News from the Insitute of Chemical Sciences

Research Highlight

The recent publication of work from the McCoustra group relating to the structure of icy dust in star and planet forming environments in ACS Earth and Space Chemistry has been highlighted in the University Staff Newsletter and on BBC Online.

Chris Thomson ICS PhD Student - Poster Prize Winner
Chris Thomson presenting at the Chemical Science Symposium, RSC Burlington House (London)

Research Highlight

PhD Student Awarded Poster Prize: Chris Thomson, who is currently a second year PhD student under the supervision of Dr Filipe Vilela, won a poster prize for his presentation on ’polymer-supported organophotocatalysts’ at the first annual Chemical Science Symposium at RSC Burlington House, London on 24th – 25th September.  The symposium theme was ‘functional organic materials’; Cathleen Crudden and Andy Cooper were key note speakers.

Martin Paterson Molecule Image 15 October 2019
Iridium based molecules destroy energy resources for cancer cells

Research Highlight

Work from Prof. Martin Paterson’s group, in collaboration with an international team including colleagues from the University of Warwick, China, France, and Switzerland, has been published in Nature Chemistry. The paper, 'Targeted photoredox catalysis in cancer cells', is available online at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41557-019-0328-4. The work details how photodynamic therapy, a technique that uses light to activate molecule known as a photosensitizer, can create a cancer-killing compound of Iridium that attacks, for the first time, a vital energy source (NADH) in cancer cells even under hypoxia, significantly opening up the range of cancers that can be treated using the technique. Once light-activated, the Iridium compound attacks the energy producing machinery in the cancer cells - a vital co-enzyme called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) - and catalytically destroys that co-enzyme or changes it into its oxidised form. This upsets the energy-producing machinery in a cancer cell and effectively cuts off the tumour’s power source. The team of scientists also noted that as the cancer cells die, they change their chemistry in such a way that they will generate an immune reaction in the body, what is known as an immunotherapeutic response. This suggests that those treated by this technique might be immunised against attack by that cancer, and will be investigated further in future research.

ICS U/G Student Presentation Event 09/09/2019
Summer Research Project Presentation Event - Group Photo
Chiara Fitzpatrick ICS Presentation Prize Winner 9 September 2019
Prof. Martin Paterson, Head of Research Institute, awarding a presentation prize to Chiara Fitzpatrick
Begliola Kaso ICS Presentation Prize Winner September 2019
Prof. Martin Paterson, Head of Research Institute, awarding a presentation prize to Begliola Kaso

Presentation Event for Summer Project Students

On Monday 9th September 2019, undergraduate students who had participated in the ICS summer projects had the chance to present their research during an event which resembled a scientific conference. Talks were split into two sessions (molecular chemistry and physical chemistry) with a panel of judges awarding a best talk prize from each session.  The prize winners were Chiara Fitzpatrick (“Benzyltetrazole Lithiation: Access to All Carbon Quaternary Stereocentres”) and Begliola Kaso (“Opening a Window on Plasma Recycling of Polymer Waste”). The presentation event was considered to be a great success; it is planned to host a similar event on an annual basis.

Research Highlight

With support from the Royal Society of Chemistry’s International Year of the Periodic Table fund, Dr Stephen Mansell, an associate professor in ICS, gave a talk on the Periodic Table to RSC members, students and the general public. Along with the lecture, there were magic tricks, ‘Play Your Elements Right’ as well as a wine reception that helped the conversation flow!

Annual PhD Talks

To celebrate the high-level of research conducted in the Institute of Chemical Sciences, we hosted an event where final year PhD students presented their research projects across a range of topics.  The participants were:

  • Samuel Neale (Computational Chemistry),
  • Cathryn Shepherd (Supramolecular Chemistry),
  • Joseph Leng (Dynamics & Structure),
  • Andrew Prentice (Computational Chemistry),
  • Claire Lamb (Organic Chemistry)
  • Kieren Evans (Inorganic Chemistry). 

The event highlighted the high quality of our PhD students and their great ability to disseminate science.

Cathryn Shepherd presenting her talk
Cathryn Shepherd presenting her talk on '1,3,4,2-Dioxazaboroles: a Novel Boron Heterocycle for Applications in Dynamic Covalent Chemistry'.
Claire Lamb accepting her best presentation awards from the Head of the Institute of Chemical Sciences, Professor Martin Paterson.
Claire Lamb accepting her best presentation awards from the Head of the Institute of Chemical Sciences, Professor Martin Paterson.
Sam Neale accepting his best presentation awards from the Head of the Institute of Chemical Sciences, Professor Martin Paterson.
Sam Neale accepting his best presentation awards from the Head of the Institute of Chemical Sciences, Professor Martin Paterson.

