Nick specialises in the development of polymer-based materials for biomedical applications​

Dr Nicholas J. Westra van Holthe is a synthetic chemist working at the interface of chemistry and the biological function of nanomaterials, with expertise in functional chemistry and nanotechnology for biological applications. Nick is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology. Nick obtained a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry, Nanomedicine, and Molecular Imaging from The University of Queensland under the supervision of Professor Kristofer Thurecht.

Whilst Nick's primary expertise is in synthetic chemistry and the development and application of polymer-based nanoparticles, Nick's expertise also extends to photoacoustic molecular imaging as Nick helped establish the photoacoustic molecular imaging capability within the Centre for Advanced Imaging at The University of Queensland and has published several photoacoustic molecular imaging studies. Nick's Ph.D. thesis presents the synthesis of a highly effective photoacoustic contrast agent along with the development of a polymeric contrast agent that provides the means to visualise and assess nanoparticle penetration into solid tumours in real-time during in vivo imaging experiments. Nick also presents a detailed investigation of the photoacoustic efficacy and photophysical properties of contrast enhancing agents and proposes a novel mechanism for photoacoustic signal production.

Nick has research experience working with industry partners and has held several professional research positions. During 2019-21 Nick worked with Associate Professor Idriss Blakey to develop a nanoparticle-based hydrogen sulfide sensor. From 2022 Nick’s synthetic materials chemistry expertise has been utilised on a $USD 1.25M US Department of Defence funded grant for the preclinical testing of a polymer-protein conjugate as a haemostatic hydrogel for combat casualties with catastrophic haemorrhage.

More recently, Nick has been working with Professor Alan Rowan on the development of synthetic polymer-peptide conjugates that form biomimetic hydrogels and mimic the mechanic and functional properties of the extracellular membrane, providing the means to study cells in a controlled biomimetic 3-dimentional cell culture system.


​Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research - Nanoparticles for quantification of downhole hydrogen sulfide content 


Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) grant No. ZIAI168641 (2023).

​​Australian Post-graduate Award (APA)

Key Publications

​​Spiky Silver−Iron Oxide Nanohybrid for Effective Dual-Imaging and Synergistic Thermo-Chemotherapy. Shehzahdi S. Moonshi, Karla X. Vazquez-Prada, Joyce Tang, Nicholas J. Westra van Holthe, Gary Cowin, Yuao Wu, Huong D. N. Tran, Ryan Mckinnon, Andrew C. Bulmer, and Hang Thu Ta. ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, 2023.

Understanding nanomedicine treatment in an aggressive spontaneous brain cancer model at the stage of early blood brain barrier disruption. Phillip W. Janowicz, Zachary H. Houston, Jens Bunt, Nicholas L. Fletcher, Craig A. Bell, Gary Cowin, Christopher B. Howard, Dewan Taslima, Nicholas Westra van Holthe, Amber Prior, Vanessa Soh, Saikat Ghosh, James Humphries, Pie Huda, Stephen M. Mahler, Linda J. Richards and Kristofer J. Thurecht. Biomaterials, 2022, 283, 121416.