Professor David Edward Williams


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Professor in Electrochemistry


Professor David E Williams is a graduate of the University of Auckland.

He developed his research career in electrochemistry and chemical sensors at the UK Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell, in the 1980s. He became Thomas Graham Professor of Chemistry at University College London in 1991 and co-founded Capteur Sensors Ltd. He was Head of the Chemistry Dept at UCL from 1999-2002 and co-founded Aeroqual Ltd ( He was Chief Scientist of Inverness Medical Innovations ( ), based at Unipath Ltd, Bedford, UK, from 2002-2005. He joined the faculty of the Chemistry Dept at The University of Auckland in February 2006.

He is a Principal Investigator and Deputy Director in the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, and Associate Investigator of the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Biodiscovery and of the Centre for Medical Device Technology. He is an Adjunct Professor at Dublin City University where he was a Principal Investigator in the Science Foundation Ireland-funded Biomedical Diagnostics Institute. He is a Visiting Professor at University College London, where he has strong research links, and University of Southampton, and has been Visiting Professor at University of Toronto and Cranfield University of Technology and Honorary Professor of the Royal Institution of Great Britain.

He has published around 200 papers in international journals, and is inventor on around 40 patents.

Research | Current

  • Electrochemistry and corrosion science (awarded the Geoffrey Barker Medal in Electrochemistry, Royal Society of Chemistry)
    Work on the mechanism of localised corrosion of stainless steels, particularly stochastic fluctuations in rate, led to a paradigm shift in the field. Pioneered scanning microscopy methods in electrochemistry, analytical methods using easily fabricated microelectrodes, and electrochemical studies of biomolecules at liquid-liquid interfaces.
  • Semiconducting oxides as gas sensors (awarded the John Jeyes Medal and Lectureship of the Royal Society of Chemistry)
    Introduced robust new materials for gas sensors, and ingenious new ways of fabricating sensors and employing them in trace gas measurement instruments. The sensor materials and methods were commercialised through new companies – Capteur Sensors Ltd in the UK (subsequently absorbed into City Technology Ltd ) and Aeroqual Ltd and Air Quality Ltd in NZ ( ).
  • Biomolecules at interfaces: studies of adsorption of enzymes and antibodies, and relationship between adsorbed conformation and activity
    A feature of this work has been collaboration with Dublin City University, Biomedical Diagnostics Institute, on bio-device development. Commercial work at Inverness Medical was directed to development of new devices for trace hormone measurement in small samples of blood and urine. Current work is on microfluidics for single cell metabolomics, and for milk analysis, on peptide and polymer templating of nanoparticles, and on switchable surfaces based on conducting polymers.

Research associates

  • Dr Bryon Wright
  • Dr Stefanie Papst (with Prof Margaret Brimble)
  • Dr Ciaran Dolan (with Margaret Brimble and Jianyong Jin)
  • Dr Andrew Wadsworth (with Margaret Brimble)
  • Dr Michel Nieuwoudt

Postgraduate supervision

Current PhD and MSc students

  • Jin Akaji
  • Nihan Aydemir (with Jadranka Travas-Sejdic)
  • Georgia Miskell (with Jennifer Salmond, School of Environment)
  • Monika Ko (based at Quest Integrity, Wellington)
  • Jake Martin (with Cather Simpson)


Senior Scholar in Chemistry and Mathematics, 1969

Postgraduate Scholar, 1970

Senior Hulme (Overseas) Scholar, Brasenose College Oxford, 1974

Visiting Professor in Chemistry, Southampton University,    1987-1991

Royal Society (London) Industry Research Fellow,  1994-1997

Royal Society of Chemistry, John Jeyes Medal and Lectureship, 1997

Visiting Professor, University of Toronto, 2000-2002

Royal Society of Chemistry, Geoffrey Barker Medal for Electrochemistry, 2002

Visiting Professor, Dept of Chemistry, University College London, 2002 -

Honorary Professor, Royal Institution of Great Britain, 2002 -

Visiting Professor, Cranfield University of Technology, 2003-2005

Visiting Professor, University of Southampton, 2006 –

Science Foundation for Ireland, ETS Walton Visiting Fellow, 2008

Adjunct Professor, Dublin City University, 2010 -

Fellow, Royal Society of NZ, 2009

Member: Marsden Fund Council, Royal Society of New Zealand, 2011-

Maurice Wilkins Prize, for excellence in research, NZ Institute of Chemistry,2011

