Professor Andrew Whittaker

Professorial Research Fellow

Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology

Affiliated Professor

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences
Faculty of Science
a.whittaker@uq.edu.au
+61 7 334 63885

Overview

Professor Andrew Whittaker is Deputy Director Research, Senior Group Leader and founder member of the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN). He directs research funded through more than $61.3 million in competitive grants since 2000 and $39.7M since 2010. Professor Whittaker’s work in synthesis and characterisation of polymeric materials has underpinned major development programs in several key areas.

His work in the field of materials for photolithography has been supported by funding from leading semiconductor companies Intel, Sematech, Dow Chemical Company and DuPont. Outcomes include novel high-index resists for 193 nm immersion lithography, new concepts for design of non-chemically amplified resists for EUV lithography, novel approaches to healing roughness in IC features and block copolymer self-assembly.

In the field of biomaterials science and nanomedicine, Professor Whittaker has established a network of international scientists under the theme “Bringing Materials to Life”. He is active in developing novel imaging agents for MRI, and has introduced a new class of 19F polymeric agents. He leads research into responsive polymers for nanomedicine and for device manufacture. His work on polymeric hydrogels including transport properties is highly cited.

Finally, Professor Whittaker is an expert in the fundamentals of diffusion process in complex solids and has an international reputation in the field of NMR and MRI of polymeric systems.

International links

Professor Whittaker is a member of numerous international committees of governing bodies in polymer science and technology, and is involved in organising major international conferences. He is currently president of the Pacific Polymer Federation. He actively collaborates with scientists at the University of California Santa Barbara, USA; Institute of Nano Science and Technology, Mohali, India; Gebze Technical University, Turkey; Nagoya Institute of Technology, Japan; Jilin University, Hubei University, the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST, CAS), SUSTech and Shanghai University, China; the University of Nottingham, UK; IMEC, DuPont Electronics and Imaging, USA. He has held visiting professor positions at NCNST, INSA Lyon and NIT, was DICE Chair at the University of Nottingham, and is currently visiting professor at Hubei University.

Awards

1998 Royal Australian Chemical Institute Polymer Division Polymer Citation

2000 RACI Polymer Division Polymer Science & Technology Achievement Award

2002 Elected Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute

2009- 2012 DICE ‘Driving Innovation in Chemistry and Engineering’ Flexi Chair at University of Nottingham

2010 ARC Australian Professorial Fellowship

2012 Elected to ARC College of Experts

2013 World Famous Scientists Lecturing in Hubei Project awarded by the Hubei Provincial Department of Education

2013 National High-end Foreign Experts Recruitment Project awarded by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, the P.R. of China

2014 Awarded Paul J. Flory Polymer Research Prize for excellence in polymer research by the Polychar World Forum

2014 National High-end Foreign Experts Recruitment Project awarded by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, the P.R. of China

2015 Chinese Academy of Sciences President’s International Fellowship (Visiting Scientist)

2018 State High-end Foreign Expert Recruitment Project, Shanghai University

2019 The University of Queensland Excellence in Higher Degree by Research Supervision Award

2019 The University of Queensland Partner in Research Excellence Award

2019 Elected President of Pacific Polymer Federation

Research Interests

  • Polymer physical chemistry
    Relating chemical structure to important properties, responsive polymers, hybrid nanoparticles
  • Polymer synthesis
    Polymers with novel architecture, photo-crosslinked networks
  • Polymeric biomaterials and nanomedicine
    New materials for drug delivery, medical imaging, antimicrobial polymers, hydrogels, responsive polymers
  • Materials for photolithography
    Photoresists, block copolymer self assembly, photochemistry
  • NMR and MRI of polymers
    Solid-state NMR, diffusion NMR, MRI agents
  • Polymer degradation and durability
    Photochemistry, radiation chemistry, polymers in seawater

Research Impacts

Research

Polymer chemistry, responsive materials, nanotechnology, photolithography, nanomedicine, biomaterials science, magnetic resonance.

Professor Whittaker is working to bridge the gap between fundamental physical sciences and applications in the field of new materials, in particular materials for nanomedicine and materials for energy (lithography). He has published over 350 scientific papers in these and related fields. His work has attracted extensive industry support, for example $6.8M through the ARC Linkage Project scheme and significant direct industry support. Professor Whittaker is interested in translating his research outcomes; he holds seven patents in MRI agents, materials for lithography and materials for environmental remediation. His patent on healing roughness of lithographic features was licensed to Dow Electronic Materials.

Qualifications

  • Bachelor of Science, The University of Queensland
  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland

Publications

View all Publications

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • The development of MRI imaging agents has been central to the rise of MRI as a leading medical diagnostic tool. An MRI imaging agent is a molecular adjunct which enables enhanced image definition and reduced imaging times, as well as mapping of specific cell types. In this project new imaging agents will be developed which respond to specific biological triggers relevant to diseases, for e.g. changes in pH, ionic strength, oxygen tension, redox environment and temperature. The project will involve synthesis of novel functional polymers using controlled radical polymerisation methods and testing of these molecules as imaging agents in animal models. The project is supported by the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council and involves extensive national and international collaboration. The student will receive training in polymer chemistry, NMR and MRI and biomedical sciences. This project is suitable for PhD and Honours students.

  • The aim of this project is to develop new magnetic resonance (MR) molecular imaging strategies that will enable the in vivo monitoring of biological processes. Specifically we shall develop novel polymers for imaging of early markers of diseases such as melanoma, prostate cancer, malignant glioma and Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically the project involves the synthesis of new partly-fluorinated polymers having controlled architecture for the rapidly developing field of 19F MRI. The project aims to relate the structure of the macromolecules, determined carefully using advanced techniques such as NMR, light scattering, GPC, AFM and electron microscopy, to the performance as imaging agents. The agents will be tested in small animal (mouse) models of disease already developed by this group and our collaborators.

