RSC Prize Winner Visits Edinburgh Campus

On Friday 12 April 2024, the Institute of Chemical Sciences welcomed Prof. Eduardo Peris from the Universitat Jaume I in Spain. Prof. Peris was awarded the 2023 Royal Society of Chemistry Mond-Nyholm Prize for Inorganic Chemistry and gave an excellent seminar on his work demonstrating supramolecular motifs built up from metal-carbene interactions. As this was the last stop on his award tour, Prof. Peris was presented with the Mond-Nyholm medal. Afterwards, there was lots of discussion at an ICS poster session, with a few former-HWU undergraduate students spotted as well!

Chemists develop method to take ‘chemical fingerprint’ from gin samples

Recently, UK national press publications reported on Heriot-Watt University project work undertaken by Drs Ruaraidh McIntosh and Dave Ellis and PhD student Kacper Krakowiak in association with Prof. Dusan Uhrin, University of Edinburgh.  The researchers used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to examine gin samples.  The team put 16 different gins to the test, some they bought from the supermarket and some samples were provided by colleagues at Heriot-Watt’s International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD).

“Gin production has exploded in Scotland and the UK over the past 20 years but compared to Scotch whisky it’s very loosely defined and regulated, and not well researched.  Producers need to know more so that they can ensure they have years of sustainable, flavoursome gin ahead of them.  And consumers and importers need to know that gin is genuine and the quality they’re expecting.”

(Dr Ruaraidh McIntosh, Independent – 5 February 2024)

It is hoped that this research will help producers with quality control and allow regulators to detect fraudulent products.  The findings are reported in the Journal of Brewing and Distilling. []

Spin-out company from ICS wins global innovation prize

Respiratone, a spin-out company co-led by Dr Hendrik Nahler from ICS won the ‘Prototype Development and Viability’ category in the HWU Global Innovation Challenge competition. Ten weeks ago, 530 participants entered this challenge globally and Respiratone, specialising in breath analysis to support weight management and elite endurance athletes, won £4k funding of the £30k funding pot. Dr Hendrik Nahler the CSO of Respiratone persuaded the business panel members of the viability and maturity of the technology. Reliable and quick measurement of trace molecules in exhaled breath that are key indicators of efficient fat metabolism, has the potential to save global health systems huge amounts of treatment costs by supporting weight-loss journeys for obese or type 2 diabetic patients with much greater efficiency. The breath analyser stems from fundamental research in molecular spectroscopy that Dr Nahler conducted with his academic colleagues Dr Eckart Wrede and Dr David Carty (both Durham University), the technology protected by two patents in its core markets. The three co-founders with their CEO Dr Laura Bond thank Heriot-Watt University and Durham University for their continued support. The prize money will be used to engage with stakeholders in the key markets of weight management and sports science, who will have the opportunity to test the device.

Heriot Watt University Success at the Scottish Computational Chemistry Symposium (June 2023)

The Macgregor and Paterson groups attended the Scottish Computational Chemistry Symposium at Glasgow University with Dr Arif Sajjad and PhD student Luca Craciunescu both giving excellent oral presentations. At the poster session Lia Sotorrios was awarded a prize for her poster on her outstanding work on Ru-Zn heterobimetallics (see also Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2022, 61, e202117495; @MacgregorHWU).

ICS PhD Research Day 2023

Thursday 15th June saw the return of the ICS final year PhD talks hosted at the postgraduate centre, 25-minute talks were given by final year PhD students: Sam Patterson (Vilela group), Ben Murphy (Bucknall group), Malcolm Garrow (Townsend group) and Blair Kennedy (Bos group).  The event was open to all and widely attended by the department’s academics and research staff including research associates, PhD researchers and many of the department’s new summer students.  PhD student Dan Ward remarked “it’s a great opportunity to see the range of research going on in the department, even though it’s quite different to my work I think it helps a lot to get fresh ideas for my own work”.  This year’s prize was awarded to Sam Patterson for his work in the formation of visible light degradable polymer beads for efficient dispersion of agrochemicals.  The text for this news article was supplied by Joseph Walker, second year ICS PhD student.

