chair for Australian Vision Research, and the Advocacy and Outreach Committee Chair for the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), she contributes to policy and education. 

Stephanie was the only Australian to make the 2021 Power List of the Top 100 Women in Ophthalmology and is an ARVO Silver Fellow.

Professor Ali Abbas profile

Professor Ali Abbas

Industry, Innovation & Commercialisation

Ali Abbas is Professor of Chemical Engineering and SOAR Fellow at the University of Sydney in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Ali received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Sydney. He is the Founding Director of the Waste Transformation Research Hub, a national centre aimed at addressing the waste industry’s research and technological challenges. He is the Founder and Director of the Laboratory for Multiscale Systems. 

Ali has 20 years of experience in the field of Process Systems Engineering. In recent years, Ali has been working on circular economy transitions, identifying ways to translate the circular economy principles into practice. He conducts fundamental computational and applied research with emphasis on multi-scale systems resource optimisation and efficiency, and has published more than 130 papers in international scientific and engineering journals.

Ali is the recipient of multiple awards including the Australia-Harvard Fellowship 2011, as well as the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) Fellowship 2012 (Australia-China Future Leader in Clean Coal Technologies). In 2008, Professor Abbas was awarded the PSE model-based innovation prize (London, UK) recognising his work in model-based optimal process operations, and received the same award as runner-up in 2015. Recently he received the inaugural Sydney Research Accelerator (SOAR) fellowship for the University’s most talented researchers in recognition of research leadership.