December 2016

In This Issue:



Kirsty Barron
Maria Tortelli


Many Thanks to:

Virginia Manch

Welcome to New Staff

We would like to warmly welcome the new members of staff that have joined us this year, and have been settling down into our community over this past term.


In February 2013, Dr. Charles Romain joined a multidisciplinary EPRSC project dealing with the deconstruction of biomass and valorisation of carbohydrates. Under the supervision of Prof. Charlotte Williams, his research was focused on the synthesis of polyesters and polycarbonates from renewable sources. As a Junior Research Fellow, his main research focus is on the design of new versatile catalysts for polymerisation reactions along with original methodologies for the preparation of poylmers from renewable sources.

Jacob Fry has joined the Department as a technician in the teaching laboratories. Jacob studied Chemistry at the University of Melbourne with a master's thesis on superhydrophobic surfaces. He then worked at Dulux Australia as a polymer chemist before moving to the UK earlier this year.
Dr. Aleksandar Ivanov obtained his PhD from Imperial in 2011 and in 2016 was awarded the Junior Research Fellowship. His resarch is focused on the innovation of novel nanoscale sensors and platforms for single-molecule delivery, enabling the study of fundamental molecules in chemistry, biology and medicine. Examples include optical/plasmonic nanopore architectures and recently the detection of proteins linked to neurodegenerative diseases.
Dr. Andreas Kafizas completed his MSci at University College London in 2007, where he remained to complete his PhD in 2011. In 2012 he was awarded the Ramsay Fellowship, where he studied under Prof. James Durrant at Imperial, before he was awarded the Junior Research Fellowship in 2016. He has experience in the fields of solar fuel regeneration and heterogeneous photocatalysis, as well as transient absorption spectroscopy (TAS).


Dr. James Wilton-Ely had been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC), the highest professional level for chemists in the UK.

The Royal Society of Biology has approved Department Tissue Culture Facility Technician Andrew Coulson's application to join their Register of Science Technicians.

Prizes and Awards

The EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellowships are intended to help universities attract and retain the very best newly qualified PhDs that received EPSRC studentship funding and help them to launch a career in research.  These highly prized fellowships were awarded to four chemists this year:
Doris Pappoe was awarded an Imperial College Medal at the Commemoration Day Ceremony which took place at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 19 October. Over 30 years in the Department Doris has supported over 1000 students in her role as PG Administrator.
PG research student Rosie Croft (supervisor Dr. James Bull) was awarded first prize for her poster on the Synthesis of 3,3-Diaryloxetanes, presented at the Symposium on Advances in Heterocyclic Organic Chemistry (SAHOC) at Sheffield University.
Rosie was also selected as a RSC postgraduate speaker for J-NOST-12, which took place in Lucknow, India in November.

PG research student Luke Delmas (supervisors Prof. Paul Lickiss & Dr. Rob Davies) has been successful in his application for Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy.

The spinout company FreshCheck set up by three ICB PhD students Alex Bond, Robert Peach and John Simpson has recently won the Shell LiveWire Competition. FreshCheck had developed a chemical that changes colour from blue to orange in the presence of bacteria, allowing users to identify areas that are dangerously contaminated. The company was also recently interviewed for an item on the BBC 4 World Service on why big supermarkets might not have come up with similar solutions to FreshCheck.

HackScience, a team comprising of Ali Afshar (Chemistry), along with Ignacio Willats (Business School), Henry Miskin (Computer Science) and supported by Dr. James Bannock, won the £10,000 prize at the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Start! Challenge competition held in the business school. HackScience offers users a platform to develop and control new tools to automate manual lab processes without the need to code. The full article can be found here.

Plenary Lectures and Keynote Talks

Dr. Matt Fuchter gave the plenary talk at the GlaxoSmithKline Emerging Academics Symposium on 10 October and also an invited talk at the 2nd NSFC-RSC International Symposium on Emerging Frontiers in Organic Chemistry on 17 October.

Prof. Anthony Kucernak gave the keynote talk at the PRIME 2016 meeting in Hawaii, from 2-7 October.

Prof. Tom Welton gave the annual RSC/Kings College Daniell lecture on Wednesday 19 October.

EPSRC Doctoral Prize Fellow Dr. Yuval Elani gave a keynote address to the Experimental Biology and Medicine Conference in Chengdu, China at the end of October, where he was part of an invited UK/USA delegation.


