2020 RACI Margaret Sheil Leadership Award Lecture - Breaking barriers with antimicrobial peptides

4th November 2020

In 2017, the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) established a leadership award to honour Professor Margaret Sheil AO, the first Australian female Professor of Chemistry and now Vice Chancellor of QUT. In this webinar the most recent recipient of the award, Professor Emeritus Frances Separovic AO FAA, will give a personal account of her career journey in biophysical chemistry and discuss the need for more inclusivity in science.


When: Wednesday, 4 November 2020, 1.00pm - 3.00pm

Webinar via Zoom: REGISTER

Cost: Free


Breaking barriers with antimicrobial peptides

Resistance to antibiotics is a growing health concern worldwide. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) present an alternative to conventional antibiotics, but details of their mechanism of action and the basis for differences in potency observed between different bacterial strains remain unclear. Structural information is crucial for defining the molecular mechanism by which these small proteins recognise and interact with different cell membranes. Nuclear magnetic resonance structural investigations of AMPs in a range of different lipid membranes will be described. The outcomes of such studies are being used to design more potent AMPs for therapeutic applications. 

Professor Separovic will give a personal account of how she navigated a career in biophysical chemistry and why the culture of science needs to be less challenging and more inclusive. She will end with a brief discussion of her recent experience in a leadership program for women set against the backdrop of Antarctica.


About the speaker

Professor Emeritus Frances Separovic AO FAA (University of Melbourne)

Professor Frances Separovic is a biophysical chemist and deputy director of the Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne. Her research group studies the structure and dynamics of molecules in biological membranes, with a focus on peptide antibiotics and toxins. Frances joined the University of Melbourne in 1996, where she served as Assistant Dean (EO) and Associate Dean of the Science Faculty, and became the first woman professor of chemistry (2005) and Head of School (2010).

She is currently president-elect of the Biophysical Society (USA), council member of International Union of Pure and Applied Biophysics (IUPAB) and Division I member of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). Frances has had several senior roles in professional societies, including President of Australian New Zealand Society for Magnetic Resonance (ANZMAG), General Treasurer of RACI and President of Australian Society for Biophysics (ASB). She was awarded the ASB Robertson Medal (2009), the ANZMAG Medal (2011), Fellow of the Biophysical Society (USA) and ISMAR Fellow (2012), and the RACI Margaret Sheil Leadership Award (2019).

Frances is the first female chemist elected to the Australian Academy of Science (2012), and in 2017 was an IUPAC Distinguished Women of Chemistry and received an UNSW Alumni Award - Science & Technology. She was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women (2018) and appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (2019). For more information about Frances and her work, visit the Separovic Research Group website.


This lecture is presented by the Institute for Future Environments, the School of Chemistry and Physics and the Centre for Materials Science.

Join us on social

Receive our Insights monthly e-news

Media enquiries

+61 3138 2931