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School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Researching the biggest issues facing our planet
A complex and far-reaching cluster of disciplines with touch points across all of society and our natural world. We will take you from the laboratory to a rainforest, desert, farm or even underwater.

In this field, you can journey from molecular mechanisms to whole organism processes and ecosystem interactions, and investigate a multitude of life forms – from viruses, bacteria and protozoans to fungi, plants and animals, including humans.

Our teaching

At Sydney you will be taught by dedicated scientific thinkers, including members of the Australian Academy of Science, Australian Research Council Fellows and prestigious prize winners.

You may also have the opportunity to study in the lab spaces of the new Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences building, undertake field trips, and explore our research stations and farms.

Given our exceptional environment for learning, we are ranked 57 in the world for the teching of life sciences.*

*2020 Times Higher Education Global Subject Rankings.

Our facilities

At the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, you will have access to fantastic facilities from biochemistry and genetics laboratories, to plant breeding and ecology greenhouses, to veterinary hospitals, to field facilities in the Great Barrier Reef, dry sclerophyll forests, mangrove swamps, beaches and intertidal rock platforms, agricultural fields and livestock farms.

The School of Life and Environmental Sciences conducts teaching and research on our campus in central Sydney, as well as farms and clinics established in Camden in greater Sydney, a research station at One Tree Island on the Great Barrier Reef, Crommelin Biological Field Station on the NSW Central Coast, and the Plant Breeding Institute at Narrabri in the grain growing area of northern NSW.

The School also has access to facilties in major hospitals like Westmead, medical research institutes and veterinary clinics around Sydney and Australia.

Technical facilities

Fragment based drug design (FBDD) is a strategy for lead discovery that is growing rapidly in popularity. Rather than rely on gargantuan libraries of hundreds of thousands of complex molecules, FBDD revolves around a small, carefully curated library of very small molecules that are about half the size of typical drugs. A target protein is screened against the library and ‘hits’ can then be chemically expanded to create lead compounds that bind with high affinity. The approach can be used to target enzymes as well as less traditional targets such as protein-protein or protein nucleic acid interactions. FBDD is likely to be a vital resource in the search for new antimicrobial compounds.

Our FBDD facility acts as the Sydney node of the established FBDD platform at Monash University run by A/Prof Martin Scanlon. Our facility consists of a Janus liquid handling robot and a cryoprobe-equipped 600-MHz NMR spectrometer fitted with a SampleJet autosampler. This setup allows us to prepare and screen a large amount of samples.

Please contact Dr Lorna Wilkinson-White to discuss how your research could benefit from a fragment based drug design approach.

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy allows the characterisation of samples ranging from purified biological macromolecules through to complex metabolite mixtures, living cells, tissues and whole organisms.

The School houses three high-field Bruker NMR spectrometers: an Avance III-400 widebore, an Avance III-600 and an Avance III-800, as well as computing facilities for the processing and analysis of NMR data. Both of the 600 and 800 NMR spectrometers are equipped with cryogenic probeheads and the 600 is also equipped with a SampleJet autosampling robot.

For more information, please visit the NMR Facility or contact Dr Ann Kwan.

Our people

Professor Jennifer Potts, Head of School 

Professor Pauline Ross, Deputy Head of School 

Dr Carolyne Carter, School Manager 

Associate Professor Tina Bell and Dr Gary Muscatello, Agriculture & Food

Associate Professor Catherine Herbert, Ecology, Evolution & Conservation

Professor Jacqueline Matthews, Molecules, Cells & Organisms

Professor Thomas Bishop, Agriculture & Food

Associate Professor Marcus Heisler, Molecules, Cells and Organisms

Professor Frank Seebacher, Ecology, Evolution & Conservation

Associate Professor Joy Becker, Associate Head (Research)

Associate Professor Stephen Cattle, Associate Head (Education)

Head of School

Professor Jennifer Potts
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