Stuart Mackenzie

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Professor Stuart Mackenzie

Professor of Chemistry




Research Interests

We have two distinct research interests: structure and reactivity of metal clusters / gas-phase ion-molecule complexes, and magnetic field effects in proteins. Experiments range from the gas phase (in molecular / cluster beams) to the condensed phase as well as interfacial methods and much of our work involves a healthy interaction with theory and computation. Our work is characterised by novel technique development for addressing particular problems.

All of our research is highly interdisciplinary and we have successful collaborations with several other internationally-leading groups in Oxford, elsewhere in the UK, and overseas. For more details on the group activities, along with opportunities to join please see the research group website.

I. Structure and reactivity of small gas-phase metal and metal-ligand clusters
Small clusters of atoms – particularly those of transition metal atoms – exhibit many remarkable size-dependent physical properties which can be quite unlike those of either isolated atoms or the bulk material. Understanding the evolution of these properties with cluster size and composition is key to understanding nanoparticle chemistry. In particular, little is known of the complex and subtle relationship between structure - both electronic and geometrical - and reactivity towards small molecules. We employ a diverse range of experimental techniques including infrared photodissociation, velocity map imaging and molecular beam reaction dynamics to probe key interactions as a function of cluster size and isomeric form. 

II. Magnetic Field Effects in Cryptochrome Proteins
In this area we collaborate with Professors Peter Hore and Chris Timmel in the study of magnetic field effects in proteins – a phenomenon which we postulate lies at the heart of animal magnetoreception, especially in night migratory songbirds. We believe that photoexcitation of a blue-light receptor protein, cryptochrome, present in the retina of birds, generates spin-correlated radical pairs the recombination of which is influenced by the Earth’s magnetic field.

In order to test this hypothesis we have spent a decade developing unique and highly sensitive spectroscopic methods based on optical cavities. Similar techniques in the gas-phase have transformed trace detection and our methods have allowed us to move beyond model chemical systems to probe field effects in real protein samples. 
This fascinating area of science combines quantum mechanics, photochemistry, protein expression and unfolding and zoology.

Associated research themes:

Kinetics, Dynamics and Mechanism

Innovative Measurement and Photon Science


Theory and Modelling in the Chemical Sciences


Stuart is Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford and a Tutorial Fellow of Magdalen College. He leads a research group with interests in the structure and reactivity of gas-phase metal clusters as well as the photochemical origin of animal magnetoreception.

Born and raised in County Durham, Stuart studied Chemistry and Physics at the University of Leeds (1989-92) followed by a DPhil in Oxford (1992-96). During this time he met his future wife, now Professor Christiane Timmel, who was also a graduate student in the department. He held a NATO postdoctoral fellowship in Boulder, Colorado with David Nesbitt and a Ramsay Memorial / Drapers’ Company fellowship back in Oxford with Professor Tim Softley, FRS. His first academic position was at the University of Warwick (1999-2006) where he became interested in metal cluster science. In 2006 Stuart and his group moved to the University of Cambridge where he took up an Official Fellowship at Pembroke College. Stuart returned to Oxford in 2008 taking up a Fellowship at his old College, Magdalen. He was promoted to Professor in 2014 and served as Head of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry 2015-2020.


01865 275156

Research group

Professor Stuart Mackenzie


Magdalen College