Chapman Group

Chapman Group


Dr Robert Chapman: I completed a BEng in Industrial Chemistry (2002-07) at UNSW with a co-operative scholarship. After a year working in management consulting for the Boston Consulting Group, I moved to the University of Sydney for my PhD in Chemistry (2009-12) under Profs. Sebatien Perrier and Katrina Jolliffe, where I studied the synthesis and self assembly of cyclic peptide - polymer conjugates. I subsequently worked as a research associate in the lab of Prof. Molly Stevens at Imperial College London (2013-15) on the development of nanomaterial based biosensors and scaffolds for tissue engineering, before returning to the School of Chemistry at UNSW as a Vice-Chancellors Research Fellow in 2016, and DECRA fellow in 2017.


Current students: 

Ahmed Mustafa (PhD)
Yiping Wang (PhD)
Daniele Melodia (PhD)
Alicia Cheng (Honours)
Henry Foster (Undergrad)


Research Interests

My research focusses on the use of enzymes to enable the design multivalent polymer-peptide conjugates for protein binding applications and to design novel biosensors for the detection of disease. I have expertise in well controlled polymerisation techniques, the self assembly of polymer and peptide based nanomaterials, and in nanoparticle based biosensing. Current projects include:
Polymer drugs by combinatorial design: In recent years, triggering apoptosis through cell receptor clustering has emerged as one of the main targets for cancer chemotherapy, and a number of protein therapeutics that work through this mechanism are in clinical trials. However, natural proteins are not ideal therapeutics due to the difficulties in finding the right protein for any given application, their capacity to trigger immune detection and drug resistance, as well as their high cost and poor stability. Peptides that can bind to the relevant cell receptors are known and by presenting these on the surface of a scaffold it is hoped that it will be possible to design synthetic materials capable of clustering cell receptors with similar efficacy. Polymers are attractive scaffolds to use for the presentation of these peptides as they allow precise control over architecture, density, and rigidity, as well as the position and number of binding moieties present. By synthesising libraries different architectures and measuring the relationship between their structure and biological efficacy, my group aims to design synthetic polymer-peptide conjugates for the clustering of death receptors on breast cancer cell lines.
Stabilisation of enzymes in nanoparticles: Despite their extensive use in a range of synthetic, biosensing, and therapeutic applications, enzymes are often highly unstable to heat, pH, and the presence of organic solvents. However, several recent studies have shown that it is possible to protect enzymes against degredation by such environmental factors by encapsulating them within nanocapsules. We are particularly interested in stabilising the enzyme glucose oxidase which we are using to scrub the oxygen from controlled polymerisation reactions allowing them to proceed in low volumes, in the open atmosphere as described above. However, because the enzyme is sensitive to temperature and the presence of organic solvents, the technique only works at temperatures below 55°C, and in a limited range of alcohol / water mixtures. Although a great deal of research has focussed on the immobilization and stabilisation of enzymes on surfaces, relatively little has investigated the protection of enzymes by incorporation within real (< 100 nm) nanoparticles. My group is investigating the stabilisation of glucose oxidase in crosslinked nanogels and inverse miniemulsion capsules, with the aim of both expanding the scope of combinatorial polymer synthesis techniques and of providing general platforms for the stabilisation of therapeutic enzyme.

Interested in joining the group?

I work closley with Martina Stenzel's group in the school of chemistry. Please contact me by email if you are interested in joining the group. Further information on the application process and available scholarships can be found at the Graduate Research School website, and at the UNSW research scholarships website.

Scientia PhD scholarships are now open for applications. The link to my project is here - please register your interest through this link.


Selected Publications

Please refer to my researchgate or google scholar profile for an up to date list of publications. Selected papers are listed below to give a flavour of the research I am involved in.






  • Qu JB, Chapman R, Chen F, Lu H, Stenzel MH; 'Swollen Micelles for the Preparation of Gated, Squeezable, pH-Responsive Drug Carriers'ACS Adv. Mater. Int. , 2017, 9, 13865-13874


  • Chapman R; Gormley AJ; Stenzel MH; Stevens MM, 2016, 'Combinatorial Low-Volume Synthesis of Well-Defined Polymers by Enzyme Degassing', Angewandte Chemie Int. Ed., 55, 4500 - 4503,

  • Liu NJ; Chapman R; Lin Y; Bentham A; Tyreman M; Philips N; Khan SA; Stevens MM, 2016, 'Phospholipase A2 as a point of care alternative to serum amylase and pancreatic lipase', Nanoscale, 8, 11834 - 11839,

Graphical abstract: Phospholipase A2 as a point of care alternative to serum amylase and pancreatic lipase

  • Chapman R; Lin Y; Burnapp M; Bentham A; Hillier D; Zabron A; Khan S; Tyreman M; Stevens MM, 2015, 'Multivalent Nanoparticle Networks Enable Point-of-Care Detection of Human Phospholipase-A2 in Serum', ACS Nano, 9, 2565 - 2573,

Abstract Image

  • Gormley AJ; Chapman R; Stevens MM, 2014, 'Polymerization Amplified Detection for Nanoparticle-Based Biosensing', Nano Letters, vol. 14, pp. 6368 - 6373, Image

  • Chapman R; Koh ML; Warr GG; Jolliffe KA; Perrier S, 2013, 'Structure elucidation and control of cyclic peptide-derived nanotube assemblies in solution', Chemical Science, vol. 4, pp. 2581 - 2581,

Graphical abstract: Structure elucidation and control of cyclic peptide-derived nanotube assemblies in solution


  • Chapman R; Danial M; Koh ML; Jolliffe KA; Perrier S, 2012, 'Design and properties of functional nanotubes from the self-assembly of cyclic peptide templates', Chemical Society Reviews, 41, 6023 - 6023,

Graphical abstract: Design and properties of functional nanotubes from the self-assembly of cyclic peptide templates

  • Chapman R; Jolliffe KA; Perrier S, 2011, 'Modular design for the controlled production of polymeric nanotubes from polymer/peptide conjugates', Polymer Chemistry, 2, 1956 - 1956,

Graphical abstract: Modular design for the controlled production of polymeric nanotubes from polymer/peptide conjugates