Professor Peter Steel - Research & Innovation - University of Canterbury - New Zealand
Professor Philip Joseph

Professor Peter Steel – UC Research Medal Winner

Pioneering work wins Chemistry professor the UC Research Medal

The University of Canterbury Research Medal will be presented to Professor Peter Steel (Chemistry) at next week’s Graduation. The medal is the University’s highest recognition of an outstanding contribution to research.

Professor Steel is among the elite researchers working internationally in his field. His unparalleled excellence in a range of research areas is recognised as being unique. Over the last 20 years he has made seminal contributions in several areas of chemistry with significant academic impact, including organic chemistry, co-ordination chemistry, organometallic chemistry and X-ray crystallography.

In the past decade he has been a pioneer of metallosupramolecular chemistry, which involves the use of metal ions to control the self-assembly of nanoscale supramolecular structures with unusual molecular architectures.

Professor Steel is credited with leaving an indelible mark on organic and, in particular, metallosupramolecular chemistry. One supporter of his nomination for the Research Medal described his work as “unique and beautiful”. Others said his work had been “extraordinarily creative and original”, and that he and his research group had produced “the most spectacular metallosupramollecular structures ever realised”. The group has been identified as one of the top international teams working in this burgeoning field, which has potential nanotechnology and material science applications.

Professor Steel has a prolific record of publication, with more than 330 articles in international peer-reviewed journals. His work has been cited more than 4500 times — with 430 citations last year alone. A number of his publications have been selected for detailed discussion in several recent textbooks and review articles in the area of supramolecular chemistry. Some have also been selected as what are known as “hot papers” in journals and have appeared on lists of the most accessed articles. The respect for his work is further evidenced by his membership of the editorial boards of five international scientific journals.

Professor Steel has made considerable and ongoing contributions to leadership in Australasian chemical research as a mentor and colleague who is known by essentially all organic, inorganic and structural chemists in New Zealand and Australia. He has supervised no less than 50 PhD, MSc and BSc (Hons) students.

Professor Steel was educated at St Kevin’s College in Oamaru and went on to the University of Canterbury, graduating with BSc (Hons) in 1976 and a PhD in 1979.

He is delighted to have been awarded the Research Medal, which he credited to the graduate students and postdoctoral fellows he had worked with.

“I have been really lucky to have had a number of highly skilled and astonishingly productive co-workers, with whom I have a lot of fun exploring new areas of chemistry.”

He has also credited his academic and technical colleagues in the Chemistry Department, who he said had been highly supportive and a great pleasure to work with.

“They, along with my partner, have made life at UC a lot of fun. Also, I would like to acknowledge my overseas research collaborators, with whom I have had some superb interactions over recent years, and the funding bodies that have supported my research, especially the RSNZ Marsden Fund.”

UC SPARK research profile