Personal profile

Scholarly biography

My interest in chemistry started as a small child when my chemist father brought colour-changing solutions home from his lab. Following a degree from the University of Nottingham, I fled Thatcher’s Britain for Reagan’s America and the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, where I researched the chemistry of azacrown lariat ethers. Since then I have styled myself a ‘supramolecular chemist’ learning such valuable skills as air sensitive techniques and X-ray crystallography (Alabama), multistep organic synthesis (SUNY, Long Island, NY) and computer modelling (University of Reading, UK) before joining the University of Brighton in 1993.

I have been an active researcher ever since, supervising PhD students, collaborating with colleagues worldwide and writing research papers. I am also the author of two books on supramolecular chemistry and numerous reviews. I am a longstanding member of both the American Chemical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry. I am a member of the RSC Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry interest group and served for many years as its Secretary and Treasurer. 

I regularly review research papers, grant applications and book proposals, and act as an External Examiner for DPhil and PhD candidates from the UK (Oxford, Nottingham, Southampton, Bristol, Durham, Bath, Birmingham, UEA, Leeds and Reading), Ireland (Trinity College), France (Lyon 1) and Australia (Flinders).

Approach to teaching

I believe that it is important to demonstrate how fundamental chemical principles underpin both cutting edge research and the solutions to real world problems. I use recent research papers and chemically-related world events to illustrate my lectures – none more so than the “What’s hot in chemistry” first year lectures where I regularly introduce new examples to first year students. I also like to show the relevance of chemistry to other fields which may not appear obvious at first, for example, how changes in Western art can be linked to advances in metal purification. And, of course, I discuss my own research, where relevant, to highlight the link between research and teaching. It is particularly rewarding to use examples where key authors were undergraduate project students.

Research interests

My research interests focus on supramolecular chemistry supported by computational methods. I am fortunate to work in a highly multidisciplinary School where collaborations with biologists and pharmacologists have helped me work effectively at the chemistry-life sciences interface. Research projects have been supported by a range of funders including the EPSRC, Leverhulme Trust (Research Fellowship), EU (INTAS and IRSES), US Army Research Office, Dstl, UK and US industry and charity sectors, and local businesses. In my recent work, computational techniques have been used to understand the controlled release of drugs (vitamin D3, rocuronium bromide, floxuridine), macrocycle-mediated inhibition of Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms and macrocycles involved in Ebola cis-infection inhibition. A combination of theoretical and synthetic chemistry is currently being used to investigate interactions between chemical nerve agents and cyclic compounds such as cyclodextrins and calixarenes. Understanding how the agents bind will hopefully lead to simpler ways to detect them. Another research theme involving understanding intermolecular interactions has led to projects on designing small molecules that disrupt fungal lipid membranes.

Supervisory Interests

PhD applications are welcomed in supramolecular chemistry and molecular recognition, macrocyclic chemistry, computational chemistry, and antifungal chemistry.


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