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