Research Group: Molecular Assembly, Function and Structure

The Molecular Assembly, Function and Structure group is involved with all aspects of the synthesis, characterisation, properties and applications of new molecular and supramolecular compounds and framework materials. The Molecular Assembly Research Group's activities span the underpinning disciplines of organic and inorganic synthesis with research programmes including total synthesis, organometallic chemistry and catalysis, coordination and supramolecular chemistry and the preparation and study of new inorganic framework materials. We apply our skills to assemble and study new compounds for many different applications, including healthcare, fine chemicals, green chemistry, functional materials, electronic materials and devices.

Currently Active: Yes

Group Overview

Our molecular assembly research reflects the diversity of organic and inorganic chemistry with a strong flavour of structure determination and structure/function relationships. Active research programmes within our group are concerned with developing new synthetic methodologies, total synthesis of complex biological molecules, green chemistry and catalysis, new framework materials, coordination, macrocyclic and supramolecular chemistry for a range of applications eg in materials science, healthcare, electronics and sustainable industrial processes.

The ability to establish the composition (identity) and precise structures of the molecules and materials being prepared are key features of our work and often lead to improved understanding of structure/function relationships. Diffraction techniques therefore play a major role within our molecular assembly research, including single crystal and powder X-ray diffraction and neutron diffraction (using the UK national neutron facility at ISIS).

Chemistry also hosts the EPSRC National Crystallographic Service led by Professor Phil Gale and Dr Simon Coles with state-of-the-art ultra-high flux X-ray sources for single crystal structure determination. Time resolved X-ray spectroscopic methods also feature strongly, using the major synchrotron facility in the UK (Diamond Light Source) and abroad (ESRF, SLS etc) and ground-breaking work on the development of X-ray spectroscopic methods to probe in situ reactions and in operando catalysts.

Staff within the section are engaged in important interdisciplinary projects involving academics and industrialists both nationally and internationally, where their skills in preparing, handling, characterising and developing applications of new molecules and materials play key roles. Within the University itself we have strong research links with Electronic and Computer Science, Medicine, Physics and Engineering Sciences.


Selected publications associated with this group from the University of Southampton's electronic library (e-prints):

Key Publications

Li, Zibo, Cai, Hancheng, Hassink, Matthew, Blackman, Melissa L., Brown, Richard C.D., Conti, Peter S. and Fox, Joseph M. (2010) Tetrazine–trans-cyclooctene ligation for the rapid construction of 18F labeled probes. Chemical Communications, 46, (42), 8043-8045. (doi:10.1039/C0cc03078c). (PMID:20862423).
Busschaert, Nathalie, Kirby, Isabelle L., Young, Sarah, Coles, Simon J., Horton, Peter N., Light, Mark E. and Gale, Philip A. (2012) Squaramides as potent transmembrane anion transporters. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 51, (18), 4426-4430. (doi:10.1002/anie.201200729).
Harrowven, David C., Mohamed, Mubina, Gonçalves, Théo P., Whitby, Richard J., Bolien, David and Sneddon, Helen F. (2012) An efficient flow-photochemical synthesis of 5H-furanones leads to an understanding of torquoselectivity in cyclobutenone rearrangements. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 51, (18), 4405-4408. (doi:10.1002/anie.201200281).
de Groot, C.H., Gurnani, Chitra, Hector, Andrew L., Huang, Ruomeng, Jura, Marek, Levason, William and Reid, Gillian (2012) Highly selective chemical vapor deposition of tin diselenide thin films onto patterned substrates via single source diselenoether precursors. Chemistry of Materials, 22, (24), 4442-4449. (doi:10.1021/cm302864x).
Potter, Matthew E., Paterson, Alexander James and Raja, Robert (2012) Transition-metal versus heavy-metal synergy in selective catalytic oxidations. ACS Catalysis, 2, (12), 2446-2451. (doi:10.1021/cs300404u).
Alba, Andrea-Nekane R., Companyó, Xavier, Valero, Guillem, Moyano, Albert and Rios, Ramon (2010) Enantioselective organocatalytic addition of oxazolones to 1,1-bis(phenylsulfonyl)ethylene: a convenient asymmetric synthesis of quaternary alpha-amino acids. Chemistry - A European Journal, 16, (18), 5354-5361. (doi:10.1002/chem.200903025). (PMID:20209524).
Cheng, Fei, Hector, Andrew L., Levason, William, Reid, Gillian, Webster, Michael and Zhang, Wenjian (2009) Germanium(II) dications stabilized by azamacrocycles and crown ethers. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 48, (28), 5152-5154. (doi:10.1002/anie.200901247).
Pinczewska, Aleksandra, Sosna, Maciej, Bloodworth, Sally, Kilburn, Jeremy D. and Bartlett, Philip N. (2012) High-throughput synthesis and electrochemical screening of a library of modified electrodes for NADH oxidation. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 134, (43), 18022-18033. (doi:10.1021/ja307390x).
Whitby, Richard J., Stec, Jozef, Blind, Raymond D., Dixon, Sally, Leesnitzer, Lisa M., Orband-Miller, Lisa A., Williams, Shawn P., Willson, Timothy M., Xu, Robert, Zuercher, William J., Cai, Fang and Ingraham, Holly A. (2011) Small molecule agonists of the orphan nuclear receptors steroidogenic factor-1 (SF-1, NR5A1) and liver receptor homologue-1 (LRH-1, NR5A2). Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 54, (7), 2266-2281. (doi:10.1021/jm1014296).


