Professor Orbell was born in London, England. He completed his PhD in Chemistry at the University of Auckland in 1979 – where he had been a Lecturer in Chemistry from 1974 to 1978.

From 1980 to 1981 he was awarded a prestigious Johns Hopkins University Research Scholarship to undertake postdoctoral studies. Subsequently, from 1982 to 1987 he held research and teaching positions at the University of Trieste in Italy, Flinders University of South Australia, the University of Maryland in the U.S.A, and St. Vincent's Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia.

In 1988, he was appointed as a Lecturer in Chemistry in the School of Applied Science at the Western Institute, Melbourne – later to become part of Victoria University. From 1993 to 1997 he was the Head of the Department of Environmental Management at Victoria University.

Since its inception, Professor Orbell has contributed to the development of educational programs and research culture at Victoria University and was appointed as a full Professor of Chemistry in 2004. He has a diverse range of research interests and has an international profile in a number of areas.

Recent publications

Refereed journal articles

R. Reis, L.F. Dumée, B.L. Tardy, R. Dagastine, J.D. Orbell, J.A. Schutz and M.C. Duke (2016), Towards enhanced performance thin-film composite membranes via surface plasma modification. Sci. Rep., 6, 29206; doi: 10.1038/srep29206.

S. Duong, N. Strobel, S. Buddhadassa, K. Stockham, M. Auldist, B. Wales, J.D. Orbell and M. Cran (2016), Rapid measurement of phytosterols in fortified food using gas chromatography with flame ionization detection. Food Chemistry, 211, 570-576.

A. Finger, J.L. Lavers, P. Dann, D. Nugegoda, J.D. Orbell, B. Robertson and C. Scarpaci. (2015), The Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor) as an indicator of coastal trace metal pollution. Environmental Pollution, 205, 365-377.

R. Reis, L. Dumée, L. He, F. She, J.D. Orbell, B. Winther-Jensen and M. Duke (2015), Amine enrichment of thin-film composite membranes via low pressure plasma for anti-microbial adhesion. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 7(27), 14644-53.

M.B. Stewart, S.R. Gray, T. Vasiljevic and J.D. Orbell (2014), Exploring the molecular basis for the metal-mediated assembly of alginate gels. Carbohydrate Polymers, 102(1), 246-253.

D.T. Myat, M. Mergen, O. Zhao, M.B. Stewart, J.D. Orbell and S. Gray (2014), Experimental and computational investigations of the interactions between model organic compounds and subsequent membrane fouling. Water Research, 48, 108-118.

Teaching responsibilities

RBF1150 – Global Environmental Issues (Unit Coordinator)

RCS1120 – Chemistry for the Biological Sciences (Biological Chemistry)

NPU2102 – Analytical Methods (Protein Crystallography)

NSC1210 – Skills for the Scientist (The Scientific Method, Ethics, Occupational Health and Safety)

Honours Coordinator (Chemical, Environmental and Biological Sciences)


Completed: 16 Honours, 66 Masters by Research (with research project), 12 Doctorate, 3 Postdoctoral Fellows.

Current: Doctorate 8

Recent PhD completions (as Principal Supervisor): Dr Kasup Munaweera, “The rational development of improved methods for the removal of oil contamination from wildlife and rocky foreshore utilizing magnetic particle technology”, January 2015, Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage PhD Scholarship; Dr Anu Joshi, “Community-based waste management strategies in relation to a targeted Nepalese community”, August 2015, AusAID Australian Development Scheme (ADS) Scholarship.

Recent research grants

Google Impact Challenge Award/The Penguin Foundation 2014 – 2017, The development and implementation of novel wildlife remediation equipment based on magnetic particle technology, $250,000.

National Centre for Excellence in Desalination (NCED): 2012-2014, Evaluation of a Non-Chemical Pulsed-Power Technology as an Antifouling Pre-treatment for Reverse Osmosis Desalination Membranes, $170,000.

AusAID ALS PhD Stipend: 2010-2014, An Investigation into the Best Available Waste Management Technologies for Nepalese Communities with a view to Alleviating the Environmental Impact on the Bagmati River, $78,027.

American Water Foundation (AWF)/Water Quality Research Australia (WQRA): 2012-2013, Transformation chemistry of EDCS/PPCPS resulting from the disinfection of drinking water, $300,000.

ARC Linkage: 2009-2012, The rational development of improved pre-conditioning agents for the removal of oil contamination from wildlife and rocky foreshore, $126,420.

ARC Linkage: 2009-2012, Lowering membrane fouling by matching pre-treatment to membrane type, $138,420.

Professional memberships

  • Member of the American Chemical Society (28th year)
  • Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute

Awards received

2015: Victoria University Collaborative Research Network (CRN) Award for Exceptional Achievement.

2013: Banksia Sustainability Award, in partnership with the Phillip Island Nature Parks - for the development of novel environmental technology.

John Orbell

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