Advancing knowledge in biology and improving health, by synthesising fluorescent and luminescent molecules and developing improved filtration devices. Our group is especially focused on developing theranostic agents for cancer and metabolic diseases.

  • lightbulb Our mission minus-thin plus-thin
    • Engineer novel particle based biomaterials with specific biological activity and their application to solve biopharmaceutical challenges
    • Determine mechanisms for bioactivity through advanced colloidal, interfacial and biophysical analyses
    • Develop drug delivery solutions to address unmet clinical needs
    • Deliver Challenging Therapeutic Molecules (both small molecular drugs and biologics) – For Better Medicines
    • Eradicate Bacterial Biofilms
    • Optimise Biotech and Pharmaceutical Formulation, Processing and Manufacture.
  • search Our research minus-thin plus-thin

    Our interdisciplinary research involves using synthetic organic and inorganic chemistry to develop new fluorescent and luminescent molecules whose interactions (lipid binding) or function (anticancer, antimicrobial activity) within the cell is characterised using a variety of advanced imaging techniques. We also leverage our expertise in chemistry and the understanding of small molecular interactions to deliver innovative solutions to water remediation that eliminate the presence of cancer-causing chemicals in water. We work directly with industry partners to develop new compounds and generate solutions for industry. The groups research activities can be classified into 4 main areas:

    1. Developing long-lived stable luminescent molecules capable of targeting, tracking and/or reporting on events in live cells and in high throughput screening applications
    2. Designing molecules capable of theranostic activity through introduction of luminescent metals
    3. Exploring new classes of antimicrobials to help in the fight of resistance
    4. Improving water quality through advanced materials.
  • books-library-folders Our research output minus-thin plus-thin
    1. Daniel W. M. Pincher, Christie A. Bader, John D. Hayball, Sally E. Plush, Martin J. Sweetman ‘Graphene quantum dot embedded hydrogel for dissolved iron sensing’ Chemistry Select, 2019, accepted August 25th 2019
    2. Bryan R. Coad, Thomas D. Michl, Christie A. Bader, Joris Baranger, Carla Giles, Giovanna Cufaro Goncalves, Pratiti Nath, Stephanie J. Lamont-Friendrich, Malin Johnsson, Hans J. Griesser, Sally E. Plush ‘Visualising biomaterial degradation by Candida albicans using embedded luminescent molecules to report on substrate digestion and cellular uptake of hydrolysate’ ACS Applied Biomaterials, 2019, accepted September 5th 2019
    3. Nicholas Lundquist, Martin J. Sweetman, Kymberley Scroggie, Max Worthington, Louisa Esdaile, Salah Alboaiji, Sally E. Plush, John D. Hayball, Justin M. Chalker ‘Polymer supported carbon for safe and effective remediation of PFOA- and PFOS-contaminated water’ ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 2019, accepted 3rd June 2019
    4. Martin J. Sweetman, Shane M. Hickey, Doug A. Brooks, John D. Hayball, Sally E. Plush ‘A practical guide to prepare and synthetically modify graphene quantum dots’ Advanced Functional Materials, 2019, 29, 14, 1808740
    5. Jack R.T. Darby, Alexandra Sorvina, Christie A. Bader, Mitchell Lock, Jia Y. Soo, Mike Seed, Tim Kuchel, Doug Brooks, Sally E. Plush, Janna Morrison ‘Redox ratio is higher in white adipose tissue compared to brown adipose tissue’ Reproductive Sciences, 2018, 25, 139A-140A
    6. Shane M. Hickey, Trent D. Ashton, Gareth Boer, Christie A. Bader, Michael Thomas, Alysha G. Elliott, Carsten Schmuck, Heidi Y. Yu, Jian Li, Roger L. Nation, Matthew A. Cooper, Sally E. Plush, Douglas A. Brooks, Frederick M. Pfeffer ‘Norborane-based cationic antimicrobial peptidomimetics targeting the bacterial membrane’ European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 2018, 160, 9-22
    7. Alexandra Sorvina, Christie A. Bader, Chiara Caporale, Elizabeth A. Carter, Ian R. D. Johnson, Emma J. Parkinson-Lawrence, Peter V. Simpson, Phillip J. Wright, Stefano Stagni, Peter A. Lay, Massimiliano Massi, Douglas A. Brooks, Sally E. Plush ‘Lipid profiles of prostate cancer cells’ Oncotarget, 2018, 9, 35541-35552
    8. Valentina Fiorini, Linda Bergamini, Nicola Monti, Stefano Zacchini, Sally E. Plush, Massimilano Massi, Alejandro Hochkoeppler, Alessandra Stefan, Stefano Stagni. ‘Luminescent protein staining with Re(I) tetrazolato complexes’ Dalton Transactions, 2018, 47, 9400-9410
    9. Alexandra Sorvina, Christie A. Bader, Jack R.T. Darby, Mitchell C. Lock, Jia Yin Soo, Ian Johnson, Chiara Caporale, Nicolas H. Voelcker, Stefano Stagni, Massimiliano Massi, Janna L. Morrison, Sally E. Plush*, Douglas A. Brooks. ‘Mitochondrial imaging in live or fixed tissues using a luminescent iridium complex.’ Scientific Reports, 2018, 8, 1, 8191
    10. Todd Gillam, Martin J. Sweetman, Christie A. Bader John Hayball, Janna L. Morrison, Douglas A. Brooks, Sally E. Plush. ‘Bright lights Down Under- Metal ion complexes turning the spotlight on metabolic processes at the cellular level.’ Coordination Chemistry Reviews, 2018, 375, 234-255 ^invited review
    11. Zhangli Du, Jing Sun, Christie A. Bader, Doug A. Brooks, Minqi Li, Xun Li, Sally E. Plush. ‘Synthesis, photophysical and cellular characterization of folate and methotrexate labelled luminescent lanthanide complexes.’ Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, 2018, 178, 32-42
    12. Alexandra Sorvina, Christie A. Bader, Mitchell C. Lock, Douglas A. Brooks, Janna L. Morrison, Sally E. Plush. ‘Label-free imaging of healthy and infarcted fetal sheep hearts by two-photon microscopy.’ Journal of Biophotonics, 2018, 11, 1-8, DOI: 10.1002/jbio.201600296
    13. Martin J. Sweetman, Damien Sebben, Ben D Noll, Wei Hong Wang, Steve May, Nick Mebberson, Sally E. Plush*, John D. Hayball. ‘A rapid technique to determine performance and efficiency of activated carbon water filters.’ Water Science and Technology: Water Supply, 2018, 18, 2, 371-382
    14. Sougata Sinha, Wing Y. Tong, Nathan H. Williamson, Steven J. P. McInnes, Simon Puttick, Anna Cifeuntes-Rius, Richa Bhardwaj, Sally E. Plush, Nicolas H. Voelcker. ‘Novel Gd-loaded silicon nanohybrid: A potential EGFR expressing cancer cell targeting MRI contrast agent.’ ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2017, 9, 49, 42601-42611
