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Poster Prize: Jonathan MannouchPoster Prize: Jonathan Mannouch

Jonathan Mannouch, a member of Cohort 1, won a prize for his poster presentation: "Exciton Relaxation Dynamics in TT-Conjugated Polymer Systems" at the annual graduate student meeting of the RSC Theoretical Chemistry Group, which was held on 10th May 2017, in Southampton.

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Oxford Sparks Animation for ChemistryOxford Sparks Animation for Chemistry

Working with Holly Reeve and Kylie Vincent, Oxford Sparks have created a new Youtube video titled "What can Chemists learn from nature?". The animation highlights that nature is full of chemicals – flavours, fragrances, medicines. Living systems have been making these useful chemicals for billions of years, but usually only tiny quantities, because that’s all they need! In this animation we find out how chemists are learning from nature to create these chemicals in much larger quantities, to satisfy our industrial needs.

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RSC 2017 Dalton Emerging ResearcherRSC 2017 Dalton Emerging Researcher

Dr Alexander Hinz, currently a post-doc in the group of Professor Jose Goicoechea, was selected as the 2017 RSC Dalton Emerging Researcher for contributions to low-valent main group chemistry, specifically in the fields of p-block biradicaloids and multiply-bonded compounds of the group 15 elements.

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RSC 2017 Corday-Morgan Prize RSC 2017 Corday-Morgan Prize

Professor Andrew Goodwin is the RSC Corday-Morgan Prize winner for 2017. This is awarded for the most meritorious contributions to chemistry. Professor Goodwin’s work focuses on a range of useful materials, including artificial muscles, pharmaceuticals, new types of magnets, and solids that can convert waste heat into electricity. On receiving the prize, he said: “I am at once both thrilled and humbled to receive such a prestigious award from the RSC.”

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Congratulations Carol Robinson!Congratulations Carol Robinson!

Dr Lee’s Professor of Physical Chemistry, Dame Professor Carol Robinson has been elected as a Foreign Associate (Member) of the National Academy of Sciences. This is a tremendous honour recognising the outstanding scientific contributions made by Carol, her group and co-workers.

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2017 Malcolm Green Lecture; Jean-Pierre Sauvage2017 Malcolm Green Lecture; Jean-Pierre Sauvage

Jean-Pierre Sauvage (University of Strasbourg) delivered the 2017 Malcolm Green Lecture on Friday the 21st of April in the ICL lecture theatre. His lecture, “From Chemical Topology to Molecular Machines”, highlighted his seminal contributions to the design and synthesis of molecular machines for which he was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

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On the Cover of Nature ChemistryOn the Cover of Nature Chemistry

Research developed by a team led by Hagan Bayley and Dek Woolfson (University of Bristol) has been featured on the cover of Nature Chemistry. The cover image shows a synthetic transmembrane pore — formed by the self-assembly of alpha-helical peptides. Cell membranes are a crucial component of biological systems and they fulfil a variety of essential roles, including the compartmentalization of chemical reactions as well as enabling the formation of concentration gradients. Molecules and ions, acting as chemical signals, must be transported across cell membranes to mediate a range of cellular functions. The cover article and others in the May issue of the journal discuss artificial methods for transporting chemical information across lipid bilayers.

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BCA Poster Prizes for Laura and JamesBCA Poster Prizes for Laura and James

Congratulations to Part II students Laura Fenwick and James Walker who both won poster prizes awarded by the Chemical Crystallography Group of the British Crystallographic Association at the Annual Spring Meeting in Lancaster. Laura’s poster “Measuring and controlling dissolution rates of pharmaceutical materials by co-crystal formation” reported dissolution rate studies of tablets of pure paracetamol and co-crystalline forms, and shows a significant increase in dissolution rate of the active ingredient for certain formulations. James’ poster “Co-crystal or salt? Studying partial proton transfer in a series of molecular materials” reported several crystalline materials which exhibit transfer of a single proton between a significant fraction of the molecular pairs, resulting in a crystal on the borderline between co-crystal and salt.

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Oxford student creates a synthetic retina Oxford student creates a synthetic retina

Soft materials and proteins hold out hope for retinal disease. Vanessa Restrepo-Schild DPhil in the Bayley group has created a synthetic retina that can detect grey-scale images and moving objects. The tissues are made of a 4x4 gel-array with artificial cells that have a special kind of proteins capable of detecting light. The ground-breaking invention of the “synthetic retina” is published in the journal Scientific Reports

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MPLS Division Thesis CommendationMPLS Division Thesis Commendation

Lukas Pfeifer, a DPhil student from Véronique Gouverneur’s group, has been awarded a commendation by the MPLS division for his thesis entitled “New Methods and Reagents for Carbon–Fluorine Bond Formation”. After completing his undergraduate studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität in Munich he started his DPhil in 2013. His major contribution in Oxford was an extensive study into the effects of hydrogen bonding to fluoride anion particularly regarding its reactivity as a nucleophile. Over the course of his DPhil studies Lukas contributed to nine publications in peer-reviewed journals and presented his work in oral as well as poster presentations at several conferences. He is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher in Prof. Ben Feringa’s group at the University of Groningen.

