Research Network for Metals in Medicine



Dr Stephen Ralph

BSc(Hons), PhD(Qld)

Position: Senior lecturer in Chemistry

Affiliation: Department of Chemistry, University of Wollongong

Postal Address:
Department of Chemistry
University of Wollongong
Northfields Avenue
Wollongong, NSW, 2522

Phone: +61 (2) 4221 4286
Fax: +61 (2) 4221 4287

Research Profile

During his PhD Dr Ralph demonstrated how multinuclear NMR spectroscopy could be used to characterise platinum ammine complexes and monitor their reactions with amino acids. This work resulted in five papers in the international journal Inorganic Chemistry. More recently one of his most significant achievements has been the synthesis and characterisation of a number of metal cage complexes with extraordinary properties. This includes possibly the only known example of an air-stable cobalt(II) hexaamine complex, and cadmium(II) and mercury(II) complexes with exact trigonal prismatic geometry. In collaboration with The Intelligent Polymer Research Institute at the University of Wollongong, Dr Ralph has made a number of contributions to the development of new methods for separation and/or recovery of metal ions. This includes the preparation of conducting polymer membranes containing chelating agents for separation of mixtures of iron and copper, or iron and gold, and the development of conducting polymer composites for gold recovery. This research has attracted over $100, 000 in funding in recent years and is now subject to an international patent. During the past 3 years Dr Ralph has published more than 10 articles on conducting polymer science, while overall he has published forty refereed articles in scientific journals and books. Recently Dr Ralph has commenced a new area of research investigating the use of Electrospray Ionisation Mass Spectrometry for studying the formation of both covalent and non-covalent complexes between metal compounds, including anticancer and antiarthritic drugs, and nucleic acids and proteins. This builds on earlier work using ESI-MS to study metal complexes with antibiotics and cryptands. In 2003 Dr Ralph presented seminars on metal recovery using conducting polymes at IC03 (Melbourne) and on the binding of ruthenium drugs to DNA at ICBIC11 (Cairns).

Selected Publications

  1. S.F. Ralph, P. Iannitti, R. Kanitz and M.M. Sheil, "Determination of the Relative Stabilities of Metal-Antibiotic and Metal-Cryptand Complexes by Electrospray Ionisation Mass Spectrometry", European Mass Spectrometry, 2, 173 (1996).
  2. S.F. Ralph, M.M. Sheil, L.A. Hick, R.J. Geue and A.M. Sargeson, "An Electrospray Mass Spectrometry Study of Some Metal Ion Cage Complexes", J. Chem. Soc. Dalton Transac., 4417 (1996).
  3. S.F. Ralph, M.M. Sheil, E. Scrivener and P.J. Derrick, "Comparison of ESI-MS and MALDI-MS for Examining Antibiotic and Cryptand Complexes of Alkali Metal Ions", European Mass Spectrometry, 3, 229 (1997).
  4. J.M. Davey, S.F. Ralph, R. Kanitz, and M.M. Sheil, "Comparison of the Reactivity of cis-RuCl2(DMSO)4 and trans-RuCl2(DMSO)4 Towards Nucleosides”, Inorganica Chimica Acta, 281, 10 (1998).
  5. J.L. Beck, A. Humphries, M.M. Sheil and S.F. Ralph, “Electrospray Ionisation Mass Spectrometry of Ruthenium and Palladium Complexes with Oligonucleotides”, European Mass Spectrometry, 5, 489 (1999).
  6. J.L. Beck, M.L. Colgrave, S.F. Ralph and M.M. Sheil, “Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry of Oligonucleotide Complexes with Drugs, Metals and Proteins”, Mass Spectrometry Reviews, 20, 61 (2001).
  7. J.L. Beck, M.L. Colgrave, A. Kapur, P. Iannitti-Tito, S.F. Ralph, M.M. Sheil, A. Weimann and G. Wickham, “Electrospray and Tandem Mass Spectrometry of Drug- DNA Complexes”, in Advances in Mass Spectrometry, Volume 15, Ed. Emilio Gelpi, John Wiley and Sons, Ltd., Chichester, p. 175 (2001).
  8. J. L. Beck, R. Gupta, T. Urathamakul, N,L. Williamson, M.M. Sheil, J.R. Aldrich-Wright and S.F. Ralph, “Probing DNA Selectivity of Ruthenium Metallointercalators using ESI Mass Spectrometry”, Chemical Communications, 5, 626 (2003).


The Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry Laboratory (BMSL) is a research laboratory located within the Chemistry Department of the University of Wollongong, and is equipped with state-of-the-art mass spectrometers for analysing interactions between biomolecules and their complexes with small molecules such as drugs and metal ions. Presently this includes a Micromass MALDI mass spectrometer, an electrospray ionization single quadrupole (LCZ) instrument and a Q-TOF2 mass spectrometer equipped with APCI and nanospray ionisation sources and capillary liquid chromatography equipment. In 2004, this facility will gain the capacity to: (i) analyse very high molecular weight molecules (> 500,000 Da) with the purchase of a factory-modified quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometer, and (ii) analyse ion-molecule interactions and stepwise dissociation of complexes involving biomolecules with the purchase of a modified electrospray ionisation quadrupole ion-trap mass spectrometer.