Past Seminars 2015-2016

For a list of events for the current academic year, visit our events page.

Date Seminar Details Host Seminar Category


Heterocycles and Medicinal Chemistry: The Importance of Innovative Synthesis

Abstract: Heterocyclic organic chemistry lies at the heart of modern medicinal chemistry design and synthesis. The lecture will use examples from recent projects at Pfizer to illustrate the importance of novel heterocycle synthesis as a means of accessing target molecules with the properties needed for clinical development

Dr Tony Wood, Senior Vice President for Medicinal Chemistry, Pfizer

Prof Richard Jackson

Departmental Seminar


Safety Lecture

Richard Wilkinson Level 4 Lecture

"You can’t get there from here – where watching paint dry meets the quantum multiverse…

Dr Gareth Crapper (AkzoNobel) will discuss his professional career, and how a series of seemingly chance events have taken him from a (failed) aspiration to be a physicist through to being a research manager in a paint company, majoring in chemistry, but with responsibilities from marine biology to civil engineering.

He will review his career choices, and discuss the “benefits” of a career plan. During this journey he will describe the delights of China in 2001, show how homogeneous Europe looks as an outsider, and how different European regions appear with a local perspective. The American industrial sector will also be discussed to complete the “round-the-world” trip.

Gareth graduated from Leeds (Chemistry) in 1989 and UMIST (Polymer Science) in 1993. Since then he has worked for AkzoNobel in a number of R&D roles from new application processes, to product development and setting up a business area research group.

He is a Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a Professional Graduate of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and participates in the strategy board for both organisations.

The aim of his talk will be to stimulate questions and discussion for students and post-docs who are thinking about their future careers, and to provide insights into what companies look for when hiring and promoting people, as well as highlighting some of the difficult choices with which one can be presented."

Dr Gareth Crapper (AkzoNobel)

Prof Steve Armes

Research Cluster Seminar


Fabrication of polymer supported bilayers as cellular membrane mimics: Vesicle remodelling by hard and soft interfaces

Given their amenability to analytical, imaging and fluidic tools, silica and polymer supported bilayers (SSB and PSB, respectively) obtained by vesicle deposition are sought-after mimics of cellular membranes. Whilst SSB readily form from vesicle adsorption, PSB formation by a similar method remains challenging. By addressing the mechanism of bilayer formation through the combined use of super-resolution imaging, kinetics and simulation, we find rupture of stochastically occurring vesicle clusters is the rate-limiting step. Based on this key insight, I will present the rational design of metastable multi-vesicle assemblies as initiators of bilayer formation on polymer cushions for reconstituting integral membrane proteins.

Dr Suman Peel, University of Bristol

Dr Barbara Ciani  Departmental Seminar

COSHH Lecture

Richard Wilkinson Level 4 and Post Graduate Lecture

Design of Surface Modified TiO2 Photocatalysts

Two of the most significant societal grand challenges we face are in Energy Supply (due to the decline in fossil fuel resources and increased fuel usage) and in CO2 emissions (due to increased fuel usage and with extreme consequences). TiO2 photocatalysts, which use sunlight to generate chemically active electrons and holes that transform water or CO2 into hydrogen or hydrocarbon fuels, have two key challenges: (1) to shift the TiO2 band gap to the visible region, allowing solar energy to be used and (2) enhancing charge separation after photoexcitation. We discuss our modelling work, using density functional theory, on a new mechanism for band gap modification in TiO2: surface modification of TiO2 with metal oxide nanoclusters. Modifying TiO2 with transition metal oxide nanoclusters induces visible light activity, which is achieved by introducing nanocluster derived electronic states above the original TiO2 valence band edge, to shift the VB edge to higher energy. A model of the photoexcited state confirms the band gap reduction which is controlled by the coverage of transition metal oxide nanoclusters. A range of metal oxide nanoclusters including TiO2, tin oxides, lead oxides, ZnO and CuO have been investigated and the mechanisms of band gap modification elucidated. Simple rules for modifying TiO2 to induce visible light absorption are presented. We show that our models can predict the fate of photoexcited holes and electrons and that the presence of low coordinated atoms is crucial. Experimental work from world-wide collaborators has confirmed the results of the simulations.
The photocatalyst materials we have developed mark a significant advance in this field providing a new pathway to photocatalyst development using widely available and safe materials. The ability to operate under visible light and to be sufficiently reactive to activate water and CO2 has been shown, so that this photocatalyst concept results in cutting edge materials in addressing the energy supply and emissions challenges we face into the near future.