  • Biomaterials support, repair or protect the human body. The surface of the biomaterial interacts with the body’s immune system, or for external devices with pathogens. Control of the surface and how it interacts with the biological system is essential for effectiveness in its intended application. This project aims to develop innovative strategies for surface functionalisation using polymers that can either augment or attenuate the body’s response to the material. Two focus applications, namely anti-microbial surfaces and functional titanium alloys have been identified for the development of the novel surface treatments. The projects will build effective pathways from materials science to pre-clinical evaluation, and will provide training in synthetic chemistry, biomaterials science and pre-clinical testing.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book Chapter

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

  • Whittaker, A. K., Peng, H., Thurecht, K. J. and Blakey, I. (2012). Nuclear magnetic resonance agent. 2012-AU415 2012142670.

  • Whittaker, Andrew K. (1987). The radiation chemistry of polyolefins PhD Thesis, School of Molecular and Microbial Sciences, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2015.541

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Completed Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • The development of MRI imaging agents has been central to the rise of MRI as a leading medical diagnostic tool. An MRI imaging agent is a molecular adjunct which enables enhanced image definition and reduced imaging times, as well as mapping of specific cell types. In this project new imaging agents will be developed which respond to specific biological triggers relevant to diseases, for e.g. changes in pH, ionic strength, oxygen tension, redox environment and temperature. The project will involve synthesis of novel functional polymers using controlled radical polymerisation methods and testing of these molecules as imaging agents in animal models. The project is supported by the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council and involves extensive national and international collaboration. The student will receive training in polymer chemistry, NMR and MRI and biomedical sciences. This project is suitable for PhD and Honours students.

  • The aim of this project is to develop new magnetic resonance (MR) molecular imaging strategies that will enable the in vivo monitoring of biological processes. Specifically we shall develop novel polymers for imaging of early markers of diseases such as melanoma, prostate cancer, malignant glioma and Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically the project involves the synthesis of new partly-fluorinated polymers having controlled architecture for the rapidly developing field of 19F MRI. The project aims to relate the structure of the macromolecules, determined carefully using advanced techniques such as NMR, light scattering, GPC, AFM and electron microscopy, to the performance as imaging agents. The agents will be tested in small animal (mouse) models of disease already developed by this group and our collaborators.

  • Biomaterials support, repair or protect the human body. The surface of the biomaterial interacts with the body’s immune system, or for external devices with pathogens. Control of the surface and how it interacts with the biological system is essential for effectiveness in its intended application. This project aims to develop innovative strategies for surface functionalisation using polymers that can either augment or attenuate the body’s response to the material. Two focus applications, namely anti-microbial surfaces and functional titanium alloys have been identified for the development of the novel surface treatments. The projects will build effective pathways from materials science to pre-clinical evaluation, and will provide training in synthetic chemistry, biomaterials science and pre-clinical testing.

  • Molecular imaging has had a profound influence on modern diagnostics and has helped drive the evolving field of nanomedicine. "Theranostics", the portmanteau of therapy and diagnostics, is one sub-section of nanomedicine and offers the opportunity to monitor the effectiveness of a therapy using molecular imaging techniques - this may be achieved by monitoring drug release from a polymeric carrier, defining tumour boundaries or quantifying necrosis. In this project we will develop biocompatible polymeric devices that target a specific disease state in vivo, and subsequently deliver a therapy to treat that disease using various biological stimuli. The effectiveness of treatment will then be monitored using molecular imaging. This will involve utilising advanced chemistries for both the synthesis of the polymer-drug composites, and subsequent ligation of cell-targeting and imaging moieties. The polymeric architecture will be investigated by techniques such as NMR, GPC-MALLS, DLS, HPLC, UV-VIS etc. The polymeric device will incorporate imaging components for modalities such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), computed tomography (CT) and optical imaging to definitively locate and monitor tumour regression.

  • In recent years, block copolymers have created new opportunities as alternative nano-scale pattern templates for lithography applications. Block copolymers are particularly attractive because the self directed assembly of domain structures in thin films can produce an array of template patterns in the range of 5-50nm. It is well established that the ideal block copolymer must exhibit both a high value of polymer-polymer interaction parameter (c) and one highly etch resistant block. We have identified from the structure-property models that we have developed, that the polystyrene-block-polyester copolymer is a good candidate. Hence in this project, a range of interesting chemistries will be utilized for the synthesis of the block copolymer including ring opening polymerisation, living radical polymerization and some monomer preparation, in addition to characterization by various advanced techniques such as NMR, GPC, thermal analysis and vibrational spectroscopy. The thin film phase separated morphology will be investigated with respect to the surface interaction between the substrate and block copolymer by using high resolution scanning electron microscopy and XPS.

  • Polyether-urethanes are an important class of polymer with very broad applications as foams, moldings, coatings (paints), medical devices, protective clothing, etc. The nanoscale-segregated morphology of these materials plays a critical role in determining their physical and mechanical properties. In particular the arrangement of the so-called hard and soft segments determines properties such as stiffness, barrier properties and impact strength. This morphology is difficult to characterize; a combination of methods sensitive to both dynamic and static properties of the polymer is required to obtain a detailed picture of how the structure relates to the material’s properties. In this project advanced solid-state NMR methods will be used to characterized the structure and dynamics of poly(tetramethylene oxide)-based polyureas. The work will be conducted with our collaborators at Penn State University (Prof Jim Runt), and will involve both synthesis and detailed characterization of a range of materials with commercially-relevant structures. The student will receive training in materials chemistry, physical chemistry and advanced spectroscopic methods. This project is suitable for PhD and Honours students.