Professor Joe Shapter

Academic Status

College of Science and Engineering

place Biological Sciences (202)
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

I obtained my Ph. D. from the University of Toronto in 1990 working with Prof. J. C. Polanyi on the detection of small molecules and the determination of their energies.  From 1990 to 1996, I worked at the University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario) building a scanning tunnelling microscope and lecturing first year chemistry.

I was appointed as a lecturer at Flinders in 1996, promoted to Senior lecturer at the start of 2000, promoted to Associate Professor in 2004 and made full Professor in June 2008.


Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of Toronto (1990)

B. Sc. (Hons) from Memorial University of Newfoundland (1985)

Honours, awards and grants
  • 2009 ATLC Award for Teaching Excellence
  • 2007 Carrick Institute Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning
  • 2003 Flinders Vice-Chancellor Award for Teaching
  • 1991-1993 NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 1985-1989 NSERC 1967 Science and Engineering Scholarship
  • 1985 Gold Medal in Chemistry (Memorial University of Newfoundland)
  • 1985 Second Prize-Oral Presentation; Atlantic CIC Student Conference
  • 1984 H. J. Anderson Award
  • 1984 NSERC Summer Undergraduate Award
  • 1983 H. J. Anderson Award
  • 1983 NSERC Summer Undergraduate Award
  • 1981-1982 Centenary of Responsible Government Scholarship
  • 1980-1981 Centenary of Responsible Government Scholarship
Key responsibilities
  • Dean of School of Chemical & Physical Sciences
  • Course Coordinator Bachelor of Science in Nanotechnology (Honours)
  • Associate Dean (Teaching) Faculty of Science and Engineering
  • Member of the Board, Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI)
  • Deputy Director of the South Australian Regional Facility for Microscopy and Microanalysis (SARF)
  • Member of the Operations Committee for the Australian Microscopy and Microanalaysis Research Facility (AMMRF)
Research expertise
Macromolecular and materials chemistry
Physical chemistry
Research interests

Our research group is very lucky in a sense.  Our work centres around the use of a technique called scanning probe microscopy (SPM).

In simple terms, this is a relatively new form of microscope (invented in the earlier 1980s) which has the capability to see the finest detail of material (atoms).  Our ability to image atoms and molecules is among the best in the world and this has lead to many national and international collaborations and has the added bonus of seeing our group involved in many and varied research areas.

Selected Research areas:


Work with colleagues at UNSW has seen the development of a glucose biosensor.  This is important work for diabetics who must continuously monitor their glucose level to determine if they need an insulin injection.  Our sensor is much more efficient than current methods but still have the weakness of low term stability.  Our work to address this continues.

Carbon Nanotubes

Carbon nanotubes are a new form of carbon with amazing properties such as the ability to conduct electrons better that copper and strength higher than steel.  We have developed new ways to attach these nanotubes to silicon which is of great interest in areas such as

electronics, biosensors and solar cells. We have expanded our work into the area of microfluidics and this work was done at Cambridge University.

Biological Membranes

A recent area of interest in collaboration with Prof. J. Miners has been the examination of biological membranes.  Our work has used novel scanning probe techniques which has revealed unprecedented resolution of membrane dynamics when the temperature is changed or when the membrane is exposed to a drug.

Teaching interests

I believe these are exceptionally challenging times for university educators.  Both students and staff seem to have less time for education.  Given this there are several roles I play to make education a rewarding and worthwhile experience for both student and teacher.

In my own teaching, I try to do two things.  The first is to make the experience enjoyable and even entertaining.  My second effort in teaching is to always relate topic material to real-world examples that people can understand.

The energy required to ensure a chemical reaction occurs might be a difficult concept for some but everyone understands what happens when cars collide and the effect of speed on this process.  Ultimately, I don't think I, or any other teacher, can make people learn. The role of educators must be in the facilitation of learning through guiding and stimulating interest and motivation such that students learn because they want to learn.

The most important outcome for any educator is that students enjoy learning and thus progress to become complete, independent life-long learners. As associate dean (teaching) my role is to help present everyone with new approaches to teaching with an eye to improving teaching for both students and teachers. This might mean the use of new technology, new approaches or simply different methods of presentation.

Topic coordinator
NANO1101/ Fundamentals of Nanotechnology
CHEM2701 Chemical Reactivity
NANO4711/ Advanced Nanotechnology
Topic lecturer
NANO1101 Nanotechnoloy 1
NANO3702 Frontiers of Nanotechnology
NANO4711 Advanced Nanotechnology
CHEM1101 Chemistry 1A
CHEM2701 Chemical Reactivity
SERC1012 Introduction to Research
Supervisory interests
Carbon nanotubes
Solar cells
Higher degree by research supervision
Principal supervisor: Nanotechnology (10), Biosensors (2), Membranes (2), Solar Cells (4)
Higher degree by research student achievements
Kate Moore

Playford Fellowship - SEP 2012

Cameron Shearer

SA Physcial Sciences Thesis of the Year - SEP 2012

Ben Flavel

Humboldt Fellowship - SEP 2012

Kate Moore

Ross Honours Scholarship - SEP 2012

Lachlan Larsen

Ross Honours Scholarship - SEP 2012

Jingxian Yu

PRC Postdoctoral Fellowship - SEP 2012

Expert for media contact
Surface Science
Scanning Tunneling Microscopy
Surface Science
Available for contact via
Or contact the media team
+61 8 82012092
0427 398 713
Media expertise
  • Chemistry
  • Nanotechnology
  • Surface Science
  • Scanning Tunneling Microscopy
  • Surface Science

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