Michael Oelgemöller (FRSC) is a leading expert in green (solar) and microflow photochemistry. He received his Diploma from the University of Münster in 1995 and his PhD from the University of Cologne in 1999. He was a researcher at the ERATO-JST Photochirogenesis project in Osaka (1999-2001) and at Bayer CropScience Japan in Yuki (2001-2004).

From 2004-2008 he held a position as a Lecturer in Organic and Medicinal Chemistry at Dublin City University, Ireland. In February 2009 he joined James Cook University in Australia as an Associate Professor in Organic Chemistry.

Michael's research activities include synthetic organic photochemistry, solar photochemistry, the development of new photochemical synthesis tools and photochemical water treatment.

Research Opportunities

Our research group is very international and multidisciplinary. Potential internship, Honours, BSc, MSc, PhD and PostDoc candidates are welcomed to join us. For possible Scholarships and other funding opportunities (internal and external), see JCU’s Scholarships and the Good Universities Guide Scholarship database. Contact Michael for further details.


Early career researchers with a PhD should contact Michael to discuss potential projects. There are a number of scholarship opportunities through the Australian Research Council (DECRA), Australia Awards, the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF) or the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Deadlines do apply for most of these schemes.

Postgraduate (PhD and MSc)

Students interested in undertaking a PhD or Masters project should contact Michael to discuss potential projects. Funding is available through the Australian Postgraduate Awards (APA), the James Cook University Postgraduate Research Scholarships, the AIMS@JCU Scholarships, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF), the Sugar Research Australia (SRA), the Australia Awards, the Chinese Scholarship Council, the Brazilian Science without Boarders, the Bayer Foundation or an equivalent national or international scheme. Most stipends are approximately $25,000 pa. APA applicants must be Australian citizens or have been granted permanent resident status and lived in Australia continuously for 12 months. Information and application forms can be obtained from the Graduate Research School. Closing Dates: 31. August (international applicants) and 31. October (national applicants) of each year.


Students who have completed their BSc, BPharm or equivalent and are interested in a Chemistry Honours are encouraged to contact Michael for potential projects. Honours studies can start in either February or August.


Students enrolled in CH3104 (Advanced Chemistry Project) can undertake their research project in our Laboratory. Students are also welcomed as research volunteers. Contact Michael for further details.

Internships/Placements/Research Experience

International and domestic students who are interested in internships, placements or research experience are welcomed to join us. Funding opportunities exist via the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD-RISE) or the Fullbright scheme. Contact Michael for further details.


Eradicate Insect-borne Diseases with Light

Insect bites from mosquitos or sand-flies are widespread in the Tropics and cause diseases such as dengue, Ross-river fever or malaria. Our Eradicate Insect-borne Diseases with Light activities cover prophylaxis, treatment as well as cure. Following the ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach my group is producing potent natural insect repellents from local essential oils. At present, DEET is used as the most common ‘artificial’ insect repellent, but it is irritant, unpleasant in smell, expensive and known to damage surfaces and fabrics. For the treatment of insect bites, my team is producing anesthetics with reported activity levels higher than those of widely used ones. The multi-step process is realized in a continuous-flow operation without any isolation or purification of intermediates, thus allowing for on-site and on-demand manufacturing. The synthesis of antimalarials from natural compounds is likewise investigated using artificial and natural sunlight. In particular, my team is developing continuous-flow photoreactors for the manufacturing of the current frontline antimalarial artemisinin. The activities or the group are embedded in the Centre for Biosecurity and Tropical Infectious Diseases (CBTID) and supported by the Fonds Pacifique and the Far North-Queensland Hospital Foundation.

Continuous (Micro)flow photochemistry – Lab & Light on a chip

Recently, (micro)flow photochemistry has emerged as a new synthesis tool that successfully combines the small dimensions of microreactors with continuous flow mode. My group is investigating a series of homogeneous and heterogeneous photoreactions. The research also involves the construction of novel LED-driven microchips and their implementation in the synthesis of platform chemicals. Flexible and inexpensive microcapillary reactors have also been designed and fabricated as part of this research area. Through bundling of microcapillaries, this innovative reactor concept allows for rapid, resource- and space-efficient reaction optimization, scale-up and parallel synthesis. We have designed and successfully tested a parallel microcapillary reactor for the first time. My group is a leader in this emerging technology and has developed a number of innovative microreactor systems for photochemical transformations in the past. In collaboration with the Clinton Health Access Initiative and the Austrian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM), we are furthermore investigating the synthesis of anti-malarial compounds through continuous flow photooxy­genations. My group is also collaborating with Vapourtec (UK) on applications of the advanced UV-150 flow photoreactor module.

