Dipartimento di Scienze Chimiche e Geologiche

Place of birth: Sydney, Australia

Languages: English (native), Italian (A2), Russian (fluent), French (social), Mandarin Chinese (Certificate I)


Research Recognition:

  • Member of International Advisory Board, Colloid Journal, since Feb 2022.
  • Visiting Professor, Visiting Professor Programme, University of Cagliari and Region of Sardinia, 2018-19
  • Invited Talk, Australian Colloid and Interface Symposium, 2019
  • Keynote Lecture, XVI International Conference on Surface Forces, Kazan, Russia, 2018
  • Invited Talk, Fall Meeting of the European Materials Research Society, Warsaw 2017
  • Keynote Lecture, conference of the European Colloid and Interface Society, Bordeaux, 2015
  • Invited Talk, conference of the International Association of Colloid and Interface Scientists (IACIS), Sendai, 2012



  • Award of Recognition for contributions to the FEniCS Project, NumFOCUS Awards 2018
  • University Medal, Australian National University, 1992
  • Adrien Albert Honours Prize, 1992.
  • Represented Australia in XX International Chemistry Olympiad, Helsinki, Finland, 1988.


7 book chapters, 81 journal articles and 4 conference proceedings published in international journals for the physical sciences.
Citation count: 2532, h-index: 29 (WoS) 32 (Scholar), i10-index: 52 [Feb 2022]

ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3956-6031

Scopus: https://www.scopus.com/authid/detail.uri?authorId=57191523913

Publons: https://publons.com/researcher/2875165/drew-f-parsons/

Scholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=FNlyZ-QAAAAJ


Scientific Research Interests and main achievements

General Colloid Science: Physics and Chemistry theoretical approaches and modelling

Theory of electrodes: electrowinning and energy storage.

Surface forces and surface roughness.

Complex van der Waals forces.

Ion specific effects and ionic dispersion forces.

Dielectric properties of solvents (nonlocal continuum theory) and surfaces, including biological membranes.

Soft-matter physics. Polymer physics (theory and simulation).

Supercritical fluids. Alkane cracking reactions in zeolites.


In current research I am developing a time-dependent theory of ion adsorption aiming to model the dynamic performance of redox systems and capacitative deionisation for desalination.

A recent new theory I developed is a method for the theoretical calculation of surface forces which accounts for surface roughness. The technique uses a statistical description to characterise roughness and includes the impact of mechanical elastic forces due to contact between extreme asperities of the two surfaces.

As research fellow, during the period spent in Canberra at ANU, I undertook research into the stability and properties of nanobubbles in partnership with Prof. Vincent Craig.

In collaboration with Prof. Barry Ninham, I started research projects related to the application of ionic dispersion forces to explain ion specific effects. Ion specific effects occur in electrolytes when phenomena such as pH or adhesion between surfaces is altered depending on the identity of the salt in the solution. It is important in biology, for instance with the ability of a virus particle to stick to a cell membrane depending on the balance of salts in the blood. Ion specific effects are also significant industrially, affecting the adhesion of oil in rock deposits and therefore impacting on the economics of oil extraction. These effects cannot be described by simple 20th Century electrostatic models of electrolytes, and instead require ion dispersion forces (van der Waals forces). My breakthroughs in this field have been in the use of quantum mechanical methods to calculate ionic dispersion forces. I developed a model of competitive ion binding to surface sites, addressing the impact that this competitive binding has on forces between surfaces.

I have performed research on the relationship between surface charging and adhesive forces between particles, including haemoglobin aggregation and have built up a theory of forces between redox electrodes. At a software level, I have employed Finite Element Methods to calculate electrolyte systems, including quantum mechanical effects.

I participated in a project studying the conformations that a single polymer chain (homopolymers or block copolymers) can form when the chain collapses into a dense ball. I applied the novel Wang-Landau Monte Carlo technique, which I implemented in C++ using MPI parallelisation. This technique enables phase transitions between different conformations to be located. I was able to identify a range of interesting transitions depending on the length of the blocks forming the block copolymers, such as a disorder→order transition or the formation of a handshake diglobule.

