About “Nicola Brasch”

Professor Nicola Brasch is committed to student success – so much so, that students at her previous university, Kent State University, USA, recognised her achievements with a Graduate Student Mentorship Excellence Award. Many undergraduate students that carried out research in her lab have since gone on to pursue PhD studies at prestigious institutions like CALTECH, Stanford University, the University of Michigan, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

A graduate from the University of Otago (PhD 1994), Professor Brasch gained extensive research experience in Australia, Germany, the UK, and USA, before taking a position in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Kent State University, USA. There, in 2013, she was promoted to Professor – and in September 2014 she moved to AUT, as Head of Chemistry.

During her time at Kent State University, Professor Brasch secured over a million dollars in federal funding for her research programme, including highly competitive grants from top-level government agencies such as the US National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Her research has been featured as a Science and Technology Concentrate in the American Chemical Society’s Chemical & Engineering News magazine, and she has given numerous presentations at international conferences worldwide.

Starting out as a traditional inorganic chemist, Professor Brasch’s interests have increasingly guided her towards health-related chemistry and biochemistry. She has maintained a long-term research collaboration with Dr Andrew McCaddon, a Principal General Practitioner in the UK and founder of Cobalz Ltd (a company focused on research on B vitamins, homocysteine and dementia), for which she acts as a consultant. Professor Brasch also spent a sabbatical at SUNY Downstate Medical Centre, New York to gain practical experience in biochemistry research.

One of Professor Brasch’s proudest achievements was receiving an Advisor Excellence Award in 2014 for her contributions to the Kent State University student chapter of the American Chemical Society (four awards given to advisors of around 300 student organisations at Kent State University). Amongst other things, she helped the students obtain internal and external funding for their activities, and organise several highly successful events. This included an undergraduate and graduate research poster conference, an event still hosted annually even after she left for Auckland.

Today, Professor Brasch’s research interests fit broadly into the areas of biological inorganic and medicinal chemistry, including the chemistry of vitamin B12 and related systems. Two areas where her group has made significant contributions are developing thiol derivatives of vitamin B12 and investigating the reactions of vitamin B12 derivatives with reactive oxygen species. She still benefits from her extensive background in kinetics when it comes to investigating the mechanisms of chemical reactions, and has more recently branched out into studies of photochemical systems. This includes studying HNO donors – moecules that decompose when exposed to light, to generate HNO. HNO shows promise for treating both congestive heart failure and cancer.

If you take one of Professor Brasch’s classes, expect an interactive teaching style where you’ll be strongly encouraged to ask and answer questions. You’ll also be required to solve quite complex problems or to master demanding concepts, but Professor Brasch assures us you’ll always have the necessary support to help you do so.

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