Four Oxford University chemists awarded Royal Society of Chemistry prizes

Four Oxford University chemists awarded Royal Society of Chemistry prizes

Four chemists from the University of Oxford have won prizes from the Royal Society of Chemistry this year, in recognition of brilliance in research and innovation. The awards are among the oldest and most prestigious research prizes in the world, having recognised excellence in the chemical sciences for more than 150 years.

Professor Stephen Faulkner, Head of the Department of Chemistry, said:

We are thrilled that the research of our academics has been recognised today with these prestigious awards from the Royal Society of Chemistry. Congratulations to all four winners, whose work spans the breadth of chemical research: from medicinal chemistry and molecular engineering, to green chemistry and materials development. As well as recognising our academics’ ground-breaking work, today’s awards stand as a testament to the inspiring work that so many people do in our Department’s laboratories throughout the year.

Professor Harry Anderson, from Oxford University’s Department of Chemistry, has received the Pedler Prize which is awarded for outstanding contributions to the chemical sciences in the area of organic chemistry.

Professor Anderson’s research is directed towards creating molecular compounds with unprecedented properties, and changing their molecular architectures to achieve desired characteristics. A particular interest is in large organic molecules that allow the flow of electrons over distances of several nanometres.

His group has developed methods for creating molecular wire rings, and recently demonstrated that large porphyrin nanorings exhibit global aromatic ring currents. He also works on the synthesis of new forms of carbon, and has developed strategies to stabilize structures that are normally too reactive to study under ambient conditions.

Professor Anderson said:

It is a great honour to be awarded the Pedler Prize, because former recipients include chemists who I greatly admire, such as my PhD mentor, Jeremy Sanders, and Sir Jack Baldwin, who appointed me to my first permanent position. It recognises the creativity and hard work of members of my research group.

Robert Hoye, Associate Professor of Inorganic Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry, has been awarded the Beilby Medal and Prize. This recognises work of exceptional practical significance in chemical engineering, applied materials science, energy efficiency or a related field. 

Professor Hoye’s research sits at the interface of chemistry, materials science, and engineering, and focuses on developing new light-sensitive materials for renewable energy applications and healthcare imaging technologies. A key achievement was his discovery and development of a new type of semiconductor that can tolerate imperfections, enabling efficient performances using low-temperature, cost-effective production methods.

Applications include novel energy devices, such as photovoltaics that harvest ambient light to power Internet of Things electronics, besides photoelectrochemical cells for clean fuels. In 2024, he created the start-up company NanoPrint Innovations Ltd to commercialise a reactor his team developed for depositing next-generation thin film semiconductors for these devices. Professor Hoye has also developed devices that can detect X-rays with ultra-low doses, which can make medical imaging safer and more effective.

Professor Hoye said:

I am humbled to receive this award, particularly the recognition of the interdisciplinary nature of my work. I am grateful to the support from the RSC, The Institute of Materials Minerals and Mining, and The Society of Chemical Industry for this award, as well as to my group members (past and present) and mentors, who should share in this recognition.

Dermot O’Hare is Professor of Organometallic and Materials Chemistry at Oxford University’s Department of Chemistry. He receives the John B Goodenough Prize, which is awarded for outstanding contributions to the chemical sciences in any area of materials chemistry.

Professor Dermot O’Hare leads a large, multi-disciplinary research team working towards finding solutions to global issues relating to energy, zero carbon and the circular economy. His group has five strategic research themes: circular economy, carbon dioxide management, green hydrogen, low carbon feedstocks, and materials for environmental sustainability.

In 2012, Professor O’Hare was instrumental in creating the SCG Chemicals Co-Oxford Centre of Excellence for Chemistry (CoE) where he is Director. This acts as a hub for academic/industry collaboration to drive innovation to SCG and impact for Oxford research. Ground-breaking discoveries from the centre include new catalysts for CO2 conversion, alkane chemistry, nanomaterials as functional additives in polymer packaging, and energy devices.

Professor O’Hare said:

It is a particular honour to be this year’s recipient of the Royal Society of Chemistry, John B Goodenough Prize. John was the Statutory Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Oxford when I was an undergraduate. Back then, it never crossed my mind that I was receiving lectures from a future Nobel Laureate. I would like to thank SCG Chemicals for their 13+ years of continual support of our research activities and for their help in creating and maintaining their commitment to Oxford University through the SCG Oxford Centre of Excellence.

Angela Russell, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry in Oxford’s Departments of Chemistry and Pharmacology, has been awarded the Chemistry Biology Interface mid-career prize: Jeremy Knowles Award. This recognises outstanding contributions made by a mid-career scientist working at the chemistry and life science interface.

Professor Russell’s research seeks to develop an effective drug to treat children with the fatal muscle-wasting disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) through increasing the levels of utrophin, a muscle protein. Utrophin is related to dystrophin (the protein that is absent in DMD), and has the potential to act as a substitute for dystrophin and restore muscle function in patients. Laboratory research led by Professor Russell’s group revealed that utrophin production can be increased in the body using molecules that bind to a protein called the arylhydrocarbon receptor. The group are now working to develop candidate molecules that bind to this receptor and which could provide long-term benefits for all patients with DMD.

Professor Russell said:

I am delighted to receive this recognition of our work over the last 20 years towards an effective treatment for the devastating neuromuscular disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Throughout this endeavour has been, and continues to be, a team effort. This prize also recognises all of the contributions over the years, for which I am incredibly grateful, from my co-workers, collaborative partners, our funders, charities, and importantly patients and their families.

The ReLiB Project has also been named winner of the 2024 Royal Society of Chemistry’s Horizon Prize, which celebrates discoveries and innovations that push the boundaries of science.The ReLib Project is a multidisciplinary collaboration led by the University of Birmingham. Oxford’s involvement in the ReLiB project is led by Professor Paul Shearing (Director of The ZERO Institute) and Dr Wenjia Du, both from the Department of Engineering Science.

Dr Helen Pain, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said:

Our prize winners come from a vast array of backgrounds, all contributing in different ways to our knowledge-base and bringing fresh ideas and innovations. We recognise chemical scientists from every career stage and every role type, including those who contribute to the RSC’s work as volunteers. We celebrate winners from both industry and academia, as well as individuals, teams, and the science itself. Their passion, dedication and brilliance are an inspiration. I extend my warmest congratulations to them all.

Further information about the RSC Prizes can be found on the RSC website.