    15. Janna L. Morrison, Alexandra Sorvina, Jack R.T. Darby, Christie A. Bader, Mitchell C. Lock, Mike Seed, Tim Kuchel, Sally E. Plush*, Douglas A. Brooks. ‘Label-free imaging of redox status and collagen deposition showing metabolic differences in the heart.’ Journal of Biophotonics, 2017, 11, 3
    16. Chiara Caporale, Christie A. Bader, Alexandra Sorvina, Karen D. M. MaGee, Brian W. Skelton, Todd A. Gillam, Phillip J. Wright, Paolo Raiteri, Stefano Stagni, Janna L. Morrison, Sally E. Plush, Douglas A. Brooks, Massimiliano Massi. ‘Investigating Intracellular Localisation and Cytotoxicity Trends for Neutral and Cationic Iridium Tetrazolato Complexes in Live Cells.’ Chemistry – A European Journal, 2017, 23, 15666-15679
    17. Katherine B. Stevens, Christie A. Bader, Alexandra Sorvina, Douglas A. Brooks, Sally E. Plush*, Janna L. Morrison. ‘Methods for visualizing lipids in metabolic and cardiovascular disease.’ Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, 2017, 8, 5, 566-574 *invited article
    18. Sally E. Plush, Annah Farashishiko, A. Dean Sherry, Mark Woods. ‘Crosslinked Nano-Assembled Capsules (CACs): Potential Molecular Imaging Agents for MRI Capable of Delivering Large Payloads of Very High Relaxivity Gadolinium.’ Chemical Communications, 2017, 53, 6355-6358
    19. Martin J. Sweetman, Steve May, Nick Mebberson, Phillip Pendleton, Krasimir Vasilev, Sally E. Plush*, John D. Hayball. ‘Advanced water purification by carbon based materials and composites.’ C Journal of Carbon Research, 2017, 3, 2, 18
    20. Siti N. Aisyiyah Jenie, Sally E. Plush, Nicolas H. Voelcker. ‘Singlet oxygen detection on a nanostructured porous silicon thin film via photonic luminescence enhancements.’ Langmuir, 2017, 33, 35, 8606-8613
    21. Siti N. Aisyiyah Jenie, Shane M. Hickey, Zhangli Du, Damien Sebben, Douglas A. Brooks Nicolas H. Voelcker, Sally E. Plush. ‘A europium-based ‘off-on’ colourimetric detector of singlet oxygen.’ Inorganica Chimica Acta, 2017, 462, 236-240
    22. Jason L. Wedding, Hugh H. Harris, Christie A. Bader, Sally E. Plush, Rachel Mak, Massimiliano Massi, Douglas A. Brooks, Barry Lai, Stefan Vogt, Melissa V. Werrett, Peter V. Simpson, Brian W. Skelton, Stefano Stagni. ‘Intracellular distribution and stability of a luminescent rhenium(I) tricarbonyl tetrazolato complex using confocal fluorescence microscopy in conjunction with XFM imaging.’ Metallomics, 2017, 9, 382-390*invited article
    23. Christie A. Bader, Alexandra Sorvina, Peter V. Simpson, Philip J. Wright, Stefano Stagni, Sally E. Plush, Massimiliano Massi, Douglas A. Brooks. ‘Imaging nuclear, endoplasmic reticulum and plasma membrane events in real time.’ FEBS Letters, 2016, 590: 3051–3060*was invited and accepted as front cover art
    24. Christie A. Bader, Tetyana Shandala, Melissa V. Werrett, Phillip J. Wright, Peter V. Simpson, Stefano Stagni, Massimiliano Massi, Sally E. Plush, Douglas A. Brooks. ‘A molecular probe for the detection of polar lipids in live cells.’ PLoS ONE, 2016, 11(8): e0161557. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0161557
    25. Christie A. Bader, Elizabeth Carter, Anna Safitri, Peter Lay, Peter Simpson, Phillip Wright, Stefano Stagni, Massimiliano Massi, Douglas A. Brooks, Sally E. Plush. ‘Unprecedented staining of polar lipids by a luminescent rhenium species revealed by FTIR microspectroscopy in adipocytes.’ Molecular BioSystems, 2016, 12, 2064-2068 *was invited and accepted as front cover art and is now part of themed collection ‘2016 Hot Articles’
    26. Siti N. Aisyiyah Jenie, Sally Plush, Nicolas Voelcker. ‘Recent Advances on Luminescent Enhancement-based Porous Silicon Biosensors.’ Pharmaceutical Research, 2016, 33, 10, 2314-2336
  • handshake-business-team Collaborations minus-thin plus-thin

    Our research team collaborates across a range of national and international institutions, and we have very strong links with industry:

    Academic Collaborators

    • Professor Janna Morrison, University of South Australia
    • Professor Peter Hoffman, University of South Australia
    • Professor Peter Lay, University of Sydney
    • Associate Professor Massimilio Massi, Curtin University
    • Associate Professor Hugh Harris,Curtin University
    • Dr Justin Chalker, Flinders University
    • Dr Stefano Stagni, University of Bologna
    • Dr Xun Li, Shandong University

    Industry Partners

    • Mr Geoff Thomas, ReZolve Scientific, a successful spin out company from UniSA with A/Prof Plush as co-founder
    • Mr Steve May, Puratap CEO


Sally Plush
Associate Professor of Bioinorganic Chemistry, UniSA Clinical & Health Sciences
P5-28, City East Campus

HDR students

  • Samuel Nitschke
  • Daniel Pincher