Dr Michelle Spencer


Senior Lecturer

School /
Work Unit

Applied Sciences

Contact Details

+61 3 9925 9697



Building: 3
Level: 2
Room: 15

City Campus


Science, Engineering & Health

"Picture of Michelle Spencer"


  • PhD (La Trobe University, 2002)
  • Bachelor of Science (Honours H1) (La Trobe University, 1997)

Key activities


  • Leader, Computational Materials Chemistry Group
  • Visiting Scientist, CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering
  • Honorary Fellow, School of Chemistry, University of Melbourne
  • Postgraduate supervisor


  • CHEM 1239 Chemistry for Life Sciences (Course Coordinator)
  • ONPS 2149 Introduction to Nanotechnology
  • ONPS 2186 Science Project
  • CHEM 1030 Chemistry of Materials I
  • CHEM1053 Analytical Spectroscopy
  • CHEM1069 Chemistry Laboratory 3A
  • CHEM1242 Chemistry Principles

Industry experience


  • Materials Modelling (CHE3) La Trobe University
  • Medicinal Chemistry (CHE2) La Trobe University
  • Organometallics (CHE3) La Trobe University
  • Molecular Design (CHE3) La Trobe University
  • Biological and Bioinorganic Chemistry (CHE2) La Trobe University
  • Nanotechnology Practice (ONPS2956) RMIT University
  • Introduction to Nanotechnology (ONPS2149) RMIT University
  • Advanced Materials (PHYS1171) RMIT University
  • Issues in Nanotechnology Seminar Program (invited lectures) La Trobe University


  • 2nd Year Nanochemistry (CHE2NAC) La Trobe University (2012)
  • 1st Year Chemistry (CHE1GEN) La Trobe University (2012)
  • 2nd Year Nanochemistry Laboratory Program (CHE2NAN) La Trobe University (2011)
  • 2nd year Chemistry Laboratory Program, La Trobe University (Semester 2, weeks 1-4) (2011)
  • 3rd year Chemistry Laboratory Program, La Trobe University (Semester 2, weeks 1-4) (2011)
  • School of Applied Sciences, Physics Seminar Program, RMIT University (2010-2002)

Membership of professional associations

  • The Royal Australian Chemical Institute, Chartered Chemist (MRACI CChem)
  • The Australian Institute of Physics (2005)

Grants and Awards

  • Small Grants Program for Research Exchanges with China 2012, La Trobe University
  • La Trobe University eResearch Grant 2012 (CI)
  • CSIRO OCE Postdoctoral Fellow Grant 2012 (PI)
  • La Trobe University Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering Project Grant 2011 (CI)
  • La Trobe University eResearch Grant 2011 (CI)
  • RMIT Emerging Researcher Grant 2007 (CI)
  • RMIT Emerging Researcher Grant 2006 (AI)
  • RMIT Summer Research Internship 2006
  • Prize for best Poster, The Sixth Australian Molecular Modelling Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 2000
  • Prize for best Poster, The Tenth Australian Molecular Modelling Conference, Perth, Australia, 2006
  • Australian Postgraduate Award, La Trobe University, 1997-2000
  • D.M. Myers University Medal, La Trobe University, 1996
  • Max O’Connor Honours Year Prize in Chemistry, La Trobe University, 1996
  • Michael Grant Third Year Prize in Chemistry, La Trobe University, 1995

Research interests

Dr Spencer’s research expertise is in the area of materials and nanostructures for applications in electronic devices, gas sensors and batteries. In particular she specialises in using density functional theory and ab initio molecular dynamics simulations to determine the structure, dynamic properties and surface reactions of these materials.

See some of Dr Spencer's simulations on YouTube.

Current interest in nanomaterials is enormous. With the discovery of a wide variety of novel nanostructured shapes and forms, from nanowires to nanotubes and nanosheets, it has raised the question about how these materials can be used in current or new technological areas. In order to realise the full potential of such materials an understanding of their properties, including their surface chemistry, is essential. Our research employs computer modelling to examine different nanostructured materials, with the focus being on materials for gas sensing and electronic device applications. Below are some examples of past and current projects.

Research projects, consultancy and student project


  • Novel Metal Oxide Nanostructures for Gas Sensing (collaboration with RMIT University, Kyushu University Japan)
  • Modelling of ZnO nanostructures (collaboration with CSIRO)
  • Nanoscale Silicon for Advanced Electronic Devices (Collaboration with AIST Japan, Toyota Central R&D Labs Japan, RMIT University, CSIRO)


Publications / Other

Scholarly Book Chapters

  • M.J.S. Spencer, “Density functional theory modeling of ZnO for gas sensor applications”, Chemical Sensors, Vol. 1, Series II: Chapter 5, G. Korotcenkov, Ed., Momentum Press (2012) ISBN 978-1-60650-309-6. (Invited Review, peer reviewed)
  • I. Yarovsky, M.J.S. Spencer, I.K. Snook, "Metal Surfaces and Interfaces: Properties from Density Functional Theory", in Computational Methods for Large Systems: Electronic Structure Approaches for Biotechnology and Nanotechnology, J.R. Reimers, Ed., Wiley (2011) ISBN: 978-0-470-48788-4. (Invited Review, peer reviewed)

Refereed Journal Articles

Refereed Conference Proceedings

  • M.J.S. Spencer, I. Yarovsky, W. Wlodarski, K. Kalantar-zadeh, “Density functional theory study of ZnO nanostructures for NO and NO2 sensing”, IEEE Proceedings of Transducers’07/ Eurosensors XXI, Lyon, France (2007) 987-990.
  • N. Todorova, M.J.S. Spencer, I. Yarovsky, “Dynamic properties of the sulfur-contaminated Fe(110) surface”, Proceedings of the Australian Institute of Physics 16th Biennial Congress (2005) ISBN 0-9598064-8-2.

Older Publications