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Introducing the ACT Branch Committee 

Published 22 June 2022


Trevor Rapson – Branch President

Originally from Zimbabwe, Trevor Rapson undertook a PhD in Chemistry at the University of Queensland with Paul Bernhardt. After completing the PhD, Trevor joined CSIRO as a postdoctoral fellow and has been there for 10 years, now working as a Senior Research Scientist. He has worked on a range of different projects, centralised around metalloproteins and bioelectrochemistry with applications in health, renewable energy and agriculture.

Trevor is passionate about science outreach and showing undergraduate students the diverse career options that are possible with a chemistry degree, as well as building on the great work that RACI has done in this area.

Dr Vicki Gardiner – Branch Secretary

Vicki is the Canberra Branch Manager of the Australian Computer Society. She is a chartered chemist with experiences in education, business development, organisational excellence, research and development and stakeholder engagement. Over the past 20 years, Vicki has designed and managed government funded research, capital and skill development projects worth over $1 million. She has over 40 peer reviewed and industry journal articles, and two patents. She has held senior management positions in academia, government, SME and industry not-for-profits and has also been a member of national government and university industry advisory groups across chemistry, engineering and now IT. She was awarded the RK Murphy Medal with special mention of demonstrated leadership in community awareness and educational outreach by the RACI Industrial Division in 2012.

Vicki has been involved with the RACI for over 20 years as a volunteer with the Tasmania Branch, Assembly and two stints on the RACI Board – the most recent being the National President (2019-2020). During this time, she led the organisation through the initial COVID pandemic year, increasing member engagement and minimising financial impact. During her association with the RACI she has also led significant projects including the ASISTM funded Connect to Chemistry projects around the country and the RACI 2011 International Year of Chemistry program. Vicki is the Executive Board Chair of Commonwealth Chemistry which is an international Federation of Commonwealth Chemical Science Societies and of which RACI is a member.

Vicki is committed to the ongoing development of members no matter what career pathway they have taken or career stage, and building the ACT Branch. 

 Jess Bilyj – Branch Treasurer

Originally from Queensland, Jess has been in the ACT for about 12 months and loves the dry climate and mountain biking scene. She completed her undergraduate degree in Chemistry and PhD in Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Queensland under Professor Paul Bernhardt. During her time as a PhD student, she founded and ran the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences Social Club as treasurer and social sport coordinator for four years. Jess has worked for Concept Laboratories formulating personal care products, as a Radiochemist at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and in tertiary science education. She is currently working for CSIRO, with a focus on biochemistry, electrochemistry and metalloproteins.

As a student, I really valued the career seminars the RACI would put on every year in QLD. It helped me to identify what skills would be useful while I was still at uni so I could better prepare/ upskill before graduating. Not to mention my internship experience, which gave me some perspective into what a career in industry could look like.

Jess attributes the RACI for providing her with necessary professional skills and industry perspective through regular career seminars and her internship experience whilst she was a student. Now, as  committee member, she hopes to further develop the ACT Branch to better serve schools, universities and the public. I’d like to see more engagement with the public to help instil what we, as scientists, can provide to general society, with a focus on flipping the ‘chemicals are bad’ perspective. Jess is keen to give back through facilitating career seminars and engaging with schools to help budding scientists know what they can do with a chemistry degree.

Lesli Findlay

Lesli completed undergraduate studies in Science with an honours project in polymer chemistry at the University of Sydney in the 1980’s. After completing a Diploma of Education at Morling College, Lesli spent eight years in secondary science education as a teacher and laboratory technician, including implementing compliance in all areas from the laboratory store to the Australian Curriculum for Science plus initiating and developing activities for diverse student engagement and extension. Lesli’s involvement in the RACI Crystal Growing Competition resulted in many delighted students and successful entries together with an inspiring professional relationship with A/Prof Ashraf Ghanem. Lesli has also been a speaker at the IUPAC Global Women’s Breakfasts and at the AIS ACT Celebrating Teaching and Learning Event to help promote engagement in science through pathways such as crystal growing and open inquiry projects. In 2021, she was the recipient of the RACI Centenary of Federation Teaching Award.

Currently, Lesli is working as a casual teacher and is involved with SEAACT (the science teachers’ association). She has a passion for inspiring fellow teachers in approaches that are crucial for equipping the next generation of scientists -  to bring a perspective to Science and Chemistry that promotes a sense of awe and wonder in the unparalleled design and harmony of the natural world, to model integrity through questioning assumptions and by examining, interpreting and communicating evidence accurately, and to provide opportunities for students to explore and develop their individual interests and talents.

 Noushin Khosravi Talebi

 Noushin is a PhD graduate in organic chemistry with extensive academic experience in organic and inorganic chemistry as a laboratory supervisor at Al Zahra University in Iran, and has lived, studied and worked in Norway, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Australia.

 Noushin is an expert in zeolites - their environmental and industrial applications, and has specialist skills in research and commercial applications of GC-Mass, Raman Spectroscopy, NMR, FTIR, and UV/VIS. Noushin also specializes in preparing chemical reactions for Ph.D. and Master’s Degree Students, and preparing data and visual representations of results.

 Sven Ullrich

 Sven completed a pharmacy degree at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. He moved to Australia in 2019 for a research internship sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service. At the Australian National University, Sven became a PhD candidate in 2020 and a Postgraduate Teaching Fellow in 2021.  

His research interests in Dr Christoph Nitsche's lab include modified peptides and viral proteases. Apart from being an ACT Commitee Member, his involvement in the RACI also includes a University Ambassador role.

 Junming He


Junming graduated with first class honours in medicinal chemistry from the University of Auckland (2019) supervised by Associate Professor Paul Harris and Distinguished Professor Dame Margaret Brimble. He is currently studying towards his PhD in chemistry at the Australian National University, working in synthetic organic, medicinal, and biological chemistry under the guidance of Dr Christoph Nitsche, Associate Professor Lara Malins, and Professor Colin Jackson. In addition to his studies, Junming is involved in outreach, promotional, and mentoring programs to enrich engagement and knowledge of chemistry in high school and undergraduate students, as well as the general public. 

 Junming is currently a RACI university ambassador at ANU, a member of the RACI committee (ACT branch), and a member of the ARC CIPPS Communications and Outreach team (ACT node). He has been an ongoing science mentor for Science Mentors ACT since 2021 and an HDR representative in the ANU Research School of Chemistry’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) committee since 2020. A notable experience for Junming during his PhD journey is having the experience as a beta-tester for PerkinElmer’s ChemDraw since 2020, after gaining the attention of the ChemDraw twitter account in the same year.

Dr Ashraf Ghanem

Dr Ashraf Ghanem was born in Egypt and completed his Chemistry studies in Germany at the University of Stuttgart and the University of Tuebingen, as well as in Switzerland at the University of Geneva. He is a Fellow and past president of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) ACT and the Head of the Chirality group in Canberr. Ghanem’s research interests lie in the area of asymmetric and enantioselective catalysis and analysis and has more than 100 international publications.  His work on lipase, dirhodium catalysis and chiral analysis has been well cited worldwide. He teaches Organic Chemistry and Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Canberra. He is well known with his Crystal growing competition and the Slime experiment inspiring kids to think Science. Well known with his involvement in the Crystal growing competition and the Slime experiment, he is dedicated to inspiring kids to think more about science and to promote science in schools.