Prof Paul Plieger staff profile picture

Contact details +64 (06) 356 9099  ext. 84647

Prof Paul Plieger PhD, BSc(Hons)

Head of School of Fundamental Sciences

School of Fundamental Sciences

Dr Plieger is currently the acting Head of the School for the School of Fundamental Sciences

Dr Plieger is a trained inorganic synthetic chemist specialising in ligand design, synthesis and functionality. He has strong research interests in anion encapsulation, supramolecular cages, nanomagnets and beryllium coordination chemistry. 


Contact details

  • Ph: 84647
    Location: A4.19, Science Tower A-B link
    Campus: Turitea


  • Doctor of Philosophy - University of Otago (1999)
  • Bachelor of Science (Honours) - University of Otago (1994)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

Supramolecular chemistry, Inorganic chemistry, metal analysis, synthetic chemistry


21st Century Citizenship

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Chemical Science (030000): Inorganic Chemistry (030200): Inorganic Green Chemistry (030203): Macromolecular and Materials Chemistry (030300): Nanochemistry and Supramolecular Chemistry (030302): Organic Chemical Synthesis (030503): Organic Chemistry (030500): Physical Chemistry (incl. Structural (030600): Structural Chemistry and Spectroscopy (030606): Theoretical and Computational Chemistry (030700): Transition Metal Chemistry (030207)

Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 2 10

Completed Projects

Project Title: The good without the bad: selective chelators for beryllium

From mobile phones and aircraft braking systems, to golf clubs and the James Webb Space Telescope, the element beryllium (Be) is increasingly utilised in consumer, scientific and commercial applications. Unfortunately, beryllium has a poor reputation; it is considered the most toxic non-radioactive element on the planet and the cause of the incurable chronic beryllium disease (CBD). Surprisingly, this reputation has not deterred its use in manufacturing, but it has seriously hindered the exploration of the fundamental chemistry of beryllium. Given that Be usage in consumer and industrial products continues unabated, it is imperative that chemical chelating agents be developed for better detection of Be in the environment, that therapies for individuals exposed to beryllium be developed, and that protocols to remediate Be contamination are established. By building a greater understanding of the fundamental coordination chemistry of Be(2+), this project will develop strong, selective chelating agents for beryllium capture using a modern arsenal of chemical techniques.
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Date Range: 2013 - 2016

Funding Body: Marsden Fund - Full

Project Team:

Project Title: Synergistic control of anion encapsulation: towards drug delivery systems

Sulfate binds strongly to the 6C ligand, forming a dicopper helicate. No evidence is seen for sulfate binding to the 5C ligand. Structural analysis of the 5C helicates with a number of smaller anions has given a firmer understanding of how these anions bind. Detection of the helicate clusters in solution has given us evidence that the helicates are stable in solution. Discovery of the ability to make anion free derivatives has allowed for the direct investigation of anion binding. Binding studies on the 6C helicates has allowed a quantitative assessment of binding strength of a series of anions in this system. Sulfate was shown to bind most strongly to this system. We have proven the system can act as a reversible pH controlled anion binder which has implications for hydrometallurgic and solvent extraction technologies (New discovery 1). We have shown that the metal coordination core can be expanded in the related oxime system which has implications for storage and electronic communications devices (New discovery 2).
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Date Range: 2006 - 2008

Funding Body: Royal Society of New Zealand

Project Team:

Research Outputs

Teaching and Supervision

Courses Coordinated

  • 123.204 Chemical and Biochemical Analysis

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Supervisor 4 3
Co-supervisor 3 3

Current Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • Sidney Woodhouse - Doctor of Philosophy
    Design and Synthesis of New Magnetic Materials
  • Tyson Dais - Doctor of Philosophy
    Development of 4f/3d heterodinuclear single molecule magnets: An experimental and computational study
  • Hossein Etemadi - Doctor of Philosophy
    Processing, Surface Engineering and Characterisation of Magnetic Hydrogels for Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Applications
  • Rebecca Severinsen - Doctor of Philosophy
    The Synthesis and Chemistry of New Ouino[7,8-h]quinoline Derivatives

Co-supervisor of:

  • Shashank Tewari - Doctor of Philosophy
    C-H Activation in the synthesis of nitrogen- containing molecules and new ligands for controlling enantioselectivity
  • Maulik Mungalpara - Doctor of Philosophy
    New routes to planar chiral phosphorus ligands and their use in asymmetric catalysis
  • Leonie Etheridge - Doctor of Philosophy
    Planar chiral amino acids as organocatalysts

Completed Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • 2019 - David Nixon - Doctor of Philosophy
    Catch 94 Be If You Can: Exploiting Second-Sphere Hydrogen Bonding Toward Chelation of Beryllium
  • 2015 - Dunusinghe De Silva - Doctor of Philosophy
    Magneto-structural correlations of Iron-salicylaldoxime clusters
  • 2011 - Karl Shaffer - Doctor of Philosophy
    Towards selective small cation chelation

Co-supervisor of:

  • 2019 - Megha Mehta - Doctor of Philosophy
    Surface-enhanced Raman Spectroscopy for environmental and biological analysis
  • 2014 - Iman Kavianinia - Doctor of Philosophy
    Stimuli Sensitive Polysaccharide Based Hydrogels as Colon Targeted Drug Delivery Vehicles
  • 2010 - Rachel White - Doctor of Philosophy
    Synthesis of cyclodextrin composites incorporating targeting and drug carrying capabilities

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