Analytical Science, Deakin University

The luminous glow of fireflies and the brilliant blue emission of light from the ‘luminol’ spray reagent used by police for the visualisation of blood at crime scenes are two well known examples of ‘chemiluminescence’ (chemical reactions that produce light). This phenomenon can also be utilised to detect important molecules such as the biomarkers of disease, illicit drugs, or traces of chemical or biological weapons in a terrorist attack, using instruments that can measure light more sensitively than the naked eye.

Dr Francis’s research focuses on understanding how these light-producing reactions work, factors that contribute to the colour, intensity and length of the emission, and the nature of the excited molecules that are produced in the chemical reactions. Breakthroughs in these areas enable new light-producing reactions to be developed and applied to highly sensitive chemical measurement in fields such as forensic science, environmental monitoring and clinical diagnostics.

Paul is a popular and engaging speaker and has presented seminars to a wide range of audiences, including middle and secondary school students and university students. He developed a series of fun, interactive discussions and demonstrations, which he has presented at local middle years schools on science themes connected to the students’ everyday experiences.