Professor Bob Gilbert

Professorial Research Fellow

Centre for Nutrition and Food Sciences
Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation
b.gilbert@uq.edu.au
+61 7 336 54809

Overview

Research on the relations between two glucose polymers, starch and glycogen, whose structure has major impact on nutrition, diabetes and obesity.

After many years in synthetic polymer research, in 2006 I took up a position at UQ to pursue my interests in the relations between human health and the structures of glucose polymers, especially starch and glycogen, which have complex branched structures. For this purpose, I have built on my knowledge of synthetic polymers. This has led to unique combined experiment and theoretical methods for characterizing the complex molecular architecture of these biopolymers; the target is biosynthesis-structure-property-degradation relations important for human health, and also new biomaterials. This research is leading to new methods for the control and mitigation of obesity, diabetes and colo-rectal cancers; these nutrition-related diseases are reaching epidemic proportions.

I am a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, author of 500 papers, 4 patents and 2 books (on unimolecular reactions and on emulsion polymerization). I was President of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) Macromolecular Division (1998-2001), Elected Member of the IUPAC Bureau (2002-5), was Chair (1988-95) of the IUPAC Working Party on polymerization modelling and mechanisms, and was one of eight members of the IUPAC Strategy Development and Implementation Committee which carried out a major reorganization of that body. I was Secretary of the International Polymer Colloids Group until 2001, and former Chair of both the Polymer and Physical Chemistry Divisions of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. I am a winner of a Sydney University Excellence in Teaching Award, was awarded the RACI Smith Medal in recognition of outstanding research achievements in chemistry over the past decade, the RACI’s Polymer Medal, shared the Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering Medal in 1993 for my work in understanding polymerization mechanisms, the RACI Olle Prize in 1996 for my book on emulsion polymerization, the RACI Physical Chemistry Medal in 1998, the RACI Applied Research Medal in 2005, the RACI Leighton Memorial Medal in 2007 and the Australian Academy of Science Craig Prize (2010). I have been a member of the editorial boards of Carbohydrate Polymers, Biomacromolecules, Journal of Polymer Science, and Polymer, and was Chair of the Gordon Research Conference on Polymer Colloids, 2003. I speak fluent French and German as well as my native English, and limited Mandarin.

Since 2012, I have spent half my time at UQ and half in China, under theForeign Experts program. The latter is at YangZHou University (which has one of the best 5 agirculture faculties in China). There is a strong synergy between my Australian and Chinese research groups, with each spending some time in the other location, providing a unique opportunity for my young Australian researchers to learn first-hand about research practice and culture in our largest trading partner; also, I have outstanding facilities there which are significantly used by my Australian research group and by other groups in Australia.

Research Interests

  • Structure-property-biosynthesis relations of complex branched polymers
    The particular targets of this work are two complex branched polymers of glucose. Starch is the storage reservoir for starch in plants. We eat starch and digest it to glucose, and temporarily store this as glycogen, which has a similar molecular structure to glucose. Glycogen is our blood-sugar reservoir. This research is important for two major public health problems: diabetes and obesity. We are developing new plant varieties which are more slowly digested to starch, which helps avoid and manage diabetes and obesity. We are using our discoveries about glycogen to work towards new and highly novel types of drug targets for diabetes.

Research Impacts

The h index of a researcher is calculated from the number of times each of the published papers by that person is cited. Mine is 70, which is generally regarded as extremely high.

Qualifications

  • PhD, Australian National University
  • Bachelor of Science, The University of Sydney

Publications

View all Publications

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Publications

Book Chapter

  • Li, Cheng, Li, Hongyan and Gilbert, Robert G. (2019). Characterizing starch molecular structure of rice. Rice Grain Quality. (pp. 169-185) edited by Nese Sreenivasulu. New York, NY, United States: Humana Press Inc.. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-8914-0_10

  • Vilaplana, Francisco, Zou,Wei and Gilbert, Robert G. (2018). Starch and plant storage polysaccharides. Bioinspired materials science and engineering. (pp. 149-165) edited by Yang, Guang, Xiao, Lin and Lamboni, Lallepak. Hoboken, NJ, United States: John Wiley & Sons. doi: 10.1002/9781119390350.ch8

  • van Herk, A. M. and Gilbert, R. G. (2013). Emulsion polymerisation. Chemistry and technology of emulsion polymerisation: second edition. (pp. 43-73) edited by A.M. van Herk. Hoboken, NJ USA: John Wiley & Sons. doi: 10.1002/9781118638521.ch3

  • van Herk, A. and Gilbert, R. G. (2003). Emulsion Polymerisation. McGraw-Hill yearbook of science & technology. (pp. 93-96) edited by staff of McGraw-Hill. Australia: McGraw Hill.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Completed Supervision