During my PhD project, my particular innovation was to address the effect of an ion cavity on the energy of ions. I derived mathematical formulae for the physics of the system and executed solutions of integral equations and Fourier transforms with computer code written in Fortran and C.



Scientific Computing Interests:

High Performance Finite Elements computation with FEniCS/DOLFIN

Support of SasView software for analysing small angle scattering data.


Computer Programming Skills Summary:

Octave scientific (numerical) programming (10 years)

C++ (11 years), C programming (13 years)

Java, Fortran 77 (two years each)

Python scripting (6 years)

Official maintainer with the Debian GNU/Linux Project, currently responsible for scientific computational libraries, including FEniCS for solving finite element problems.


Research Grants:

  • Australian New Colombo Plan Mobility Project. 2017 ($33,000), 2018-2020 ($99,000)
    Title: China: Future Chemist International Summer Camp
    Consortium Partners: Murdoch University, Australian National University, Newcastle University, Flinders University, RMIT University, University of Sydney
  • Norwegian Research Council FRIPRO-FRINATEK 250346, 2016-2019 ($1,442,000)
    Title: Casimir effect and van der Waals forces in multilayer systems
    Investigators: Mathias Boström, Prof. Iver Brevik, Prof. Johan Høye, Stefan Buhmann, Prof. Kimball Milton, Prof. Clas Persson, Drew Parsons, Kristian Berland, Oleksandr Malyi, K. Shajesh, Prachi Parashar, Prof. Barry Ninham, Eduardo Lima
  • ARC Discovery Grant DP110102817, 2011 – 2013 ($540,000)
    Title: Hofmeister at Work. Implementation of a paradigm shift in Physical Chemistry
    Investigators: Prof. Barry Ninham and Dr. Drew Parsons
  • Research Associate on ARC Discovery Grant DP0878625, 2008 – 2010 ($338,000)
    Title: Molecular forces: in colloid science, complex fluids and living matter.
    Chief Investigator: Prof. Barry Ninham


Professional Memberships:

European Colloid and Interface Society

Australian Colloid and Interface Society

International Association of Colloid and Interface Scientists


Work Experience:


October 2020 – present
Associate Professor, University of Cagliari
Department of Chemical and Geological Science

January 2020 – present
Adjunct Professor, Murdoch University


January 2015 – December 2029
Senior Lecturer, Murdoch University
Duties: Research in surface adsorption and adhesion. Teaching extractive metallurgy, quantum mechanics.

Teaching mineral processing (comminution, beneficiation); financial management and process design for metallurgical engineering students. Chair of implementation committee of the Metallurgical Education Partnership (a program of the Minerals Tertiary Education Council). Supervision of 4th year research students. Teaching programming to engineering students. Teaching Quantum Mechanics and Relativity.

Negotiation of Memorandum of Understanding with East Kazakhstan State Technical University. Teaching Kazakh minerals industry Masters students as visiting lecturer, 2016.


July 2008 – December 2014
Research Fellow, Australian National University
Duties: Research in theory of ion specific effects and surface adhesion. University teaching. Supervision of research students.

My university teaching responsibilities have included lecturing, tutoring and setting assessment and exams for the second year course PHYS2020 “Statistical and Thermal Physics”. I have taken on the additional responsibility of chairing the course, mentoring colecturers and tutors and overseeing their contribution to the lectures and assessments of the course.

I have been the formal supervisor of students working in my research project at both PhD and Honours levels. Informally I also advise and provide mentoring for the graduate students of colleagues, particularly by helping experimental students with theoretical questions.