Green Photochemistry – Synthesis of Commodity Chemicals with Sunlight

This research area investigates the large-scale, solar synthesis of fragrances, flavors and pharmaceutical precursors. Additionally, many starting materials are available from biomass, in particular agricultural waste material. Our research results thus help to reduce our dependency on fossil fuel derived chemicals. We have recently realized the semi-technical syntheses of two commodity chemicals that are of particular interest for the agricultural industry. My group operates a modern CPC reactor (ca. 70 L) equipped with a number of accessories and two flatbed reactors (ca.10 L). The reactors can harvest diffuse and direct sunlight and are thus less dependent on weather conditions as concentrating systems, which makes them advantageous for operations in central Germany.We are also collaborating with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) in Cologne on the usage of concentrated sunlight.

Medicinal Photochemistry – Synthesis and release of bioactive compounds

The neglect of organic photochemistry by the industrial R&D community has left a diverse structural pool of possible new lead structures almost completely unexplored. My Group at JCU has developed a series of useful photochemical transformations, which are applied to the synthesis of novel bioactive compounds. In particular, the photodecarboxylative (PDC) addition to phthalimides has been utilized in the synthesis of pharmacologically active alkyl- or arylmethylidene isoindolinones. Members of this important target family possess cardiovascular, anti-cancer and anesthetic properties. An alternative approach deals with photochemical macrocyclizations. The focus of this research area is to study photoinduced cyclization reactions of peptides and peptide analogues. The aims are twofold: (I) to identify new candidates for encapsulation, molecular recognition or sensoring and (II) to synthesize novel γ- or β-turn peptidomimetics. Interesting biologically active target families are benzodiazepines and pyrrolames. An additional research area deals with the photochemical release of pharmaceuticals, in particular photodynamic therapy (PDT) anti-cancer drugs.

Photocatalytic water treatment

The presence of pharmaceuticals in the aquatic environment and their possible effects on living organisms is emerging as a global environmental concern. These persistent organic chemicals are only partially eliminated during conventional wastewater treatment and have been detected in the effluent of wastewater treatment plants. Novel, cost-efficient and climate-smart water treatment technologies are thus urgently needed. Target pharmaceutical analytes are selected based on prescription data and incorporate different pharmaceutical classes. The pharmaceuticals are then degraded by treatment with semiconductor particles and both UV-light and sunlight. Degradations are monitored by a suite of analytical tools, especially HPLC and LC-MS. An additional approach deals with the development of novel Integrated Photocatalytic Adsorbents (IPCAs), i.e. hybrid materials of conventional adsorbents and titanium dioxide. IPCAs combine the advantageous properties of both substances and merge them into novel ‘capture & destroy’ materials. Likewise, we have developed porphyrin-TiO2 hybrid materials that overcome the poor absorption characteristics of the semiconductor within the solar spectrum.

Sustainable Aquaculture Water Treatment

Aquaculture is one of the fasted growing industries in the world. One of the major concerns of the aquacultural industry is biosecurity. Species of the genus Vibrio have been recognized as the most significant pathogens in aquaculture of marine fish and have been linked to food poisoning and mass mortality of breeding stock. The same microorganism currently prevents the closed life cycle farming of tropical rock lobster, which is regarded a lucrative aquaculture product. We are investigating Advanced Oxidation Process (AOPs) involving singlet oxygen as a promising ‘soft’ technique for water sterilization. While UVC treatment is performed industrially, it suffers from several disadvantages in terms of operation costs and safety hazards. We are investigating water-soluble or solid-supported dyes, for example porphyrins. Process optimization and after treatment re-growth methods are used to evaluate detoxification efficiency up to industrial demonstration scales. Toxicity tests on farmed marine species and feedstock are also conducted.


