Professor Rachel Popelka-Filcoff


Research activity per year

If you made any changes in Pure these will be visible here soon.

Personal profile

Research Biography

My research program investigates how humans influence, and in turn, are influenced by the landscape around them.  My lab uses radioanalytical and spectroscopic methods for the application to cultural, environmental and forensic questions. I have contributed to research in a number of ways, primarily with the first comprehensive characterisation of Australian Aboriginal natural mineral pigments on cultural heritage materials, including ochre, by several advanced analytical methods. I also analyse uranium materials by a variety of methods for international nuclear forensics projects. Recent projects include the improvement of the understanding of international radioecological risk assessment tools to arid Australian environments surrounding uranium mining sites, through comprehensive radioanalytical and analytical approaches to flora and fauna.

A significant portion of my research is based at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), as well as collaborations with other forensic and cultural heritage institutes and universities. I hold a BA in Archaeology and Classics from Washington University in St Louis (USA), a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Missouri (USA) as an NSF Research Fellow, and completed a National Research Council postdoc at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, USA).  I was an AINSE Research Fellow from 2010-2016.

I have received awards including the South Australian Tall Poppy of the Year in 2012, which recognises the top early career researcher in the state. In 2015 I was recognised in the League of Remarkable Women in Science. I have  also had my research profiled in several scientific and general media outlets such as Cosmos Magazine, Chemistry in Australia, and Chemistry World, and radio and television interviews.

I am the President of the Society for Archaeological Sciences, and is on the editorial board of Journal of Archaeological Science, among others.

Research Interests

The focus of my research is in radioanalytical chemistry, or the application of nuclear and radiochemical analytical methodologies. My primary research interests are in archaeological science, forensics and environmental studies.

Archaeometry is a multidisciplinary field that centres on analysing the chemical and physical characteristics of ancient materials and artifacts to answer archaeological questions. Such research studies include questions concerning ancient material technologies, elucidating ancient economies and trade routes, and discovering artefact provenance and technologies. One of our primary projects in the group focuses on the characterisation and analysis of Australian ochre to understand its composition and exchange.

My projects are in partnership with colleagues at Flinders University, ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation), South Australian Museum, Artlab, PIRSA and others.

Analytical methods in my laboratory are applied to research questions in the areas of:

  • archaeology and cultural heritage
  • environmental and geological studies
  • fundamental radioanalytical methods
  • nuclear analytical methods
  • analytical and spectroscopic instrumentation
  • forensic studies
  • nuclear forensics

The techniques used in my group include:

  • neutron activation analysis (NAA)
  • particle induced X-ray emission (PIXE)
  • X-ray fluorescence (XRF)
  • IR spectroscopy

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of Missouri-Columbia

Award Date: 15 Dec 2006

Bachelor of Arts, Washington University in St. Louis

External positions

Rock Art Australia Minderoo Chair in Archaeological Science, University of Melbourne

6 May 2020 → …


Dive into the research topics where Rachel Popelka-Filcoff is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 1 Similar Profiles


Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or