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First prize for Allegra Franchino at the 28th SCI Regional Postgraduate Symposium on Novel Organic ChemistryFirst prize for Allegra Franchino at the 28th SCI Regional Postgraduate Symposium on Novel Organic Chemistry

Allegra Franchino, a Marie Curie PhD student (OxIOSCR project) in the Dixon group, has been awarded the first prize for her talk on “asymmetric catalysis for the activation of functionalised isonitriles” at the 28th SCI Regional Postgraduate Symposium on Novel Organic Chemistry. In the competition, that took place at the University of Bath on 5th April, selected final year organic chemistry PhD students from English universities presented their work.

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Two-dimensional melting of hard spheres experimentally unravelled after 60 yearsTwo-dimensional melting of hard spheres experimentally unravelled after 60 years

Researchers from the Dullens group at the University of Oxford (UK) have experimentally elucidated how the melting of a two-dimensional solid of hard spheres occurs. In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, they resolve one of the most fundamentally important but still outstanding issues in condensed matter science. In addition, these results provide the cornerstone for the further understanding and development of two-dimensional materials. The melting of a solid into a liquid is one of the most commonly experienced scientific phenomena. However, understanding this transformation is especially mysterious for solids in two-dimensions. Here, the celebrated Kosterlitz-Thouless-Halperin-Nelson-Young (KTHNY) theory proposes that an intermediate, partially disordered, ‘hexatic’ state exists between the solid and liquid. Substantial effort has been made towards the understanding of these ‘topological’ phase transitions, for which Kosterlitz and Thouless were awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics. Yet for the simplest interacting, many-body system in two-dimensions, hard disks, there has been an astonishing lack of consensus despite the first simulations being performed over 60 years ago. The researchers used video microscopy to study monolayers of colloidal model hard spheres tilted by a small angle to introduce a gradient in the particle concentration. For hard spheres, the phase behaviour is governed only by this concentration, which allowed them to identify and characterize the liquid, hexatic, and solid phases and the nature of the phase transitions in a single experiment. The results show that the melting occurs via a continuous solid-hexatic transition followed by a first order hexatic-liquid transition. Figure: The interface between the liquid (top) and hexatic (bottom) phases.

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Poster Prize at the RSC Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson Dalton Poster SymposiumPoster Prize at the RSC Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson Dalton Poster Symposium

Dr Timothy Barendt, a Junior Research Fellow in The Beer Group, was awarded a prize for his poster on “Anion recognition and sensing by [3]rotaxane molecular machines” at the RSC Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson Dalton Poster Symposium on 27th March 2017. Held at Burlington House in London, the symposium provides an opportunity for young inorganic chemists to present posters to their peers and senior representatives from industry and academia, with prize-winners also giving an oral presentation at the end of the day. Tim’s research interests include investigating molecular motion in interlocked rotaxane and catenane molecular architectures.

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Izatt-Christensen Prize for Macrocyclic ChemistryIzatt-Christensen Prize for Macrocyclic Chemistry

Prof. Harry L. Anderson is the 2017 winner of the Izatt-Christensen Prize. This international prize is awarded annually for work in the field of macrocyclic chemistry. He will be presented with the award during the International Symposium on Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry in Cambridge UK, 2-6 July 2017.

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2017 Blaise Pascal Medal in Chemistry2017 Blaise Pascal Medal in Chemistry

Professor Mike Mingos has been awarded the 2017 Blaise Pascal Medal for Chemistry by the European Academy of Sciences. This was awarded for recognition of outstanding and demonstrated personal contributions to science and technology and to the promotion of excellence in research and education. The award also invites Professor Mike Mingos to be a Fellow of the European Academy of Sciences.

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Women in Science SeriesWomen in Science Series

Professor Angela Russell is currently featured on Oxford ScienceBlog’s Women in Science series. She was interviewed about her career in science and entrepreneurship as part of International Women in Science Day 2017. As Associate Professor of Organic Chemistry, a mother of two and one of Oxford University’s most successful entrepreneurs, developing both the spinout companies MuOx and OxStem, Professor Angela Russell wears many hats.

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RSC/SCI Retrosynthesis Competition 2017: 3rd PrizeRSC/SCI Retrosynthesis Competition 2017: 3rd Prize

Jonathan Golec, Jessica Reynolds, Richard Surgenor and Jimmy Wang won the 3rd prize at the 4th National Retrosynthesis Competition 2017. The 1st year SBM CDT students presented their route to Eucalrobusone D in London last Friday. Ten teams were selected to enter the final after a first round of planning a retrosynthesis of Acosmine.

