Department of Chemistry


Oxford Chemistry Researcher Profile

Name: Dr Roy Emanuel Schreiber


I was born in Jerusalem, Israel, and grew up moving around Israel and abroad. As a child I was interested in any scientific knowledge I could come by - from a fascination with black holes when I was 10 through majoring in biochemistry during high school - to an attempt at programing and researching image and sound recognition software towards the end of high school.

I finished my BSc in Chemistry (Magna cum Laude) at the University of Tel Aviv in 2011 after which I moved to the Weizmann Institute of Science for my MSc and PhD studies at the lab of Prof. Ronny Neumann. There, I worked on the chemistry of fluorinated polyoxometalates. My work at the Neumann lab showed the importance of considering non-classical reaction mechanisms for explaining the chemical and physical behaviour of polyoxometalates due to their highly charged surface. In particular, the dense phase reaction mechanism, in which a chemical or physical reaction is preceded by reversible aggregation, was shown to be of great importance and a generalized mathematical model was developed for this mechanistic pathway. I finished my PhD in 2017 for which I was awarded the Dov Elad Memorial prize.

After the completion of my PhD I saw the need to broaden my inorganic chemistry training by expanding my knowledge from transition-metal chemistry to the chemistry of main-group elements and from high oxidation states to that of low oxidation states. I therefore decided to move to the University of Oxford and join the group of Prof. Jose Goicoechea. I am currently a Royal Society – Kohn International Fellow (Newton Fellowship) working with Prof. Jose Goicoechea on the inorganic chemistry of phosphorus and arsenic.

Current research

My current research involves the preparation and investigation of new inorganic small molecules containing phosphorus and arsenic. These are heavier analogues of well-known molecules containing nitrogen and can therefore be used to test the effect of going down the periodic table on physical and chemical properties.

I am currently looking into the aqueous chemistry of recently discovered heavier analogues of the cyanate ion such as PCO-, AsCO- and others. This has been shown to form a heavy analogue of the carbamate ion, an intermediate in the preparation of urea, which is now being investigated. This project should pave the way to using these novel compounds as starting materials in the preparation of ligands for catalytic purposes, as well as materials for supramolecular architectures, self-healing materials and polyurea type polymers.

A little bit extra

I am passionate about physical inorganic chemistry. Within this vast subject, I am especially interested in kinetic and mechanistic investigations that in my opinion are the key to future major breakthroughs in chemistry. One field of significance in this regard is the emerging field of systems chemistry, which investigates non-linear kinetic phenomena that arise at far from equilibrium chemical systems and often give the impression of being alive. In fact, biology itself is described as a very complex and convoluted systems chemistry phenomenon when portrayed by biochemistry. Our current understanding of systems chemistry is still very far from being able to design fully living systems. Future investigation into this field may bring great advances in controlling chemical systems, designing chemical machines and the preparation of important chemicals and materials, all with the aid of kinetic control rather than the thermodynamic control that most current processes rely on.

For me, scientific investigation is a passion rather than just a profession. It’s a form of sandbox play that’s driven by fascination of the unknown and a huge desire to understand. It’s a way of life that goes with me wherever I go, whether I am in the lab, at home or in the middle of a vast stretch of nature with nothing man-made in sight. It is this passion that drives me to the aspiration of obtaining a professorial position within Israeli academia.

In my spare time I like hiking through nature, observing fascinating natural phenomena, beautiful natural formations and intriguing wildlife. A camera does not leave my side, always ready to capture the beauty around me. I also love sand-sculpting on golden Israeli beaches during summer.