Members of staff associated with this group:

Research projects

Research projects associated with this group:

Harrowven: Chemistry Without Reagents

Harrowven: Total Synthesis of Toddaquinoline

Brown, R: Solid-Phase Organic Synthesis

Evans: In situ X-ray absorption spectroscopy for materials and catalyst characterisation

Gale: Hydrogen bonding receptors for guest binding

Brown, R: New Antibacterial Compounds Active Against MRSA

Reid: Development and utilisation of sulfimide derivatised macrocyclic systems

Grossel: Supramolecular Approaches to Cryogenic NMR Relaxation Agents

Levason: Coordination Chemistry of Main Group Elements

Stulz: DNA as supramolecular scaffold for porphyrin arrays

Evans: Heterogeneous Catalysis and Surface Organometallic Chemistry

Levason: Chemistry of Bi- and Polydentate Antimony and Bismuth Ligands

Nandhakumar & Whitby: Molecular Electronics and Neural Networks

Reid: Sb- and Bi-Containing Polydentates & Macrocycles

Brown, R: Oxidative Cyclisation: Total Syntheses of Acetogenins

Raja: Sustainable Catalysis for Renewable Energy Applications

High-Throughput Electrochemistry

Harrowven: Synthesis of the Aplysin Family of Natural Products

Stulz: Electronic wires

Whitby: Natural product synthesis using zirconium chemistry

Levason: Coordination Chemistry of Early Transition Metals and Lanthanides

Whitby: Asymmetric Synthesis - Novel chiral transition metal complexes

Reid: Multidentate and macrocyclic organoselenium and -tellurium ligands

Sustainable catalysis for renewable marine energy

Innovative Synthesis, Culture and Entrepreneurship in Chemistry (ISCE-Chem)

Raja: Bioinspired Solid Catalysts for Sustainable Oxidations

Luckhurst: Flexoelectric Behaviour of Liquid Crystal Dimers

Luckhurst: Thermotropic Biaxial Nematic Liquid Crystals

Anti-cancer therapeutics

Rios: Synthesis of Fluorinated Compounds

Harrowven: Total Syntheses of (–)-Colombiasin A and (–)-Elisapterosin B

Reid: Main Group coordination chemistry

Raja: Design Approach in Heterogeneous Organocatalysis

Luckhurst: Field-induced Director Dynamics in Nematics

Tweezer receptors and a combinatorial approach to peptide receptors

Lewis acid mediated cyclisations of methylenecyclopropane derivatives

Harrowven: Total Synthesis

Whitby: Insertion of carbenoids into zirconacycles

Gale: Membrane Transporters for Anions

Brown, R: Asymmetric Phase-Transfer Catalysis

Grossel: New materials for Optoelectronics Applications

Grossel: Biological applications of polymers

Gale: Calix[4]pyrrole: an old yet new ion pair receptor

Levason: Multidentate and Macrocyclic Selenoether and Telluroether Chemistry

Brown, R: Total Synthesis of (–)-Galanthamine

Harrowven: Total Synthesis of Cavicularin and Riccardin C

Bartlett, Hector, Levason and Reid: Phase Change Memory Materials via Non-Aqueous Electrodeposition

Rios: Asymmetric Organocatalytic methodologies

Rios: Synergistic catalysis

Rios: Design of new catalysts

Day: Computer-guided design and discovery of molecular materials

Oxidative Cyclisation: Total Syntheses of Acetogenins

Whitby: Synthesis of Bioactive compounds: Ligands for Nuclear Receptors and Neuroactive amines

Evans: High throughput in situ X-ray absorption spectroscopy for materials characterisation

Light: Automation of Single Crystal Diffraction

Whitby: Invention of new transition metal catalysed reactions

Raja: Hydrogen generation via photocatalytic oxidation of water

Methylenecyclopropane Derivatives

Kitchen:Luminescent surface attached lanthanide complexes: towards new mono-layer sensing devices and smart surfaces

Rios: Organocascade Reactions

Harrowven: Synthesis of Medium-Sized Rings, Biaryls and Triaryls

Grossel: New Crystal Engineering Synthons

Harrowven: Radical Reactions

Gale: Binding, deprotonation and CO2

Evans: Mechanisms of homogeneous catalysis reactions

Harrowven: Synthesis of Combretastatin A-4 and Related Analogues

Harrowven: First Total Synthesis of 1-Desoxyhypnophilin

Raja: Multifunctional hierarchical architectures for biodiesel production

Raja: Engineering Active Sites for Enhancing Catalytic Synergy

Raja: Hybrid catalysts for biomass conversions to selective chemical intermediates

Switchable anion receptors

Supramolecular models for quantification of biological interactions

Rios: Asymmetric Synthesis of Natural Products and Pharmaceuticals

Whitby: Insertion of carbenoids into organozirconocene chlorides

Whitby: Organic synthesis using transition metal chemistry

Reid: Thioether ligand chemistry

Macrobicyclic Receptors

Raja: Renewable marine energy and maritime engineering

Postgraduate opportunities

If you are interested in joining us either to study or to become part of our research team please select the relevant link below for further information.

Funded PhD Opportunities

Current job vacancies at the University of Southampton