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Professor Philip A Gale MA DPhil DSc (Oxon) FRSC FRACI CChem CSci

Head of Chemistry, Professor of Supramolecular Chemistry

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Professor Phil Gale is Head of Chemistry and Professor of Supramolecular Chemistry at the University of Southampton. His research interests are in the recognition, sensing and lipid bilayer transport of anionic species.

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Philip A. Gale received his BA (Hons) in 1992 and his MA and DPhil in 1995 from the University of Oxford. In 1995, he moved to the University of Texas at Austin where he spent two years as a Fulbright Scholar. In 1997 he was awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship and returned to the Department of Chemistry at Oxford. In 1999 he moved as a Lecturer to the University of Southampton and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2002, Reader in 2005 and to a Personal Chair in Supramolecular Chemistry in 2007. In 2014 he was awarded a Doctor of Science degree by the University of Oxford and was listed by Thomson Reuters as a Highly Cited Researcher in chemistry in both 2014 and 2015. 

Phil's research interests focus on the supramolecular chemistry of anionic species and in particular the molecular recognition, sensing and lipid bilayer transport of anions. Transmembrane anion transporters have potential applications in the development of future treatments for cystic fibrosis and cancer.

He is the author or co-author of over 200 publications including an Oxford Chemistry Primer on Supramolecular Chemistry with Paul Beer and David Smith (1999) and an RSC Monograph in Supramolecular Chemistry entitled Anion Receptor Chemistry with Jonathan Sessler and Won-Seob Cho (2006). He is the co-editor in chief (with Jonathan Steed) of an eight volume reference work published by Wiley entitled Supramolecular Chemistry: from molecules to nanomaterials.

Phil has won a number of research prizes including the RSC 2014 Supramolecular Chemistry Award, a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (2013-2018), the RSC Corday Morgan medal and prize (2005), the Society/Journal of Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines Young Investigator Award (2004) and the Bob Hay Lectureship (2004).

In 2010 he was awarded a JSPS invitation fellowship that he took up at Kyushu University, Japan in 2011. In 2012 he was appointed as a guest Professor by Xiamen University, China (2012-2014), giving the prestigious Tan Kah Kee chemistry lecture there in 2013. He was awarded a University of Canterbury Erskine Visiting Fellowship and spent two months in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2014.

Phil serves as the Chair of Chemical Society Reviews Editorial Board and is a member of the Advisory Board of Chemical Science. He is also the co-editor of the journal Supramolecular Chemistry, and a member of the international editorial advisory boards of Coordination Chemistry Reviews and the Encyclopaedia of Supramolecular Chemistry. 

In 2004 he joined the International Scientific Committee of the International Symposium on Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry (ISMSC) and organised this meeting in the UK in 2011. Phil is also a member of EPSRC College and served on France's ANR Laboratories of Excellence Jury in 2011 and 2012 and the mid-term review in 2015. He was a member of the management group of COST Action CM1005 Supramolecular Chemistry in Water and in 2013 served on the ERC Consolidator Grant Panel (PE05). In 2012 he was elected chair of the RSC Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry Group.

Highly cited




Research interests

Anions are ubiquitous in the Natural world. Chloride anions are present in large quantities in the oceans; nitrate and sulfate are present in acid rain; and carbonates in biomineralised materials. Anthropogenic anions including pertechnetate, a radioactive product of nuclear fuel reprocessing, and phosphate and nitrates from agriculture and other human activities, constitute major pollution hazards. Anions are also critical to the maintenance of life. Indeed, without exaggeration, the recognition, transport or transformation of anions is involved at some level in almost every conceivable biochemical operation. It is essential in the formation of the majority of enzyme–substrate and enzyme–cofactor complexes as well as in the interaction between proteins and RNA or DNA. ATP, phosphocreatine and other high-energy anionic phosphate derivatives, power processes as diverse and important as biosynthesis, molecular transport and muscle contraction while serving as the energy currency for a host of enzymatic transformations. Anion channels and carriers are involved in the transport of small anions such chloride, phosphate and sulfate and thus serve to regulate the flux of key metabolites into and out of cells while maintaining osmotic balance.

Supramolecular chemistry is the area of chemistry involved with the control of molecular interactions to produce useful new devices and molecular assemblies. Our work in molecular recognition involves the design and synthesis of smart molecules for use as receptors or sensors for other ionic (in our group frequently anionic) or molecular species. Design is at the heart of our work – we are frequently inspired by biological systems – but are not limited by them – we ultimately design and make new molecules ourselves that allows us to explore a wide range of molecular geometries and functional groups (and is a lot of fun!). So we can take a molecule from the drawing board through to use as a sensor, selective extraction agent or membrane transport agent for a particular chemical species. A wide range of skills are need to do this including synthesis and also the ability to study how molecules interact with each other using NMR and UV/vis spectroscopies, isothermal titration calorimetry and electrochemistry. Working with the world-leading crystallographers in the school we also study the structure of receptors and complexes in the solid state. Our specific interests are in the structural chemistry, selective recognition and sensing of anionic species. Anions have historically been neglected species in molecular recognition and it has only been since the late 1980s that significant effort has been devoted to the problem of selective anion complexation and recognition.

Research keywords

Supramolecular Chemistry, Anion Receptor Chemistry, Coordination Chemistry, Hydrogen bonding, Membrane Transport.

Research funding

2013 DSTL MOD CDE 28704 Generation after next chemical, biological & radiological hazard mitigation systems. (£85k)

2012-2015 EU Interreg “A-I Chem Channel” D.C. Harrowven, R.C.D. Brown, B. Linclau, R.J. Whitby, R. Raja, E. Stulz, P.A. Gale. £613666.

2012-2015 EPSRC Responsive Mode: “Synthetic Anionophores with Therapeutic Potential – A coordinated two centre approach (£317k to Southampton, P.A Gale (PI)) (£683k to Bristol A.P. Davis (PI) (Bristol) and D.N. Sheppard (Bristol)).

2010-2015 EPSRC UK National Crystallography Service (£3.57m).

2008-2012 EPSRC Project “Selective receptors for the transmembrane transport of bicarbonate (£425k) EPSRC-NSF Collaboration in conjunction with Prof. Jeff Davis (University of Maryland).

2006-2010 EU Marie Curie Transfer of Knowledge Partnership “Food-BioSens” (€95k) Collaborative grant with Prof Jerzy Radecki, Poland.

2006-2009 EPSRC Project studentship “C-Cycle” (£105k)

2006-2009 EPSRC “Supramolecular Approaches to Membrane Co-transport of HCl” (£208k)

Research group(s)

Functional Inorganic, Materials and Supramolecular Chemistry

Research project(s)

Gale: Membrane Transporters for Anions

Gale: Hydrogen bonding receptors for guest binding

Key Publication(s)



  • Anion Receptor Chemistry - Sessler, Jonathan L., Gale, Philip A. and Cho, Won-SeobStoddart, J. Fraser (ed.)
    Published by:
    London, UK
    Monographs in Supramolecular Chemistry
  • Supramolecular chemistry - Beer, Paul D., Gale, Philip A. and Smith, David K.
    Published by:
    Oxford, GB
    Oxford Chemistry Primers, 74

Book Section(s)



Professor Philip A Gale
Chemistry University of Southampton Highfield Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number: 30/4037

Telephone: (023) 8059 3332

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