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Research programs

Our current projects and outcomes

Our research programs are multidisciplinary and focus on solving some of the big issues facing humanity today. We are aiming to discover groundbreaking solutions by creating the Grand Challenge, Frontier, Catalyst and Kickstarter projects; and by incorporating expertise from disciplines across the University in a range of research programs. 

Current Research Schemes

These flagship programs focus on bringing together reseachers from across the University to solve some of the world's largest challenges that are of a social, economic and scientific significance. The six Grand Challenge projects are: 

The Frontier scheme is designed to assess and develop one emerging technology platform in multiple applications to identify technology transfer opportunities over a diverse range of sectors.

Quantum Sensing

Chief investigator: James Rabeau

Quantum technologies have reached an inflection point in terms of technological maturity and are one step closer to being used in real world applications. Quantum sensing effectively takes advantage of the inherent weakness of all quantum systems: their sensitivity to the external environment. This project will undertake a detailed survey of the application landscape for quantum sensing, and in particular, will provide opportunities to collaborate or partner with industry/research to develop focused quantum sensing devices for real-world problems.  

The Catalyst scheme underpins Grand Challenges or encourage new ways of thinking about research. It aims to bring together researchers from Social Sciences, Design, Law and the Business School with scientist from Science, Health Sciences, Medicine and Engineering.

Engaged Innovation Scholarship for Impact

Chief Investigators: Steven MaguireEric Knight

This transversal program aims to bring innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and sustainability to each of the Grand Challenge projects. This includes integrative cross-cutting research from The University of Sydney Business School and is for anyone interested in studying the innovation and commercialisation of nanoscience technologies ‘in the making’ by offering the opportunity to be engaged in a multidisciplinary team.


Chief Investigator: Diana Chester

This Catalyst project will use data collected from a research initiative at Sydney Nano to develop a creative arts project using virtual reality and spacialied audio. The key objectives of the project are, 1) to bring better visibility to collaborative possibilities between Sydney Nano and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences; 2) to use visual and sonic data visualisation capabilities to make sense of data generated in a nano environment and to share it with an audience; and 3) to increase the impact of Sydney Nano research by making it visible to a broader audience through creative outputs.

Nanosonic Stories

Chief Investigator: Alice Motion

This catalyst project will research effective ways to communicate nanoscience through sound. Using original compositions of music, soundscapes and aural storytelling, this project aims to both find new ways to audibly illustrate scientific concepts and articulate emotions inspired by science at some of the smallest scales. Alice and her collaborators will explore the ability of music and sound to reach new audiences and connect people with science and develop a program of expertise in audio science communication to inform and contribute to science podcasts and immersive experiences that will also make science communication more inclusive.

The Kickstarter projects are precursors for Grand Challenges and must comprise of a multi-disciplinary team with researchers from across at least two Faculties, with humanitarian or environmental impact.


Chief Investigators: Mark GilliesWojciech ChrzanowskiLing Zhu

This project aims to transform treatment of blindness by harnessing the combined advances in nanomedicine engineering and synthetic biology to manipulate the genetic code that enables the blind to see. Through nanotechnology, we can revolutionise the delivery of drugs to treat retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy (DR), which are leading causes of blindness.

Organs-on-chips: Tissues-in-fibres

Chief Investigator: Stuart Fraser, Marcela Bilek

The modelling of biological processes is moving away from animal experimentation due to ethical and species-dependent concerns. The field of "organs-on-chips" or engineered, stem cell-derived complex cellular interactions grown in vitro is expanding rapidly. The team assembled has the ability to generate highly specific engineered biofunctionalised 2-D and 3-D surfaces to combine with stem cell differentiation to form mature functional tissue-like structures in the dish as well as tissue-like structures in biofunctionalised fibres. This project aims to focus these efforts to generate experimentally and potentially therapeutically useful biological structures in a highly engineered, reproducible manner.


Chief Investigator: Robyn Jamieson

This project aims to provide new approaches in therapies for genetic retinal disorders using novel carbon nanoparticle carriers. Novel carbon nanoparticles offer a promising solution for gene therapy and other genetic modification clinical trials. The carbon-based nanoparticles created in plasma have tuneable size, shape, charge, surface chemistry and scalable cost-effective production. They covalently immobilise functional macromolecules on contact and readily enter multiple cell types, with no toxicity, effectively carrying siRNA, plasmid DNA cargo and antibodies to cells of interest.