October 2004 – June 2008
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Australian National University
Duties: Theory and simulation of single chain polymers. University teaching.
I contributed to the lecturing, tutoring and assessment workload for the second year course PHYS2020 “Statistical and Thermal Physics”. I also ran tutorials for the physics course “Big Questions”, a course designed to help non-specialists tackle philosophical questions arising from modern physics, without having to get distracted by mathematical details.


January 2003 – October 2004
Science Teacher, Knox Grammar School, Sydney Australia
Duties: Teaching Senior Physics and Junior Science. Extracurricular activities.

I undertook secondary teaching of general Science to Year 9 advanced students and Physics to Years 10-12, including preparing senior Year 12 students for the Higher School Certificate.

In extracurricular activities I was successful in inaugurating the school Squash competition, which continues to this day. I organised student-led astronomy activities, where student-enthusiasts were encouraged to bring in their own telescopes to supplement the school telescopes. We were able to view the white ice caps of Mars during its close approach in 2003. To gain a comprehensive experience of work and life at a private school, I also undertook supervision duties at the school's senior boarding house, which involved keeping the senior boys attention on their Higher School Certificate preparations and homework.

October 2000 – March 2002.

Software Developer, Place2Trade, Sydney, Australia.
Development of a Business-To-Business (B2B) E-Commerce platform based on Java/JSP/SQL technology.
Duties: “Technical Guru”. Implementation and enhancement of an e-commerce web-based trading platform based on Java with JSP-managed user interface and SQL backend. JSP serving managed by IBM Websphere, SQL run on IBM DB2.


October 1999 – September 2000.
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Davis, CA, U.S.A.
Postdoctoral research on theory of supercritical water.
Duties: Improving and correcting performance of Fortran code on OSF1 Unix (Compaq/DEC). Data collection and analysis using perl scripts. Creating an interface in C between program for calculating molecular energy of hydrogen peroxide and program for optimising molecular geometries. Supervising calculations performed by postgraduate student.


September 1998 – September 1999.
Postdoctoral Fellow, Université Henri Poincaré, Nancy, France.
Post-doctoral research on hydrogen cracking in zeolite catalysts.
Duties: Performing quantum chemical calculations on Silicon Graphics IRIX and IBM AIX. Developing code for calculating transition states by writing an interface in C between quantum chemical program for calculating energies and program for optimising molecular geometries. Maintenance of group's computers (Windows 98, RedHat Linux).


September 1994 – September 1998.
Postgraduate Research Student (PhD)
Karpov Institute of Physical Chemistry, Moscow, Russia
Postgraduate research in the physical and mathematical sciences.
Duties: Applied nonlocal electrostatics (representing solvent-solvent correlations and solvent molecular structure) to describe the behaviour of ions in solution. I worked daily with colleagues in the Russian language, my PhD thesis was written in Russian (published scientific papers are in English).

Additionally I occasionally served as an English-Russian interpreter for visiting Westerners


Research Assistant, CSIRO Division of Wool Technology, Ryde Laboratory, Sydney, Australia.
Development of image analysis software.
Duties: Feb. 1994-July 1994. Porting software for controlling image analysis instruments. Porting from VMS Fortran to Windows NT, creating graphic user interface for operator of the instrument, which measures wool properties using image analysis.
Dec. 1992-Mar. 1993. Algorithm development in C on MS-DOS for measuring wool properties.
Dec. 1990-Feb. 1991. Summer Vacation Scholar. Testing image analysis algorithms in C on MS-DOS


Completed education:

  • Graduate Diploma of Education, 29 April 2003, University of New South Wales.
    Major in Science teaching (Physics), minor in Computing Studies.
  • Degree of “Kandidat Nauk” [PhD], 10 July 1998, Karpov Institute of Physical Chemistry,
    Moscow, Russia. Major in physical and mathematical sciences (chemical physics).
    Thesis title: Nonlocal elecrostatic theory of ion solvation accounting for the ion cavity
  • BSc(Hons), 22 April 1994, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.
    Major in chemistry , physics, and mathematics. First Class Honours
    University Medal

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