Research areas

Computational and theoretical chemistry

Recent advances in computer technology and the development of highly-efficient computer algorithms have opened the way for Chemistry to be studied using computer calculations, based on the principles of quantum mechanics. We use such calculations in conjunction with powerful supercomputers to determine the structures of molecules and to help understand how molecules react with one another.

Chemical education

Universities are experiencing a move towards ‘student centred’ education, embedding of research-enriched learning and teaching and the blending of new technologies with more traditional approaches. Research projects in this area focus on teaching and learning initiatives and innovations and the learning context of our students using, for example, student surveys and focus groups to evaluate their effectiveness.

Molecular design and synthesis

Advances in all aspects of chemistry are reliant on our ability to build new molecular entities in a timely, efficient, economically-sustainable and environmentally-benign manner. Several research groups in the School are addressing this challenge by investigating new reactions and applying known reactions in novel settings to access molecules that display biological promise, for example.

Materials chemistry

Research activities within the School focus on a diverse array of materials types, covering the entire spectrum from 'hard' to 'soft' matter and combining interests in synthesis, theoretical simulation, structure, and chemical and physical function. Materials under investigation include a diverse array of metal oxides, spanning electronic/magnetic systems to nanostructured catalysts, and several different classes of molecular solid, spanning metal-organic frameworks, graphene, polymers, emulsions and surface coatings.

Green chemistry and renewable energy

Research in the School examines the catalytic generation of fuels and specialty chemicals from renewable sources such as biomass, water, and the sun, as well as novel battery technologies for improved energy storage. The emphasis is on using earth-abundant materials as catalysts, and wastes, non-potable water and other sustainable and renewable resources as feedstocks for green chemistry processes.

Molecular spectroscopy and photonics

This research theme includes groups with expertise in photonics, biophysical chemistry, quantum chemistry, single-molecule imaging and chiroptical spectroscopy. The research involves an understanding the static and dynamic structure-property relationships in organic semiconductors, biomolecules, molecular crystals and inorganic complexes and exploiting them for photonic and optoelectronic applications.

Drug discovery and medicinal chemistry

Research activities within the School include the design of new drugs and their application in cancer, CNS diseases, and infectious diseases. Research groups in the School use modern synthetic chemistry techniques to prepare novel classes of bioactive molecules and determine their structure-activity relationships. A key part of the research programs involves an exploration of drug-protein and drug-binding site interactions, allowing for a rational design of more efficacious drug treatments for several types of human diseases.

Supramolecular chemistry

Interactions between and within molecules are key to the functions of biological systems. Supramolecular chemists aim to mimic Nature's exquisite designs to create new molecular structures with well-defined functions. Research within the School includes the design, synthesis and testing of molecular sensors and molecular electronics; the use of of self-assembly processes to create large, functional molecular aggregates from small molecular building blocks and the design of molecular frameworks with a variety of functions.

Biological chemistry and chemical biology

A great number of important problems in biology and medicine require answers that can only be provided through the combination of molecular tools, techniques and quantitative analytical approaches, all of which are central to Chemistry. The School is involved in several cutting-edge research activities related to the study and manipulation of biological systems in order to probe fundamental and medically-related biological processes or to create new biological function.

Soft matter

Several groups in the School are actively engaged in theoretical and experimental studies of soft condensed matter. Subjects under investigation range in scale from the structure and dynamics of small molecules and ions in liquids and glasses, through surfactant and polymer self-assembly, up to nanoparticles and colloidal dispersions, and include studies of behaviour of bulk phases as well as at interfaces.

Neutron & synchrotron diffraction and spectroscopy

Synchrotron X-ray and neutron beamlines are key tools in our studies of the structures and dynamics of condensed materials, such as battery electrodes, novel magnets, polymers, biomaterials and nano-structures, at the atomic scale often under extreme conditions of temperature or pressure. Synchrotrons provide superb beams for determining elemental composition and bonding states in materials, and in-situ studies of metal-specific electron transfer and catalytic processes; neutrons are uniquely suitable for studying nuclear and magnetic structures.