Alison J Downard- People - Chemistry - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Professor Alison J Downard



Principal Investigator with the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology

Field of Study

Electrochemistry/Surface Chemistry


BSc(Hons), PhD (Otago), FRSNZ



Contact Details

DDI: +64 3 36 94228 (Internal 94228)
Fax: +64 3 364 2110

Research Interests and Publications


Alison obtained her BSc(Hons) degree and PhD at the University of Otago, under the supervision of Professors Brian Robinson and Jim Simpson. Her project involved the synthesis and redox chemistry of tricobalt carbonyl clusters and sparked her interest in electrochemistry, which has been a common theme in her research since that time.  Following her PhD, Alison did a year’s postdoctoral research on conducting polymers with Professor Derek Pletcher at the University of Southampton and then took up a two-year postdoctoral position at UNC-Chapel Hill with Professor T. J. Meyer. Her research examined the use of conducting polymers functionalized with inorganic chromophores for artificial photosynthetic systems. Since joining the staff at the University of Canterbury, Alison has worked in several areas of electrochemistry, most recently with a nanotechnology focus. She has a particular interest in surface functionalisation and has published a number of highly cited papers in this area.

For many years, Alison has been the New Zealand Corresponding Member of the Electrochemistry Division of the Royal Australian Chemical Society. She has undertaken various leadership roles including Associate Dean of Science, University of Canterbury (1999-2004), Leader of the Molecular Materials theme, MacDiarmid Institute (2009-2013) and Head of Department of Chemistry (2009-2010). Alison is currently past-chair of the Analytical Electrochemistry Division of the International Society of Electrochemistry.

Research Interests

Electrochemistry is the common thread that runs through all our research. We have worked in a wide range of electrochemical areas including organometallic electrochemistry, conducting polymers, electroanalysis, inorganic electrochemistry, surface modification, electrochemistry of microorganisms and bioelectrochemistry, applications of electrochemistry in wool processing and fabrication and characterisation of carbon nanotube materials.

At present, our research is focused in two areas: covalent surface modification via radicals and other reactive intermediates and applications of electrochemistry in processing New Zealand’s natural products.

Current Research Projects

  • New graphene electrode architectures
  • Attachment and patterning of nanoscale molecular layers on conducting surfaces to form chemically well-defined surfaces
  • Attachment and characterisation of nanoscale molecular layers on non-conducting surfaces
  • Building up covalently attached layers on surfaces through novel attachment chemistry
  • Applications of electrochemistry in processing New Zealand’s natural products; a green chemistry approach
  • New catalysts and new methods for the growth of carbon nanotubes and for electrocatalysis of organic reactions


  • Phone: +64 3 364 2100
    Fax: +64 3 364 2110
  • Department of Chemistry
    University of Canterbury
    Private Bag 4800, Christchurch
    New Zealand
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