Dr Natalia Martsinovich Research Cluster Seminar

De novo design of peptide ligands for metal ions – from MRI contrast agents to DNA-binding proteins

We are interested in generating novel (xeno)metal peptide complexes which combine the best of biology and non-biological inorganic chemistry, into a single assembly. This talk will feature examples from two different approaches. The first will focus on the de novo design of peptide sequences that are programmed to spontaneously assemble into a miniature protein fold, and their complexation with lanthanide ions, for potential applications in medical imaging. Our second approach instead “borrows” short peptide sequences, e.g. capable of sequence-selective DNA binding, and couples these to non-biological components with attractive chemical properties, allowing us to control the DNA binding event.

Dr Anna Peacock, University of Birmingham

Prof Nick Williams

Departmental Seminar


ChemSoc Presidential Lecture

Prof Jim Thomas

Prof Jim Thomas ChemSoc


Safety Lecture and Discussion: Experimenting with Danger

Following three very serious accidents that occurred in US university chemical laboratories, the US Chemical Safety Board produced a report in the form of a video. Although safety legislation and practices differ between the UK and the US, this report provides important lessons on safety for anyone working or managing work within a research laboratory. We will view the video and then have a short discussion on the implications for our working practices in Sheffield. All students and staff working within research laboratories are encouraged to attend and give their input to the discussion.

Prof Richard Jackson

Prof Richard Jackson Departmental Seminar

Fireworks and Waterworks

Dr Andrew Szydlo

Sponsored by GPE, who are exhibiting in the Dainton building main entrance between 9am and 4 pm.

Matthew Foulkes ChemSoc Lecture

 Advance. Materially.

Richard will talk briefly about how he came to be Head of Technology for the “most admired chemical company in Europe,” a chemical company no-one has heard of. He’ll talk about what (he thinks) he knows now, but certainly wished he knew when he was completing his PhD, and he’ll be open to any and all questions regarding his experiences to date. Richard will also discuss Victrex plc, and how polymer and material science is at the core of its Product Leadership Strategy to Innovate Quickly, Loudly and Repeatedly to Create and Deliver Value. Richard is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and has broad industrial management and technical leadership experience, working in the field of high performance polymers both in the UK and overseas.

 Prof. Steven P. Armes, FRS CDT Industrial Seminar

Functionalising amyloid fibrils

Amyloid fibrils are highly organised fibrous structures formed by a range of different amyloidogenic peptides. Although they are infamous for their involvement in a range of diseases including Alzheimer's didease, we are aiming to exploit their high tensile strength and ordered architecture to generate functional materials.

Prof Louise Serpell, University of Sussex

 Dr. Sarah S. Staniland Departmental Seminar

Biomodification of electrode surfaces for enzymatic fuel and biosolar cells and fundamental studies in bioenergy

Our aim is to develop novel electrode materials, including nanoparticles, that interact directly with redox enzymes, cell membranes or whole bacteria. This technology either serves as a platform for the development of diagnostics/biosensors and fuel cells or to study the catalytic mechanism of redox-active membrane proteins.

Dr Lars Jeuken, University of Leeds

 Departmental Seminar

ChemSoc Careers event

Matthew Foulkes ChemSoc Event

How to give a (Level-4 project) talk

Dr. Lance J. Twyman Level 4 Lecture

 Birthday Symposium in honour of Professor Charles Stirling FRS

Prof. Michael D. Ward Chemistry Special Symposium

Being True to Yourself and Why Variety is the Spice of Life in Industrial Research

In this presentation I will discuss my career to date and explain why being true to yourself is important. Industrial research is an interesting environment and poses different technical challenges to what you’re exposed to during your undergraduate and post graduate studies. During the last 17 years I have worked within the research groups of two international companies and have been exposed to and worked on lots of technologies and processes. The blessing of fire came when I started my first industrial job and realised that most of the controlled polymerisation chemistry I had worked on during my PhD was pretty useless in the industry I was working within. This made for an interesting start to my career but taught me plenty about industrial research. I always look for new challenges and one of the most fruitful activities has been taking my own processes from initial concept to full scale manufacturing facilities. Having a thorough understanding of how manufacturing facilities operate gives you an insightful technical edge when developing new products. Unfortunately, precipitation isn’t a widely recognised industrial method of purifying your polymer – it is OK with 10 g in the PhD research lab but not on a 20 metric tonne batch of product.