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RSC Poster Book Prize: Advances in Drug Discovery 2017RSC Poster Book Prize: Advances in Drug Discovery 2017

Congratulations to Moses Moustakim (3rd SBM CDT student) for winning a prize for his poster entitled ‘Discovery of a PCAF Bromodomain Chemical Probe’. This prize was awarded at the Advances in Drug Discovery conference on 7th March at the Wellcome Genome Campus, Cambridge. Moses is a student in Paul Brennan and Darren Dixon’s research groups.

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MPLS Division Thesis CommendationMPLS Division Thesis Commendation

DPhil student Martine Abboud, St John’s College, has been awarded a thesis commendation from the MPLS Division. Her work focused on the use of a wide range of ligand-observe and protein-observe NMR techniques, and other biophysical methods, to study two general classes of enzymes – the 2-oxoglutarate-dependent dioxygenases and metallo-β-lactamases (MBLs) which are involved in the hypoxic response and antimicrobial resistance, respectively. Her work provided interesting information about the substrate selectivity of the PHD and mechanistic insights into the MBLs. Martine completed her undergraduate studies at the Lebanese American University, Lebanon, where she received the President’s Award for academic excellence and leadership skills. In Nov 2013, she came to Oxford as Sir Hans Krebs Memorial Scholar, Biochemical Society. She has undertaken her DPhil research in the Chemistry Research Laboratory under the supervision and the guidance of Prof Christopher Schofield and Prof Timothy Claridge. The quality of her work was recognised at the departmental level; she was awarded a Pfizer-sponsored award in the DPhil Poster Symposium in 2015. Her work to date has been presented at several international conferences and described in 11 publications in peer-reviewed journals.

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Nature Chemistry PaperNature Chemistry Paper

A new catalyst for hydro-deoxygenation of biomass derived molecules to compounds of higher energy content based on Co atom doped single molecular layer MoS2 without any loss of sulphur in H2 is shown by Tsang group in collaboration with Oxford Materials. Leo Liu, Alex Robertson and Molly Li led to the development of this active but stable catalyst at elevated temperature.

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Susan Perkin's research picked as Editors's Suggestion in PRLSusan Perkin's research picked as Editors's Suggestion in PRL

Packing of big and small particles into confined space, such as packing of oranges and apples together in a box, undergoes a sharp transition in packing repeat distance when the fraction of big and small particles crosses a threshold. Recent experiments reported in Physical Review Letters demonstrate that this is also the case for big and small molecules confined to thin films. The observation has implications for controlling interactions involving thin films from electrochemical energy storage to lubrication.

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Highly commendedHighly commended

Congratulations to Miss Nichabhat Diteepeng (DPhil student, Mountford group) for receiving a Highly Commended award in the area of Pure Science for her research lecture at the recent 9th Samaggi Academic Conference, Imperial College London run by The UK Thai Association. The title of the lecture was Alkaline Earth Organohydroborate Complexes for the Ring-Opening Polymerisation of rac-Lactide­­.

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5,000 reasons to celebrate Act on Acceptance at Oxford5,000 reasons to celebrate Act on Acceptance at Oxford

2,400 researchers across the University have uploaded their new accepted manuscripts to Oxford's institutional repository ORA since April 2016. The 5,000th article processed by the ORA team was a paper by Yunqing Zhu and Professor Charlotte Williams from the Department of Chemistry. Entitled 'Sustainable polymers from renewable resources', it was published in Nature in December 2016. In accordance with publisher permissions the ORA copy will be made freely available to all 6 months after publication through the ORA record (which also links to the published version which can be read now by those with institutional or individual subscription access). In order to be eligible for the next REF, journal articles accepted since 1 April 2016 must be deposited in an open access repository within 3 months of acceptance.

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UBC International Visiting Research ScholarsUBC International Visiting Research Scholars

Veronique was selected as one of the International Visiting Research Scholars by the Peter Wall Institute of Advances Studies. The scheme aims at bringing some of the world’s best scholars to the University of British Columbia. The Institute's goal is to stimulate creative, innovative research in a highly collaborative environment at UBC where the scholars have sustained opportunity to exchange ideas with national and international scholars, develop new thinking and engage in intellectual risk-taking. Past awardee from the department includes Professor Andrew Weller who was elected in 2013.

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Honorary Doctorate for Professor Paul BeerHonorary Doctorate for Professor Paul Beer

A ceremony was held at the University of Murcia, Spain, on Friday 27th January to confer an honorary doctorate on Paul Beer. Over the past three decades, research in the Beer group has made major contributions to the field of host-guest chemistry, which adds to the fundamental knowledge of how one molecule recognises and interacts with another. This understanding enables the production of molecular devices, sensors and switches that promise to make significant long-term impacts in environmental monitoring, personalised healthcare and diagnostic medicine.

