Instruments4Chem

High Performance, Low Cost…

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About Me


For the past six years (until the end of 2016) I worked as a Senior Research Scientist for an international scientific instrument company. Now retired, I hold an on-going appointment in the School of Chemistry at the University of Melbourne as an Honorary Principal Fellow.

My time in the corporate world was preceded by a 26 year academic career in the School of Chemistry at Monash University, where my research interests were in laser spectroscopy, mass spectrometry and development of scientific instrumentation.

I've been very active in undergraduate/graduate teaching and in developing, delivering and promoting Chemical Education Outreach Programs, both in Australia and in South East Asia.

Under the auspices of the Chemistry Education Assocation in my home state of Victoria, I’ve also conducted many programs and workshops introducing high school students to chemical instrumentation.

Prior to the afore-mentioned faculty appointment I held a postdoctoral position with Prof. Dick Zare in the Department of Chemistry at Stanford University, and before that obtained a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Cornell University (in 1982). My original undergraduate degree - a B.Sc.(Hons) - is from the University of Melbourne back in 1976.

I spend much of my spare time designing and building small instruments and enjoy the challenge of pursuing the highest performance at the lowest cost.

I’ve always enjoyed building scientific instruments. Back in the late 1970’s (during my Ph.D. years) opportunities to do so were quite limited and microprocessors were relatively new on the scene. In stark contrast, today there are a bewildering array of chips and sensors that can be interfaced to high performance, 32-bit processors - and software tools are also available that make adding sophisticated user interfaces a breeze.

Taking a scientific instrument concept through to a fully working prototype can be a daunting task. In addition to understanding the underlying scientific principles and requirements of the measurement, it also requires knowledge of electronics and programming to design the hardware and software to make an instrument do exactly what is required. Aside from a Computer Science course at first year university level I’ve not had any formal training in either of these areas. Instead, I’ve learned what I know through practical experience gained by tackling numerous instrumentation projects.

This website aims to share my experience and knowledge with others in the hope that quality, affordable chemical instrumentation can be made more accessible to the wider community. Becoming empowered to build and use your own “kit” is extremely addictive and rewarding, both in terms of the knowledge gained, the money saved and the satisfaction realized. These pages will not only show you how to build various instruments, but also explain how they work and what you can do with them.

To better establish the “credentials” of the instruments, considerable technical detail is also provided, with information about suitable experiments that can be performed and experimental results showing what can typically be expected. While the level of detail and commentary here may not be of interest to everyone it does give the visitor a taste of how to get quite deeply involved in scientific measurements.