Skip to main content

News & Events

11th September 2017

Save the date: PRiSM Seminar Wednesday 27th September, 2pm

Breaking Good – Making medicines with high school and undergraduate students

Dr Alice E Williamson School of Chemistry, The University of Sydney

The Open Source Malaria (OSM) consortium has been pioneering open source drug discovery since 2011. The aim of the project is to find a small molecule that is effective for the treatment of malaria using open science principles.[1],[2]

All experiments are published on the Internet in electronic lab notebooks,[3] all data are available for anyone to use and there will be no patents. One of the many advantages of this open approach is that barriers to participation are much lower than for traditional drug discovery projects.

The unique features of OSM have enabled us to develop a chemical education and citizen science project, Breaking Good, whereby undergraduates and high school students can take part in a real research project and synthesise new drug targets.

Over the past few years, undergraduates in the USA, NZ, UK and Australia have worked on the synthesis of novel antimalarials, with some of these molecules showing promising activity against Plasmodium falciparum. Additionally, a class at a local high school have contributed to OSM and recently synthesised the price-hiked toxoplasmosis medicine, Daraprim, in their high school laboratory.

This talk will describe efforts to increase inquiry-based learning, develop exciting and opportunities for practical science with junior students, and expand Breaking Good while ensuring sustainability.


Dr Alice E Williamson – Biography 

Alice Williamson is a chemistry lecturer and science communicator based at The University of Sydney. Originally from the North West of England, Alice completed her PhD at The University of Cambridge, where she worked with colleagues to develop two new reactions.

Alice moved to Australia to take up a position as the principal synthetic chemist for the Open Source Malaria (OSM) consortium. OSM are the world’s only open source drug discovery project and are trying to prove that science is better and more efficient when all data and results are shared. The team won’t patent any of their findings and publish all of their work online in real time so that anyone can access the research.

In 2017, Alice was promoted to the position of Lecturer in Chemical Education and Outreach. She has set up some unusual collaborations with high school students and undergraduates, who have made new and existing antiparasitic drugs as part of Breaking Good.

In February 2015, Alice was named as one of Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)’s ‘Top 5 Under 40’ in recognition of her passion for sharing science stories. She has been an active participant in science outreach events across Australia, is the co-host of the ABC podcast Dear Science, regular co-host of Dr Karl’s Shirtloads of Science podcast and hosts a weekly science slot on FBi Radio’s breakfast show.

Twitter: @all_isee @_breakinggood

[1] Open Source Drug Discovery: Highly Potent Antimalarial Compounds Derived from the Tres Cantos Arylpyrroles, ACS Cent. Sci., 2016, 2, 687–701, DOI:10.1021/acscentsci.6b00086.

[2] Open Source Drug Discovery – A Limited Tutorial, Parasitology 2014, 141, 148–157, DOI:10.1017/S0031182013001121.

[3] Experiences with LabTrove, a researcher-centric ELN, Chem. Sci. 2014, 6, 1614–1629, DOI: 10.1039/C4SC02128B.

31 August 2017

Group Co-Leader Awarded National Teaching Fellowship

Dr Samantha Pugh has been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in a recent announcement from the Higher Education Academy. Read more

18 May 2017

PRISM/LITE Masterclass

The PRiSM Group are delighted to announce that Professor Tina Overton will give a masterclass on Problem Solving on 18th May. Whilst the focus is on the STEM disciplines, this talk will be interesting to all.

Tina is also a world-renowned leading light in pedagogic research, and has been an inspiration to many colleagues, particularly in the STEM disciplines.

The talk will be followed by light refreshments and an opportunity to network. Please register by 11th May 2017 for catering purposes.

Problem Solving - Is it all the same?

Professor Tina Overton, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

The ability to solve unfamiliar and novel problem is an important attribute for life and employment. There has been much research that has explored the factors that affect student’s success as problem solvers. This presentation will review our research into the differences between algorithmic, conceptual and open-ended problems in a chemistry context and how cognitive factors may influence success. The different approaches used by students from various STEM disciplines will be discussed as well as the journey from novice to expert problem solver.

Tina Overton is Professor of Chemistry Education at Monash University in Australia. She was previously Professor of Chemistry Education at the University of Hull, UK, and has worked in industry and in the NHS. She has taught inorganic, industrial, environmental chemistry and designed and delivered online distance-taught and work-based programmes. Tina has published on the topics of critical thinking, context and problem-based learning, the development of problem solving skills, work-based learning and employability. She has published learning resources which have been adopted in many institutions and has co-authored several textbooks in inorganic chemistry and skills development. She has been awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry’s HE Teaching Award, Tertiary Education Award and Nyholm Prize and is a National Teaching Fellow and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.