Dr Carl Waterson, Innospec Inc.

Dr Joe Gaunt CDT Industrial Seminar

RSC John B Goodenough Award Lecture
100 years on. Farewell, experimental crystallography?

2016 is the centenary of the discovery of powder diffraction. This talk, which focuses on a single material, considers the power and scope of the technique and reflects on the future reach of experimental crystallography.

Lithium borohydride is a very interesting compound. Initially studied as a potential hydrogen storage material, it is also under consideration as a solid electrolyte in lithium batteries. In terms of crystal structure, the first issue of note is the case of a mistaken high-temperature hexagonal space group where the development of superionic behaviour above a 108 ̊C structural phase transition is associated with the introduction of order.

The low-temperature orthorhombic crystal structure, however, turns out to be even more of a puzzle. While initially appearing to be straightforward, quite different results are obtained from Rietveld and pair-distribution-function (PDF) analyses of the same low-temperature powder diffraction data. Rietveld analysis reveals subtle structure details that suggest a highly regular crystalline material while interpretation of the pair distribution function indicates that long-range order does not exist even at low temperatures.

Our detailed density functional molecular dynamics computational studies have resolved this conundrum and give a far more detailed insight into the structural behaviour of this material than is available from our experimental diffraction measurements. This leaves us with a third enigma. Although lithium borohydride is a very simple material, the superior insights afforded by the DFT-MD computational studies invite the question of whether, or indeed when, in the next 100 years the balance between computational and experimental structural measurements will shift irrevocably to the computational.

Prof Bill David, Oxford University

Prof Lee Brammer Departmental Seminar

Trapped in imidazole – how to accumulate multiple photoelectrons on a black-absorbing ru-dye

The charge transfer reaction mechanism in Ruthenium polypyridine complexes used for solar-energy conversion are studied by combining UV-Vis absorption, resonance Raman spectroscopy, time-resolved transient absorption spectroscopy and electrochemical methods. This combination of methods in concert with quantum chemistry calculations allow detailed insights into the structural and electronic properties of electronic intermediates, which might be of functional importance in the overall solar-energy conversion achieved by the transition metal complexes investigated.

In this study light induced excitation has been mimicked by electrochemical reduction and the intermediate redox state has been characterized spectroscopically. In particular we focus on systems baring an imidazole ligand coordinated to the Ru-ion, which – due to their unusually red-shifted absorption – present promising candidates for sensitizers in dye-sensitized solar cells. The spectroelectrochemical approach used deciphers the structure of the Ru complexes upon photoinduced charge accumulation.

In a second part of the presentation recent work is discussed that relates to the use of Ru(II)-polypyridine complexes as photo-activated anti-cancer drugs. We will discuss the sub-ns photophysics of well established benchmark dyes incorporating dppz-derived ligands in complex environments. This work will ultimately relate to investigations of ultrafast processes in transition metal complexes in complex biological environments.

Prof Benjamin Dietzek, University of Jena

Prof Julia Weinstein Departmental Seminar

How to write a (Level 4 Project) Thesis

Dr Lance Twyman Level 4 Lecture

Journey to the Centre of the Atom

Everything around us is made up of atoms. As you read these words, the atoms making up the text are interacting with light so that the atoms making up your eyes can detect them. But just what secrets does the atom hold? Who first came up with the idea of the atom? If a model of the atom is the universal symbol of science, why do we use the wrong model? And just what do cheese, plum pudding and raspberries have to do with nuclear physics? To find out, join Dr Tom Anderson for this public lecture with some colourful practical demonstrations.