During my academic career, I have received substantial funding from national and international funding agencies and industry (total: approx. AU-$ 3.5 million). While at DCU (2004-2009), I secured three prestigious Science Foundation Ireland – Research Frontier Program awards, three Questor research awards and major funding from the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), IrishAid and the European Union (Marie-Curie Network Program). Since joining JCU in 2009, I have obtained considerable infrastructural, equipment and research funding. In 2013, I have secured a prestigious and highly competitive Discovery Project from the Australian Research Council (ARC). Substantial equipment funding from the ARC was secured for 2015. I am also a partner investigator in a French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) project and a large European Union – Marie-Curie Training Network grant, both devoted to continuous flow photochemistry.


I have authored approx. 200 publications in total, among these refereed reviews and refereed journal articles. My work has been cited over 3350 times and my current h-index in 36 (Scopus). I am frequently invited to special issues on flow chemistry, green chemistry and water treatment, thus demonstrating my excellent international standing in these scientific communities. Our work has been highlighted on several book and journal covers. Our microreactor comparison study published in 2011 received the European Photochemistry Association – Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences Prize in 2014. Likewise, our open access review in 2011 has been selected for the Best Molecules Paper Award 2015 (2nd Place). Some of our publications have been among the most frequently read or cited articles. In 2015, I have been a Guest Editor for Chemical Engineering & Technology published by Wiley-VCH and the Australian Journal of Chemistry published by CSIRO Publishing. I have been a co-Editor of the CRC Handbook of Organic Photochemistry and Photobiology (3. Ed., 2 Volumes) published by CRC Press in 2012.


I have been an invited or key-note speaker at 28 conferences, gave 20 consultative presentations, delivered over 75 research seminars, presented over 110 posters, showcased my work at several exhibitions and had numerous media appearances.

Research Group

My current research group at JCU comprises of 6 PhD students and 2 Honours students. The team is supported by a number of international research and internship students. I have graduated 10 PhD, 11 Diploma/MSc, 3 Honours and 11 BSc students thus far. I have furthermore supervised 4 PostDocs, 2 Research Assistants, 38 Interns and 18 Visiting Researchers. One of my PhD graduates, Dr. Oksana Shvydkiv, received the DCU Outstanding Graduate Researcher Award in 2012. One of my Honours students, Philip Duffy, was awarded with a JCU Academic Medal in 2013.

Lab and Equipment

Within the new The Science Place Building (142) our group runs a fully equipped state-of-the-art synthesis laboratory with specialized photochemistry and chromatography rooms. Our group furthermore occupies dedicated space for flow-chemistry and student office space. Our team additionally operates modern equipment required for applied photochemistry, in particular batch (Rayonet and Luzchem) and continuous flow reactors (dwell device, falling film and various microchip platforms) for photochemical transformations. We also operate an advanced Vapourtec UV-150 flow photoreactor. The group has full access to the analytical equipment within the college (400 MHz NMR, FT-IR, HPLC, LC-MS, GC, UV-Vis, TOC) and within the associated Advanced Analytical Center. Through a scientific membership in AIMS@JCU, we have furthermore access to the Biomolecular Analysis Facility at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) to use their advanced NMR and HR-MS facilities.

Outreach Activities

Michael is a member of the Scientists in Schools program and a Blue Card Holder. Our group has run ‘the chemistry experience’ program at Annandale State School, Wulguru State School, the Annandale Outside School Care and during the Open Day@JCU. In August 2013 we represented JCU at the Townsville Cultural Fest.


ResearchOnline: http://eprints.jcu.edu.au/view/jcu/6C3150224E05CB4B3065E9D6F7FFB869.html

