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Professor David Harrowven BSc, PhD

Professor of Organic Chemistry, Head of Organic Chemistry: Synthesis, Catalysis and Flow

Professor David Harrowven's photo

Professor David C Harrowven is Professor of Organic Chemistry, Head of Organic Chemistry: Synthesis, Catalysis and Flow within Chemistry at the University of Southampton.



David Harrowven was born in Norwich and educated at Sprowston High School and the University of Southampton. He completed his B.Sc. in 1985 then entered the graduate school, pursuing the total synthesis of forskolin under the guidance of Professor Kocienski, FRS (Ph.D., Southampton 1988). A postdoctoral fellowship with Professor Pattenden, FRS at Nottingham was followed by a two-year teaching fellowship at Nottingham. In 1992 David joined the faculty at the University of Wales, Bangor, before returning to Southampton in 1994 as a Lecturer. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2000, Reader in 2002 and Professor of Organic Chemistry in 2005. In January 2008 he became Head of the Synthesis Group before being elected Deputy Head of School for Research (from August 2008 to June 2011).  He currently serves as Head of the Organic Chemistry: Synthesis, Catalysis and Flow Group.

David is the Project Lead for two major EU grants, LabFact ( and SmartT (, supported by the ERDF through their Interreg programme.  Previously he was the UK lead for two further ERDF project, ISCE:Chem and AI:Chem.  He has served as a consultant for PZ Cussons and Aventis and served on the Executive Committee of the EPSRC Grand Challenge Network 'Dial-a-Molecule'.  He is on the Organising Committee of ANORCQ and has been a Visiting Professor at the Universities of Toronto, Rouen and Caen.  

The Harrowven group seeks to develop new methodologies and strategies to facilitate the rapid synthesis of high-value organic molecules, especially those with unusual molecular architectures.  Interests extend to reagent free transformations using synthetic photochemistry, thermal rearrangements, cascade reactions and daisy-chain processes.  Notable recent achievements in the field of natural products total syntheses include the first synthesis of the potent antimicrobial marine natural product chrysophaentin F, and the first synthesis of the macrocyclic bisbibenzyl polymorphatin A with two boat configured aromatic rings in its core structure.  These successes build on past achievements that include syntheses of (–)-colombiasin A, (–)-elisapterosin B, riccardin C, pseudopterosin and cavicularin.

Recent highlights in method development include new procedures to efficiently prepare medium-sized rings through ring expansion; a thermally induced C-H activation for the synthesis of nitrogen heterocycles; and a body of research on the thermal and photochemical rearrangement chemistry of cyclobutenones giving access to a host of fused and spirocyclic ring systems.  The latter includes a curious example of diradical intermediate where a carbon-centred radical can also act as a base or an electrophile via orbital isomers.

BSc, Chemistry with Computer Science, University of Southampton,1985

PhD, University of Southampton, 1989

Leverhulme Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Nottingham, 1988-1990

Teaching Fellow, University of Nottingham, 1990-1992

Lecturer, University of Wales, Bangor, 1992-1994

Senior Lecturer, University of Southampton, 1994-2000

Senior Lecturer, University of Southampton, 2000-2002

Reader, University of Southampton, 2002-2005

Professor of Organic Chemistry, University of Southampton, 2005 onwards


Research interests

Organic synthesis

Natural products total synthesis

Radical and diradical chemistry

Flow chemistry

Chemistry without reagents: photochemistry and thermal chemistry

Boat-configured arenes

Helicenes and condensed aromatics

Cascade reactions, telescoping and daisy-chain sequencing

MPhil/PhD Research

Dr. Wei Sun, PDRA, Transforming chemical synthesis, discovery and manufacture, EPSRC

Dr. Sasikumar Arumugam, PDRA, Functional electronic textiles for light emitting and colour changing applications, EPSRC

Ryan Bennett, New rearrangements of cyclobutenones for the preparation of chemical scaffolds, EPSRC & ERDF

Luke Wilding-Steele, Development of flow photochemical methods for the synthesis of helicenes and benzochromenes, ERDF

Morgan Manning, New photochemical transformations for the synthesis of azocenes, ERDF

Joseph Whetter, Perfecting the properties of optical fibre coatings, with Sam Thompson and Christopher Emslie, EPSRC & Fibercore

William Raimbach, New photochemical transformations for the synthesis of small, medium and large ring systems, EPSRC & ERDF

James Pearce, New transformations using flow electrochemistry, with Philip Parsons and Richard Brown, ERDF & Pareon Chemicals

Ruby West, New scaffolds derived from cyclobutenones, ERDF

Edward Jackman, The synthesis of smart inks, ERDF

Oliver Ward, The synthesis of smart inks, ERDF

External Projects


Research group

Organic Chemistry: Synthesis, Catalysis and Flow

Affiliate research group


Research project(s)


LabFact is a project that involves 6 institutes and one company within the FCE region (CNRS, ENSICAEN, Universities of Caen, Rouen, Sussex and Southampton and Pareon Chemicals), bringing together world experts in flow chemistry and reagentless synthesis. 

David is Head of the Organic Chemistry: Synthesis, Catalysis and Flow group at Southampton

Served on the Executive Committee of the EPSRC Grand Challenge Network 'Dial-a-Molecule'

Has served as a consultant for PZ Cussons and Aventis

A member of the Organising Committee of the ANORCQ conference series

Has been a Visiting Professor at the Universities of Toronto, Rouen and Caen.

PhD Supervision

Dr. Wei Sun, PDRA

Dr. Sasikumar Arumugam, PDRA

Ryan Bennett, PhD student

Luke Wilding-Steele, PhD student

Morgan Manning, PhD student

Joseph Whetter, PhD student

William Raimbach, PhD student

James Pearce, PhD student

Ruby West, PhD student

Edward Jackman, PhD student

Oliver Ward, PhD student

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Key Publications



Module Co-ordinator, Lecturer and Tutor for CHEM1054: Reactions in organic chemistry

Lecturer and Tutor for CHEM3041: Synthetic Methods in Organic Chemistry

Lecturer and Tutor for CHEM6161: Stereoselective Reactions

Tutor for CHEM1032: Fundamentals of Organic Synthesis

Tutor for CHEM2005: Aspects of Organic Synthesis

Project Supervisor for CHEM3012: Chemistry Research Project

Organic Chemistry Assessor for CHEM3048: Advanced Practical Chemistry

Project Supervisor and Assessor for CHEM3050: Chemistry Literature Project

Project Supervisor and Assessor for CHEM6090: Research Project and Dissertation

Tutor and Problem Setter for CHEM8052: Organic Reactions, Mechanisms and Synthesis

Professor David Harrowven
Chemistry University of Southampton Highfield Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number : 30/3037

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