An article on Prediction of allosteric sites and mediating interactions through bond-to-bond propensities by Ben Amor (ICB CDT student), Prof. Sophia Yaliraki (Chemistry) and Prof. Mauricio Barahona (Maths) has been published in Nature Communications. The research was also featured on the College website.

Dr. Matt Fuchter et al have had a paper published in JACS entitled Circularly Polarized Phosphorescent Electroluminescence with a High Dissymmetry Factor from PHOLEDs based on a Platinahelicene.

A paper by Prof. Nick Long, Dr. Tim Albrecht et al on how to use machine learning techniques for the analysis of single-molecule charge transport data is now online in Nature Communications. This is the first time that such techniques have been used in this context.

A research paper N-type organic electrochemical transistors with stability in water by Prof. Iain McCulloch et al has been published online in Nature Communications and the research has also been highlighted on the college website.

Dr. Andrew Ashley has published two papers recently. One is an Angewandte Chemie International Edition which decribes the first ever frustrated Lewis pair hydrogenation catalyst using a late p-block element (tin-cheap, abundant and remarkably thermally robust), which is also extremely water tolerant.
The second has been published in JACS, demonstrating the catalytic reduction of N2 to N2H4 and which has been selected for an upcoming Spotlight by the Editor.

Prof. Iain McCulloch’s group has recently published a Nature Materials paper on new high performance organic solar cell materials. Included as authors are postdoc Dr. Derya Baran, former PhD student Sarah Holliday, current PhD student Andrew Wadsworth and former MSci student Sarah Lockett.

A paper Tuneable 2D self-assembly of plasmonic nanoparticles at liquid-liquid interfaces by Prof. Joshua Edel, Prof. Anthony Kucernak, Prof. Alexei Kornyshev et al has been selected for the front cover of issue 46 of the jounal Nanoscale.


Dr. Kim Jelfs has been awarded an EPSRC 'Design by Science' grant of £814k together with Prof. Jenny Nelson from Imperial Physics on the Rational design of functional porous macromolecular materials: evolutionary algorithms and multiscale modelling. The grant will run for three years from this autumn.

Prof. Nick Long, Prof. Eric Aboagye and lead applicant Mengxin Tang have been awarded a Cancer Research UK Multidisciplinary Award of £500k for their project 3D ultrafast ultrasound with microbubble contrast agents for simultaneous imaging of molecular targets and perfusion in cancer.

Dr. Matt Fuchter, colleagues Prof. Alasdair Campbell (Imperial), Prof. Goran Ungar and Dr. Xiangbing Zeng (Sheffield) and project partner, Cambridge Display Technologies Ltd, have been awarded an EPSRC research grant of £780k for their project: Origin of the Strong Induced Chiroptical Effect in Semiconducting Polymer/Helicene Blends.

Dr. Matt Fuchter has also been awarded a £415k CRUK/EPSRC Multidisciplinary Project Award along with colleagues DiMaggio (Chemical Engineering) and Brady (Life Sciences) for their project Profiling the 'Methylome' Targets of Histone Lysine Methyltransferases.

Prof. Joshua Edel has been awarded a €2M ERC Consolidator Grant for his research project: Single Molecule Nanoscale Sensors.


Dr. Nick Brooks led a microscopy and optical trapping interactive demonstration at the New Scientist Live event at Excel 22-24 September. Mark Neil (Physics) and Duncan Casey (Liverpool John Moores) also helped with the organisation/demonstrating, plus a team of PhD demonstrators from Chemistry: Norman Chan, Paul Girvan, Toni Semmence, Stuart Haylock, Alex Bond and Nate Barlow.
The event had a high turn-out attracting around 23,000 attendees. The chemistry demo let people visiting the stand control an optical trap to catch and move 3 micron beads around a micro-racetrack. The team had a leaderboard running over the three days with times from 23 seconds to over 2 minutes!
Prof Ed Tate celebrated his inaugural lecture on 30 November with a talk entitled New drugs for old diseases: malaria, the common cold and the greasy hedgehog. The lecture attracted a packed audience from a range of backgrounds including many of Prof Tate’s collaborators from both within the College and beyond. The talk is now available online for anyone who missed it.
Specialist Glass Blower Steve Ramsey has been featured in the Christmas Edition of New Scientist in an article which explores the history and importance of glass in chemical experiments and the fact that Steve is one of the few remaining specialist scientific glassblowers in the country. A photo of Steve in glass-blowing action has also been used as the feature image on the College Christmas card and Steve was presented with a signed framed copy by Imperial President Alice Gast.