Scopus: http://www.scopus.com/authid/detail.url?authorId=6701439701

Google Scholar: http://scholar.google.com.au/citations?user=EVONqycAAAAJ&hl=en

  • CH1002: Chemistry: Principles and Applications (Level 1; TSV)
  • CH2043: Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Analysis (Level 2; TSV)
  • CH2310: Syntheses and Mechanism in Organic Chemistry (Level 2; TSV)
  • CH3040: Advanced Medicinal Chemistry (Level 3; TSV)
  • CH3041: Environmental Chemistry (Level 3; TSV)
  • CH3104: Advanced Chemistry Project (Level 3; TSV)
  • CH5001: Research and Dissertation in Chemistry (Level 5; TSV)
  • CH5002: Research Skills and Communication in Chemistry (Advanced) (Level 5; TSV)
  • MD1010: Introduction to Integrated Medical Studies Part 1 of 2 (Level 1; TSV)
  • PC1103: Pharmaceutical Chemistry 1 (Level 1; CNS & TSV)
  • PC2203: Pharmaceutical Chemistry 2 (Level 2; CNS & TSV)
  • TV5320: Applied Protocol Writing (Level 5; TSV)
  • Chemical synthesis; Flow technologies; Green processes; Solar chemistry; Water treatment; Biomass conversion; Photochemical technologies
  • Organic chemistry; Photochemistry; Flow chemistry; Green chemistry; Solar chemistry; Photocatalysis; Water treatment; Aquaculture; Essential oil conversions
  • Organic chemistry; Medicinal chemistry; Pharmaceutical chemistry; Photochemistry; Flow chemistry; Green chemistry
  • 2009 to present - Associate Professor, James Cook University (Townsville, Australia)
  • 2016 to 2017 - Head of Discipline, James Cook University (Townsville, Australia)
  • 2016 to 2017 - Associated Dean of Research Education, James Cook University (Townsville, Australia)
  • 2015 to 2016 - Associate Dean of Research, James Cook University (Townsville, Australia)
  • 2004 to 2009 - Lecturer, Dublin City University (Dublin, Ireland)
  • 2001 to 2004 - Researcher, Bayer CorpScience (Yuki, Japan)
  • 1999 to 2001 - Researcher, ERATO Photochirogenesis Project (Osaka, Japan)
  • 1995 to 1999 - Researcher, University of Cologne (Cologne, Germany)
  • 1997 - Research fellow, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Taejon, South Korea)
  • 1993 to 1994 - Visiting Scholar, University of Toledo (Toledo, Ohio, USA)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2018 - JCU TropEco Sustainability Awards – ‘Highly commended’ research award
  • 2017 - JCU TropEco Sustainability Awards – Research Award
  • 2017 - Visiting Professorship at the Hochschule/University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt, Darmstadt (Germany)
  • 2017 - JCU TropEco Sustainability Awards – ‘Highly commended’ staff award
  • 2016 - Visiting Professorship at the University of Toulouse, Toulouse (France)
  • 2015 - Visiting Professorship at King Mongkut's University of Technology, Bangkok (Thailand)
  • 2015 - Visiting Research Fellowship at the CNRS, Toulouse (France)
  • 2014 - JCU TropEco Sustainability Awards – ‘Highly commended’ staff award for the 'Eradicate Insect-borne Diseases with Sunlight Initiative'
  • 2014 - JCU TropEco Sustainability Awards – Research Award for the ‘Eradicate Insect-borne Diseases with Sunlight Initiative’
  • 2014 - European Photochemistry Association – Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences Prize 2014 for the most highly cited paper published in Photochem. Photobiol. Sci.
  • 2013 - JCU TropEco Sustainability Awards – ‘Highly commended’ curriculum award and ‘Highly commended’ outstanding research award for the ‘Solar Chemicals Research Team’
  • 2012 - Visiting Professorship at the CNRS/University of Pau, Pau (France)
  • 2012 - Finalist ‘Solar Chemicals from and for the Tropics’ for the Tropical Innovations Award 2012 – People’s Choice Award
  • 2012 - Visiting Professor at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Nara (Japan)
  • 2011 - Visiting Professorship at Osaka Prefecture University, Osaka (Japan)
  • 2011 - Distinguished Lectureship award of the Chemical Society of Japan
  • 2009 - Visiting Professorship at the CNRS/University of Pau, Pau (France)
  • 2006 - Guest Lecturer at the University of Osaka, Osaka (Japan)
  • 2004 - Bayer Employee award of the Research Centre in Yuki
  • 2000 - Kurt Alder Award of the University of Cologne, Germany
  • 2014 - Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)
  • 1997 - Fellowship of the Korean Science and Engineering Foundation (KOSEF) and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD)
  • 2015 - Member of the Centre for Biosecurity and Tropical Infectious Diseases (CBTID)
  • 2015 - Member of the Centre for Tropical Water & Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER)
  • 2014 - Member of the Editorial Board of Sustainable Chemical Processes (Chemistry Central-Springer Science and Business Media)
  • 2013 - Member of the Editorial Board of ChemBioEng Reviews (Wiley)
  • 2012 - Member of the Queensland Tropical Health Alliance (QTHA) within the thematic area of Drug Discovery
  • 2012 - Regional Editor for Australia and Member of the International Advisory Board of the Journal of Flow Chemistry (Akadémiai Kiadó)
  • 2011 - Chartered Member of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI)
  • 2011 - Member and Co-Founder of the Centre for Biodiscovery and Molecular Development of Therapeutics (CBMDT) within the thematic area of Drug Discovery
  • 2010 - Member of the Australian Institute of Marine Science at JCU (AIMS@JCU)
  • 2010 - Member of the Asian and Oceanian Photochemistry Association (APA)
  • 2009 - Member of the Advisory Board of Green Chemistry (RSC)
  • 2008 - Member and Co-Founder of the Microphotochemistry Cluster in Ireland
  • 2007 - Member of the European network Light induced Functionalizations and Transformations (LIFT)
  • 2007 to 2009 - Member of the National Centre for Sensor Research (NCSR), Ireland
  • 2005 to 2007 - Member of the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology (NICB), Ireland
  • 1997 to 2011 - Advisor for South Korea, Osaka, Japan, Ireland and Australia of the GDCh-Jungchemikerforum