Professor Beer thanked his hosts in Murcia, saying “I am grateful for the academic friendships that transcend borders and distances, for the friendships that allow us jointly to explore the world in which we live, and for the friendships that enable us to share together in our successes.”

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Nature Chemistry PaperNature Chemistry Paper

A catalytic enantioselective route to BINOLs from Martin Smith’s group is published in Nature Chemistry this week. Work from John Jolliffe and Roly Armstrong led to the development of a dynamic kinetic resolution approach that affords these valuable compounds with high levels of efficiency and selectivity.

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 Novartis Chemistry Lectureship 2016–2017 Novartis Chemistry Lectureship 2016–2017

Professor Darren J Dixon has been awarded the 2016-2017 Novartis Chemistry Lectureship. The Lectureship is awarded to recognize outstanding research in the areas of organic and computational chemistry, including applications to biology. As part of the Lectureship Dixon will travel to and present lectures at Novartis Research Institutes in Basel, Switzerland, Cambridge, US and Emeryville, US.

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Highlighting innovation at OxfordHighlighting innovation at Oxford

Broadcast on 13th January, Professor Angela Russell was interviewed for regional news programme BBC South Today. Co-founded by Prof. Steve Davies and Prof. Angela Russell, Oxford spin-out OxStem Ltd was highlighted as a major success story for Oxford University Innovation (“OUI”), the University of Oxford’s technology transfer office. OUI celebrated a record-breaking year in 2016 facilitating 24 spin-out companies representing £52.6m of investment; five of the 24 new spin-outs were OxStem companies, amounting to £16.9m of the total investment into the University

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Novel antibiotics from Oxford Chemistry Spin OutNovel antibiotics from Oxford Chemistry Spin Out

The US Center for Disease control reported on Jan 13th the death of a woman who died from a bacterial infection "resistant to all available antimicrobial drugs". Such a high level of resistance is currently, thankfully, rare; however, the increase in infections resistant to multiple drugs is no longer uncommon and a major and growing concern.

Bacterial resistance mechanisms, such as the New Dehli Metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM) present in the reported bacterial infection, can easily spread through a population and tend to confer resistance to multiple drugs of the same class. Thus, while new variants on existing drugs are useful, they can suffer from rapid emergence of resistance.

InhibOx the spin-out from Oxford University Chemistry Department has antibacterial drug discovery programmes which are focused exclusively on novel mechanisms of action. Drugs using these novel mechanisms are expected to be effective against bacteria resistant to existing drug classes, and indeed, InhibOx’s patented lead compound is effective against bacteria containing the NDM resistance mechanism.

Prof. Graham Richards, InhibOx Chairman said: "We are applying our unique computational chemistry technology to the design of new antibiotics to treat the most serious infections. The early results are promising, and if successful would deliver a new class of antibiotics and make a very valuable contribution to address the drug resistance crisis”.

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Two Nature papers published this week from Dame Carol Robinson's groupTwo Nature papers published this week from Dame Carol Robinson's group

Nature’s glue holds proteins in place for key functions. Fascinating structures of membrane proteins are emerging, and each one is being admired scientists for the intricacy of its construction. Meanwhile, the roles of much smaller molecules hidden within are now starting to gain a little attention.

In the first of two papers in this week’s journal Nature doi:10.1038/nature20820, Professor Carol Robinson and her group explore their hypothesis that weak protein interactions require an additional ‘glue’ to connect them. Research, led by Dr. Kallol Gupta, a Fellow of the 1851 Royal Commission, took on a systematic database search of all alpha helical membrane proteins that form assemblies. “I wasn’t sure where this was going initially; I was concerned that it might not lead anywhere” Robinson says.

But soon the unexpected link they had hoped for began to emerge: more lipid (fats) were needed when the strength of attraction was weak. In other words, if proteins can’t stick together on their own—lipids will help cement their interactions. These findings have important consequences: they explain how membrane proteins involved in key cellular processes—including alcholism, touch, sensation and pain—come together, often fleetingly, to form functional units.

In the second paper (doi:10.1038/nature20828), Robinson’s group contributed to defining proteins in microorganisms that populate the large intestine. This was as part of a wider collaboration, led by Professor Bert van den Berg and researchers at Newcastle University. Structures of two nutrient import proteins on the cell surface were solved using crystallography and were shown to function with a mechanism like a pedal bin, with SusC forming the bin and SusD the lid. After capture, the lid closes and the small molecule moves into the bin for transport into the cell. Robinson’s team applied mass spectrometry to define the number of interacting units and to expose the presence of small molecules, this time hidden within the bin.

Together, these papers set the stage for applying mass spectrometry to inform drug design for receptors on the surfaces of human cells, and for the microbiome in the gut—targets linked to addiction, anxiety, obesity and cancer.

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