Dr. Andrew Ashley was interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Inside Science edition broadcast on 3 November, explaining his group's recent discovery in N2 fixation.

Prof. David Phillips has had a number of high profile engagements recently including:
  • 26 October - presented two RSC blue plaques on behalf of the Royal Society of Chemistry to the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society to commemorate the anniversary of the birth of John Dalton in 1776.
  • 1 November - chaired the DEFRA 66th United Kingdom Chemicals Stakeholder Forum at Church House, Westminster, where the main topic was the fallout from the Brexit vote.
On 4 November, Signe Liepina from Outreach was joined by three chemistry students - Andrea Suiu, Adam Drew and Sofia Piticari at the Chemistry and Art twilight event organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry to showcase the Spectroscopy in a Suitcase (SIAS) Scheme, specifically the portable IR spectrometer.
SIAS is a UK-wide scheme funded by the RSC and looked after by the Chemistry Outreach Team on behalf of the Department. The event was bustling with people from various backgrounds all with a keen interest in chemistry and art. To fit in with the theme, the spectrometer was used to analyse different blue pigments - a technique used to determine whether a piece of art is genuine or a forgery.

ChemSoc Seminars

On 28 September, Nick Brooks joined ChemSoc for a talk about the research his group does. His group focuses on three main areas- how biology works, the ability to model biology, and how existing structures can be used as inspiration for new materials. The work they do is underpinned by the kit that they design in order to push the limits of science, and customize equipment to meet their needs.
Over the course of the talk, Brooks talked about his group’s research into biological molecules under pressure, in particular how lipid membranes are influenced by pressure.  It’s important to understand this both for how organisms can adjust to stress, and how deep-sea organisms use the same or similar structures to live. We were introduced to a whole range of information about how lipid bilayers react to change in pressure, and the impact this can have on biological activity, and what changes allow the membranes to function as needed under high pressures. In particular the complexity of biological systems was highlighted, especially the signals that control membrane behavior in biological systems as a whole. Nick Brooks also discussed the equipment designed and used by his team to carry out these investigations, and the range of characterization methods, from X-ray diffraction to fluorescence spectroscopy that can be used to analyze what is happening to the lipids.
Ultimately, Brooks concluded, his group works on the interface of Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and Engineering to get a detailed understanding of how life works, and how biology can adapt to a variety of conditions, leading to the high level of complexity found in biology today. The talk finished with Nick Brooks giving a heart-warming thanks to all of his collaborators and members of his groups, and a round of well-deserved applause for an excellent talk.
Credit:Patricia Poths

Fringe and Science Museum Lates

Criminal Investigations, one of the latest Imperial fringe’s series of public evening events exploring the scientific side of police investigations, with a focus on chemical and robotic forensic science, took place on 3 November and celebrated the contribution of science in helping everyday judicial cases.

With a wonderful audience of over 500 people, ChemSoc was busy handling two stands, the CSI experience stand where we followed the audience through some basic hands-on forensics steps to solving a crime, such as blood stains analysis and fingerprint matching, and the strawberry DNA extraction stand where we helped the audience use everyday house chemicals to extract DNA filaments of strawberries.

Together we explained the science behind these two experiences to an audience ranging from elementary school students to actual detectives! People were then encouraged to pursue this science a step further in the numerous other stands surrounding our own, all the way to high tech robotics.

People were so impressed with our work at Imperial’s fringe event that the Science Museum asked ChemSoc to run its own scientific stand at one of its Late events.

The strawberry DNA extraction was a resounding success with an incredible diverse audience. Surrounded by drones and forensics exhibitions, our simple but lovely biology experience contributed immensely to the night, with the personal satisfaction of seeing an unexpectedly huge interest into the scientific depths behind the science itself on behalf of the wide range of people there.

Credit: Diana Piermarini

ChemSoc Sponsors:

GSK: Silver Sponsor
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 Ernst and Young: Bronze Sponsor
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P&G: Bronze Sponsor


Centrica: Carbon Sponsor

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Sigma Aldrich: Carbon Sponsor

RSC: Carbon Sponsor

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