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
Book Chapters

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 189+ research outputs authored by A/Prof Michael Oelgemoeller from 1997 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

French Embassy - Australia - Fonds Pacifique

Xanthostemon plant essential oils as a valuable renewable resource for medical, agrochemical and healthcare applications.

Indicative Funding
$29,446 over 3 years (administered by University of New Caledonia), in partnership with Institut Pasteur New Caledonia ($3,100) and University of New Caledonia ($24,487)
The genus Xanthostemon consists of about fifty plant species and is endemic to Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and New Caledonia. Australian essential oils are known to contain ?-triketones, which possess broad antimicrobial and insecticidal activities. In contrast, the chemical composition of essential oils from New Caledonian and Papua New Guinean species are unknown. This project will close this gap by harvesting and characterizing essential oils in three tropical countries, identifying and modifying ?-triketone constituents and testing these for insecticidal and antibacterial properties. The results will enable local essential oil producers to diversify and add value to their product portfolios.
Michael Oelgemoeller, Mark Robertson and David Timi in collaboration with Nicolas Lebouvier, Jayson Wau and Tyler Goodine (College of Science & Engineering, Papua New Guinea University of Technology and Universite de la Nouvelle-Caledonie)
xanthostemon plants; essential oil utilization; Photochemistry; renewable materials; Green Chemistry; tropical health

Department of Industry - Innovations Connections

Humane Toxin for Invasive Cane Toad Control

Indicative Funding
$99,288 over 1 year (administered by Animal Control Technologies (Australia) Pty Ltd)
Animal Control Technologies (Australia) (ACTA) and James Cook University (JCU) have jointly developed a highly effective and target-specific cane toad trap and are approaching the commercial manufacture stage. A major next step in the development of this innovative trapping system is to identify a toxin that can be used to humanely euthanise trapped toads, as there is presently no such chemical available. Once the traps are commercially available, there will be a market for such a chemical because people will need to dispose of any trapped toads as quickly and humanely as possible.
Lin Schwarzkopf and Michael Oelgemoeller in collaboration with Rebecca Webb and Angus Shephard (College of Science & Engineering)
Toad; Toxin; Pest Control; Rhinella Marina

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Using Pheromones to Understand Cryptic Lizard Diversity in Native Australian Gehyra Geckoes (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Development and suitability assessment for elevated temperature accuracy of a novel high-throughput direct toxicity assay of chemically dispersed oil (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Modelling moisture and temperature profiles in biosolids particles to optimise the thermal destruction of emerging contaminants (Masters , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Solar, sustainable and local: The production of repellent products from natural oils (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Investigation of electrodes and applied waveforms for the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide to ethylene (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Solar Production of Commodity Chemicals (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Investigation of the photosensitization potentials of some indigenous plant extracts in the synthesis of selected commodity chemicals (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Petroleum hydrocarbon ecotoxicology for coral reef risk association (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Photochemical Synthesis of Bioactive Artistolactams under Batch and Continuous Flow Conditions (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Production of Biodiesel from Canola Oil using Enzymatic and Photocatalytic Processes (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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  • 142.335, The Science Place (Townsville campus)
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