School Seminar: Dr Nathan Kilah, University of Tasmania
Friday, 19 May 11:00am – 12:00pm
This seminar will be delivered in Chemistry Lecture Theatre 4 and Online (Zoom) Please email email@example.com for zoom link and password.
Speaker: Dr Nathan Kilah, University of Tasmania
Host: Dr Yu Heng Lau
Title: Supramolecular Detection of Perfluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS) and: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Communicate Science
Abstract: Perfluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS) are highly persistent pollutants. They have become ubiquitous through their use in a range of consumer products, industrial manufacturing, and perhaps most significantly in aqueous firefighting foams. PFAS are known to bioaccumulate, and there are hundreds of known contaminated sites around Australia, and globally. These persistent pollutants can be remediated from the environment, but first their presence and concentration must be determined. Traditional testing methods require expensive and specialised analytical instrumentation, often a long distance from the site of contamination. Developing simple to use methods that an untrained operator could use to identify PFAS contamination rapidly and accurately is highly desirable. We have approached this problem of rapid detection of PFAS using supramolecular chemistry. A range of functionalised “picket fence” porphyrins have been synthesised to act as host molecules for anionic PFAS guests. These host molecules instantly change colour in the presence of PFAS and are under investigation for real world sample testing.
Understanding and communicating the impacts of PFAS remains a significant challenge. Chemistry has a significant image problem, with many public fears and misconceptions regarding the prevalence and uses of chemicals (often well founded – see above!), and the roles of chemists in society. In my science communication practice, I endeavour to highlight and explain the everyday roles of chemistry. This may be through descriptions of the chemistry of commonplace objects, or through dramatic chemical reactions on fast timescales. I will outline my approach to science communication practice, engagement strategies, and interrogate the challenges of measuring the outcomes of my science engagement.
Bio: Dr Nathan Kilah completed his BSc Hons in 2003 at the University of Queensland, and his PhD in 2008 at the Australian National University. He was awarded a Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Science Research Fellowship (2008-2010) at the University of Oxford and an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship (2011-2013) at the Philipps-Universität Marburg. He commenced as Lecturer in Chemistry at the University of Tasmania in 2013, and previously held a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award Fellowship (2015-2018). His current research is on using supramolecular chemistry for the detection of pollutant molecules. He is passionate about sharing the importance of chemistry to our daily lives through accessible explainer articles, chemistry shows, and radio interviews.