Pickering Medal, Royal Society of NZ, 2012, “for outstanding contributions to the development of biomedical and gas sensors”

Member, Science Board, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, NZ, 2013-

Vice Chancellor’s prize for research commercialisation, 2014

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • McGrath, A. J., Dolan, C., Cheong, S., Herman, D. A. J., Naysmith, B., Zong, F., ... Brimble, M. (2017). Stability of polyelectrolyte-coated iron nanoparticles for T 2 -weighted magnetic resonance imaging. Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials, 439, 251-258. 10.1016/j.jmmm.2017.04.026
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jianyong Jin, Margaret Brimble
  • Sk, M. H., Abdullah, A. M., Ko, M., Ingham, B., Laycock, N., Arul, R., & Williams, D. E. (2017). Local supersaturation and the growth of protective scales during CO 2 corrosion of steel: Effect of pH and solution flow. Corrosion Science, 126, 26-36. 10.1016/j.corsci.2017.05.026
  • Akers, P. W., Hoai Le, N. C., Nelson, A. R. J., McKenna, M., O'Mahony C, McGillivray, D. J., ... Williams, D. E. (2017). Surface engineering of poly(methylmethacrylate): Effects on fluorescence immunoassay. Biointerphases, 12 (2)10.1116/1.4984010
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Duncan McGillivray
  • Aydemir, N., Chan, E., Baek, P., Barker, D., Williams, D. E., & Travas-Sejdic, J. (2017). New immobilisation method for oligonucleotides on electrodes enables highly-sensitive, electrochemical label-free gene sensing. Biosensors & bioelectronics, 97, 128-135. 10.1016/j.bios.2017.05.049
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jadranka Travas-Sejdic, David Barker
  • Martin, J. W., Nieuwoudt, M. K., Vargas, M. J. T., Bodley, O. L. C., Yohendiran, T. S., Oosterbeek, R. N., ... Cather Simpson, M. (2017). Raman on a disc: high-quality Raman spectroscopy in an open channel on a centrifugal microfluidic disc. Analyst, The, 142 (10), 1682-1688. 10.1039/c6an00874g
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Cather Simpson, Michel Nieuwoudt
  • Medini, K., West, B., Williams, D. E., Brimble, M. A., & Gerrard, J. A. (2017). MALDI-imaging enables direct observation of kinetic and thermodynamic products of mixed peptide fiber assembly. Chemical communications (Cambridge, England), 53 (10), 1715-1718. 10.1039/c6cc10146a
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Juliet Gerrard, Margaret Brimble
  • Nieuwoudt, M. K., Holroyd, S. E., McGoverin, C. M., Simpson, M. C., & Williams, D. E. (2017). Screening for Adulterants in Liquid Milk Using a Portable Raman Miniature Spectrometer with Immersion Probe. Applied spectroscopy, 71 (2), 308-312. 10.1177/0003702816653130
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Cather Simpson, Cushla McGoverin, Michel Nieuwoudt
  • Nieuwoudt, M. K., Holroyd, S. E., McGoverin, C. M., Simpson, M. C., & Williams, D. E. (2017). Rapid, sensitive and reproducible method for point-of-collection screening of liquid milk for adulterants using a portable Raman spectrometer with novel optimized sample well. Paper presented at Conference on Optical Diagnostics and Sensing XVII - Toward Point-of-Care Diagnostics, San Francisco, CA. 30 January - 31 January 2017. OPTICAL DIAGNOSTICS AND SENSING XVII: TOWARD POINT-OF-CARE DIAGNOSTICS. (pp. 12). 10.1117/12.2253147
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Cushla McGoverin, Michel Nieuwoudt, Cather Simpson

Contact details

Primary location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
New Zealand

Web links