Funding won by ICS PGR Student

During his PhD studies, Emmanouil Broumidis (Manos) has developed a concept for a new planetary ball mill device that can be used for mechanochemical applications.  Manos used £7,000, awarded from the Heriot Watt enterprise fund, to build a working prototype of the device and this outperforms existing devices on the market in most metrics.  In April, Manos's proposal for follow-on funding was accepted (£300k).  The funds will finance a spin-out company whose initial purpose will be to further develop the prototype to a minimum viable product, refine the business model and attract further private investment.

ICS PhD Research Day 2022

The ICS PhD research day returned in person at the postgraduate centre on Thursday the 16 June 2022; 25‑minute talks were given by final year PhD students: Elizabeth Trodden and Paul Morton (Mansell group), Dominic Taylor and Chris Thomson (Vilela group), David Jenkins (McIntosh group), Cameron Campbell (Dalgarno group), Clément Soulié (Paterson group) and David Morgan (Barker group).  The event was attended by a range of academic colleagues, postgraduate researchers and undergraduate students who enjoyed learning about the niche areas of research in the department and talking chemistry with fellow colleagues and students.  Presenter Cameron Campbell remarked, “It’s really cool to see the niche fields colleagues work in - exposure to other areas of chemistry can bring fresh ideas for your own research”.  Prizes were awarded to Dominic Taylor and Chris Thomson for their work using photocatalysts in batch type reactors and flow systems respectively.  The text for this news article was supplied by Joseph Walker, first year ICS PhD student.

I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here…

Dr Graeme Barker participated in the 2022 Molecule Zone which ran from 7 March to 1 April, an initiative funded by ScotCHEM and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Post-event statistics indicate that at least 1,161 students from 30 schools across the UK logged into the Zone. Participation arrangements facilitated a special focus on connecting 14 schools within Scottish university catchment areas with local scientists working in Scotland.  During the Zone, scientists interacted with students by writing 5,974 lines of live Chat, and providing 556 answers to 111 posted questions.

Graeme was the second most active scientist in live chats and the fourth most active scientist in posting answers (out of 32 participants for both live chats and online posts). The questions students sent to the scientists have been analysed and coded into overarching categories - 69% of the questions fell into the category: careers and education. Students vote each week for their favourite scientist to be named 'Scientist of the Week', Graeme was one of four nominated scientists.

Promotional Video Showcases Breath Analyser Equipment

Dr Hendrik Nahler collaborated with colleagues at Durham University to assist in the production of a promotional video to explain the science behind innovative research into designing and developing breath analyser equipment, the potential health benefits, and possible future employment opportunities for the North-East of England.

Watch the video

Breakthrough Technique for Treating Inflammatory Disease

Dr Graeme Barker and Dr Stephen Yarwood (Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering), have been working on a research project with the University of Texas Medical Branch to identify a new way of targeting an enzyme called EPAC1, which is involved in the inflammation process and is responsible for many of the most serious yet common chronic diseases.  Funding awarded from the Scottish Enterprise’s High Growth Spinout Programme is a first step towards establishing a specialist Scottish biotechnology company to develop treatments for chronic inflammatory diseases and fibrosis.  The team has already developed several potential new treatment options that show effectiveness in tackling inflammation at its source. Once they reach the market, these medications are expected to offer advantages over existing medications in both efficacy and safety.

Read the full article.

Another Success on I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here…

Prof. Martin McCoustra repeated his success in winning the Molecule Zone on I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here against stiff competition from a number of universities.  I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here is a well-known national online public engagement activity involving primary and secondary schools across the UK that gives school pupils the opportunity to chat live with active scientists at all stages of their careers from research student to senior academics. Although the competition was held earlier this year in March and April, Prof. McCoustra has only recently received his prizes, a unique coffee cup and a cheque for £500 which he has donated to the undergraduate and postgraduate student chemical societies in EPS with the request that the students use the money to further their own agenda of public engagement activities in the bicentennial year of Chemistry@HWU.

Election to RSC Materials Chemistry Division Council

Jan-Willem Bos, Associate Professor in Energy Materials in the Institute of Chemical Sciences has been elected to the RSC Materials Chemistry Division Council. The Materials Chemistry Division is a grouping within the Royal Society of Chemistry that promotes Materials Chemistry as a key area underpinning many fundamental aspects of science and technology. This prestigious appointment, from June 2021, is for a period of three years.

Read more about the Materials Chemistry Division.