Dr Tom Anderson, Department of Chemistry, University of Sheffield

Dr Tom Anderson Science Week Event

Catalytic Activation of Renewables to Prepare Sequence-Selective Polymers or Fuels

The potential to use catalysis to activate non-fossil resources, including carbon dioxide or plant derivatives, to produce useful commodities, such as polymers or alcohols is the lecture theme. In the first part, new polymerization catalysis, based on homogeneous metal complexes, will be described. These catalysts are active for both ring-opening polymerizations of lactones and the ring-opening copolymerizations of epoxides/heterocumulenes. The catalysts can be made to 'switch' between the different polymerization cycles (mecnanisms) using external stimuli; this enables them to 'select' particular copolymer sequences from mixtures of monomers. The key features underpinning the catalytic selectivity (kinetic vs. thermodynamic) are explored and the potential for the multi-block copolymer material is outlined. In the second part, the development of new colloidal nanoparticle catalysts, based on zinc ocide and copper, which show good activity and selectivity for the hydrogenation of carbon dioxide to methanol are highlighted.

Professor Charlotte Williams,
Imperial College London

Prof Mike Ward Departmental Seminar

RSC Chemical Award Lecture

What can we learn by bouncing gas-phase molecules off liquid surfaces.

Collisions at the gas-liquid interface are crucial in many real-world applications, but their mechanisms remain largely unexplored. Techniques originally developed for elementary gas-phasecollisions are now being applied to the gas-liquid interface, shedding new light on the underlying mechanisms and providing a potential new probe of liquid-surface structure.

Prof. Ken McKendrick (This year's recipient of the RSC Chemical Dynamics Award)

Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh

Dr Anthony Meijer Departmental Seminar


Dr. Parker will be speaking about the chemistry involved in the flavours of various foods and drinks. The lecture promises to be interesting for undergraduates, postgraduates and staff alike.

Dr. Jane Parker

University of Reading

This lecture is kindly sponsored by VWR International, and will be followed by a drinks and nibbles reception.

Matt Foulkes ChemSoc Guest Lectures

Structure elucidation using IRMPD spectroscopy

This talk will discuss the use of Infra Red Multi-Photon Dissociation Spectroscopy in the elucidation of the structure of molecules in the gas-phase.

Dr. Mathias Schaefer
Department of Organic Chemistry
University of Cologne

Dr Anthony Meijer Theory and Spectroscopy cluster Seminar

Synthetic Chemistry and Modern Cancer Drug Discovery

This talk will illustrate the role of synthetic organic chemistry in cancer drug discovery starting with an example of how important
synthesis remains in drug discovery and then exploring the design and synthesis of inhibitors of the molecular chaperone family of proteins. The problems that need to be addressed will be discussed and examples of success and failure will be presented.

Professor Keith Jones
CRUK Cancer Therapeutics Unit
The Institute of Cancer Research

Prof Iain Coldham Departmental Seminar

Radical pair recombination reactions and avian magnetoreception

This wide-ranging talk deals with semi-classical spin dynamics and its application to various problems related to how birds use the Earths magnetic field to navigate.

Professor David Manolopoulos FRS

Oxford University

Prof Patrick W Fowler FRS Departmental Seminar

Exploiting conformational change: from molecular balances to transmembrane machines

Conformational change is a central theme within the Cockroft group. Much of the talk will illustrate how synthetic two-state folding molecules known as molecular balances can be used to quantify difficult-to-study non-covalent interactions including van der Waals dispersion forces, hydrogen-bonded cooperativity, isotope effects, and solvent effects. Moving away from equilibrium systems, the final part of the talk will introduce our early investigations into the development of transmembrane molecular machines that share many characteristics biological transmembrane pumps. I will show how DNA, a transmembrane protein pore and enzymes can be assembled into biosupramolecular devices that turn over a chemical fuels to drive repeated cycles of nanomechanical motion across a membrane.

Dr Scott Cockroft

University of Edinburgh

Prof Jane Grasby Chemical Biology Research Cluster seminar

Conformationally Constrained Molecules as Communication Devices: Building a Membrane-Bound Receptor from Scratch

Professor Jonathan Clayden

University of Bristol

Dr Lance Twyman Research Seminar

‘Chemoenzymatic Natural Product Synthesis’

Professor Jörg Pietruszka
Institute for Biooorganic Chemistry, University of Düsseldorf

Prof Richard Jackson Research Seminar
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For a list of previous seminars from the 2016/2017 acadmeic year, click here.