Dr Sylvia Urban


Senior Lecturer

School /
Work Unit

Applied Sciences

Contact Details

+61 3 9925 3376



Building: 3
Level: 2
Room: 14

City Campus


Science, Engineering & Health



  • PhD, The University of Melbourne, 1997
  • Bachelor of Science (Honours), The University of Melbourne (First Class Honours), 1992
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Chemistry (Degree with Distinction), RMIT University, 1991

Summary of Academic Activities


The research speciality of Dr Urban is aligned with the research field of natural products chemistry, involving skills in the areas of chromatography for purification and instrumental analysis and interpretation for structural characterisation and elucidation. Dr Urban is the research leader and founder of the Marine and Terrestrial Natural Product (MATNAP) research group, which was a new initiative to the School of Applied Sciences (Applied Chemistry) and commenced in 2003. The research scope of the group is to seek out novel compounds from Australian marine and terrestrial sources for the purposes of drug discovery and agrochemical applications.

Major Research Interests

  • Natural product chemistry isolation and structural elucidation
  • NMR spectroscopy and mass spectrometry for characterisation of natural products
  • High Performance/Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and other chromatographic techniques for natural product purification (analysis of complex samples and extraction methodologies for natural products)
  • Hyphenated spectroscopic techniques such as LC-NMR for natural product profiling
  • Analytical/organic chemistry and instrumental analysis for structural characterisation
  • Biological evaluation of natural products (drug discovery and applications)


Dr Urban specialises in the areas of organic and organic/analytical chemistry and has taught into a total of 11 courses in the Applied Chemistry and Environmental Science programs at RMIT University.

Expertise is in the areas of structural elucidation involving NMR and MS and purification technologies (principally chromatography) and Dr Urban teaches these as part of her honours course.

Accomplishments - Research

Key Positions Held

  • Research Fellow at the Queensland Pharmaceutical Research Institute (QPRI). Joint venture between Griffith University and Astra pharmaceuticals (1996-1998).
  • (Now known as Natural Product Discovery (NPD), a centre of the Eskitis Institute for Cell and Molecular Therapies and is a joint venture between Griffith University and AstraZeneca).
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the marine chemistry group at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand (1999-2002).
  • Presently, lecturer in organic chemistry and leader of the MATNAP research group, School of Applied Sciences (Applied Chemistry), RMIT University (2002-present).

Key Collaborations

Dr Urban is a project leader of two project activities within the Drug Discovery and Chemical Synthesis theme associated with the Victorian Institute for Chemical Sciences (VICS). Dr Urban ’s project activities include being project manager of Drugs from the Marine and Terrestrial Environments and the VICS Molecular Resolution Facility (chromatography node at RMIT University). These activities are part of an overall project entitled “The Pipeline – An Integrated Approach to Drug Design and Development” that represents an integrated approach to drug design and development and is positioned to fill a recognised gap in Victoria’s drug development pipeline.


  • Research Starter Grant from the American Society of Pharmacognosy (May 2003)
  • ARC Linkage Infrastructure Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) Grant (October 2003)
  • Virtual Research Institute Grants Scheme (VRII/RIF) (November 2003)
  • Victorian Institute for Chemical Sciences (VICS) project funding for Drugs from the Marine and Terrestrial Environments (April 2004)
  • Victorian Institute for Chemical Sciences (VICS) project funding for the VICS Molecular Resolution Facility (MRF) chromatography node at RMIT University (April 2004)
  • Research Supervision Award Nomination (2005)

Research Supervision Activities

  • Supervisor of 1 research fellow involved in Victorian Institute for Chemical Sciences (VICS) project activities (2005)
  • Postgraduate supervisor to 1 PhD, 1 Master and 1 honours student (2005)

Accomplishments - Teaching

Teaching Philosophy/Approach

In accordance with the RMIT Teaching and Learning Strategy, modern teaching practices are adopted that encourage student-centred learning with real world relevance.

Courses/Programs Taught

Years 2 and 3 Undergraduate lecture courses in Applied Chemistry program (Organic Chemistry courses) including:

  • CHEM1039: Chemistry Theory 2A (Organic Chemistry)
  • CHEM1068: Chemistry Theory 3B (Organic Chemistry)

Years 1, 2 and 3 Undergraduate laboratory courses in Applied Chemistry program (Organic Chemistry courses) and Environmental Science program including:

  • CHEM1069: Chemistry Laboratory 3A (Analytical Organic Chemistry)
  • CHEM1041: Chemistry Laboratory 2A (Organic Chemistry)
  • CHEM1042: Chemistry Laboratory 2B (Organic Chemistry)
  • CHEM1013: Chemistry Laboratory 1A (General Chemistry)
  • CHEM1059: Environmental Chemistry Laboratory 2B (Organic Chemistry)
  • CHEM1015: Environmental Chemistry Laboratory 1B (General Chemistry)
  • CHEM1070: Year 3 undergraduate research projects offered in the field of natural products chemistry
  • CHEM1109: Honours course entitled Natural Product Drug Discovery: From Discovery to Drug Development
  • CHEM1108: Honours research projects offered in the field of natural products chemistry

Undergraduate and Postgraduate Supervision Activities

Apart from the senior demonstrator role Dr Urban has with students at all levels in the Applied Chemistry program and at most levels of the Environmental Science program, each year Dr Urban supervises a number of third year students as well as honours students who undertake a research project within her MATNAP research group.


Student choice Teaching Quality Award Nomination (2005)

Selected Publications

Recent Journal Publications

Urban , S.; Leone, P. d. A.; Carroll, A. R.; Fechner, G. A.; Smith, J.; Hooper, J. N. A. and Quinn, R. J., “Axinellamines (A-D), Novel Imidazo-azolo-imidazole Alkaloids from the Australian Marine Sponge, Axinella sp.” Journal of Organic Chemistry 1999, 64, 731-735.

Urban , S.; Hickford, S. J.; Blunt, J. W. and Munro, M. H. G., “Bioactive Marine Alkaloids” Current Organic Chemistry 2000, 4, 765-807.

Urban , S.; Blunt, J. W. and Munro, M. H. G., “Coproverdine: A Novel Cytotoxic Marine Alkaloid From A New Zealand Ascidian” Journal of Natural Products 2002, 65, 1371-1373.

Harwood, D. T.; Urban , S.; Blunt, J. W. and Munro. M. H. G., “ÿ-Carboline Alkaloids from a New Zealand Marine Bryozoan, Cribricellina cribraria.” Natural Product Research 2003, 17, 15-19.

Urban , S and Seporavic F.; “Developments in Hyphenated Spectroscopic Methods in Natural Product Profiling” Frontiers in Drug Design and Discovery 2005, 1, 113-166.


Munro, M. H. G; Blunt, J. W; Urban .S and Gravalos, D., “Antitumor Carbazoles, and Coproverdine Isolation” PCT Int. Appl. 2002 29 pp (Patent Number: W00248107).

Professional Memberships

  • American Society of Pharmacognosy (ASP)
  • Royal Australian Chemical Institute (MRACI, C Chem)
  • Australian Marine Sciences Association (AMSA)