Research Highlight

PhD student awarded National Prize: John Tobin, a PhD student in the Institute of Chemical Sciences (ICS), has been jointly awarded the Jon Weaver PhD Prize for 2018. Presented by the Macrogroup UK (Royal Society of Chemistry), this prize is awarded to the top PhD students in the field of Polymer Science throughout the UK who have displayed an outstanding ability across a range of criteria throughout their PhD. Under the supervision of Dr Filipe Vilela, John’s primary research focused on developing polymeric materials for a variety of photocatalytic applications. John will be invited (to be announced) to deliver a prize lecture later this year and will receive a certificate presented by the Macrogroup UK Chairperson.

Research Highlight

RSC Prize Award: Prof. Stuart Macgregor has been awarded the 2019 RSC Ludwig Mond Award 'for computational studies that have changed our understanding of C–H functionalisation, C–F bond activation, and the formation and reactivity of sigma-alkane complexes in the solid state.'  Professor Macgregor’s work uses computer simulations to explore the molecular world, to understand how chemical bonds are broken and formed and how we can control these processes to make better use of our natural resources.  Receiving the award, Professor Macgregor said, "It is hugely satisfying to receive the recognition of the Ludwig Mond Award  especially when considering the calibre of the previous winners. It is also a recognition of the hard work and high standards of my co-workers at Heriot-Watt and our collaborators over many years."

Research Highlight

MChem Day 2019: Thanks to all who took part in a very successful MChem Day on 1st May, where final year student on MChem in house degrees showcased results from their research projects. There were many high quality talks and posters, and the following winners were voted by the students: (in order from top to bottom below) Helen Tunstall-Garcia and Cameron Campbell for the best posters, Rachael Pirie for best talk in session B and Agnieszka Lewandowska, Matthew Westwood and Lisa Harkins have exactly the same number of votes and share the best talk for session A. Well done all!

Research Highlight

Heriot-Watt Chemist wins I’m a Scientist… Molecule Zone: After two weeks of online chats with school students aged 12 to 14 and against competition from volunteer research students, post-doctoral research assistants and academic staff from the other Scottish HEI Chemistry departments, Professor Martin McCoustra has come out top in a national competition sponsored by ScotCHEM; The Molecule Zone (https://moleculem19.imascientist.org.uk/) at I’m a Scientist… (https://imascientist.org.uk/). Speaking afterwards, Professor McCoustra said that engaging directly with students in schools is an important tool for encouraging the next generation of scientists. I’m a Scientist… gives students at school the opportunity to talk to real scientists at all stages of their careers and to find out what motivates them. In a sense, they get to see under the laboratory coat to the person beneath and to see that they too have the potential to pursue science as a rewarding career. As winner of the competition, Professor McCoustra will receive a small prize and has agreed to donate it to the Heriot-Watt University Student Chemical Society to encourage them to pursue their own public engagement activities in the coming year.

Research Highlight

EPSRC Innovation Placement Grant award: Matthew Andrews, a 2nd year CRITICAT CDT student at Heriot-Watt, was awarded an EPSRC Innovation Placement grant to facilitate a 4-month industrial placement with Lubrizol. Lubrizol is a large, multinational corporation which makes ingredients and additives for a wide range of products ranging from medical devices to oil and fuel modifiers, with an approximate revenue of over $6.5 billion. Matthew will be investigating the existing chemistry utilized by the company to determine how efficient their products are and investigate whether the use of catalysis or other conditions can be used to reduce the energy footprint of these processes.

Research Highlight

RSC mobility Grant: Kieren Evans, a 3rd year PhD student working with Dr Stephen Mansell, was awarded a Royal Society of Chemistry Mobility Grant to enable an extended research placement at the University of York. He will be working with Dr Jason Lynam to investigate the photochemistry of tethered carbene ligands bound to transition metals. This project is based on recently published work that was designated a ‘Hot Paper’ in Chemistry – A European journal: K. J. Evans, and S. M. Mansell, Synergic deprotonation generates alkali‐metal salts of tethered fluorenide‐NHC ligands co‐complexed to alkali‐metal amides Chem. – Eur. J., 2019, DOI:10.1002/chem.201806278.