Professor Michelle Coote is a Georgina Sweet ARC Laureate Fellow, and is also an Executive Editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. She is a graduate of the University of New South Wales, where she completed a B.Sc. (Hons) in industrial chemistry (1995), followed by a Ph.D. in polymer chemistry with Professor Tom Davis (2000). Following postdoctoral work in polymer physics with Professor Randal Richards at the University of Durham, UK, she joined the Research School of Chemistry, Australian National University (ANU) in 2001, initially as a postdoctoral fellow in computational chemistry with Professor Leo Radom. She established her own research group at the ANU in 2004, where she was promoted to Professor in 2011. She moved to Flinders University as a Matthew Flinders Professor in Chemistry in 2022.
Her current research spans theoretical and experimental chemistry, in areas as diverse as polymer chemistry, organic synthesis, physical chemistry and organometallic catalysis, with a particular focus on using non-traditional methods of bond activation to promote and control chemical reactions. She is regarded internationally as an expert in computational chemistry, and its use in mechanism discovery and catalyst / reagent design in chemical and polymer synthesis. Using theory-guided experiment she has designed improved control agents and catalysts for polymer synthesis, safe electrochemical methods for generating and deploying carbocations in situ, greener catalysts for cross-coupling and chiral auxiliaries for the resolution of amino acids, among others. She was also responsible for highlighting and correcting problems with the 60-year-old textbook model for polymer autoxidation and using these insights to design methods for making polymers more inherently stable. However, her most significant work to date has been her use of electric fields to catalyse chemical reactions. This is a type of catalysis that is harnessed by nature (in enzymes) but is yet to realise its full potential in chemical synthesis. She has been at the forefront of this newly emerging field, publishing several high impact papers that demonstrate the power of electric fields to alter chemical reactions, and their ability to be harnessed in practical chemical systems.
Professor Coote is an elected fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (FAA), the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (FRACI) and the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC). She has received many awards including all four major RACI National awards – the Cornforth Medal (2000), Rennie Medal (2006), HG Smith Medal (2016) and Leighton Medal (2021) – as well as major research awards from both its polymer and its physical divisions. She has also received the IUPAC prize for young scientists (2001), the Le Fevre Memorial Prize of the Australian Academy of Science (2010), the Pople Medal of the Asia-Pacific Association for Theoretical and Computational Chemistry (2015), and the RSC Australasian Lectureship (2020). She has been a recipient of all three career stage Australian Research Council (ARC) fellowships: an ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship (2002-4), an ARC Future Fellowship (2010-14), and a Georgina Sweet ARC Laureate Fellowship (2017-22).