Undergraduate Year in Industry placement leads to publication

Karl Hampton, a Part 3 MChem Chemistry with a Year in Industry student, currently on placement at Malvern Instruments in Great Malvern, has published a paper in the Journal of Chromatography A.

It’s great to see work from placement students getting published in the scientific literature. As well as being a fantastic achievement for Karl, engaging undergraduate students with research is one of the University’s Teaching and Learning Enhancement Priorities, and the industrial placements available on our MChem and BSc programmes are just one of the many ways in which the department provides such opportunities.

“Analytical mitigation of solute–capillary interactions in double detection Taylor Dispersion Analysis” in J. Chromatog. A

Self-healing materials a great success at Royal Society science exhibition

Last week, Professor Howard Colquhoun and collaborators presented their cutting-edge work on self-healing materials at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London.

The team, led by Professor Colquhoun and Professor Wayne Hayes from the chemistry department, along with Professor Clive Siviour (Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford), gave visitors a very hands-on insight into how materials can be designed to heal themselves after incurring damage. From computer-aided design, to synthesis in the department’s research laboratories, to the production of prototypes for use in car and aircraft components, these polymeric materials have enormous potential for enhancing the durability, lifetime and safety of critical engineering components.

The final exhibition stand represented the combined efforts of a large team, including Post-docs and PhD students working in the Reading labs: Kate Lim, Lewis Hart, Corinne Mcewan, Ben Baker, Tahkur Singh Babra, and Antonio Feula; Ellie Gotay from the University Events Team, and the Faculty Outreach and Access Facilitator, Ben Littlefield; and further research students from Oxford.

To find out more, read the University’s press release or watch the video trailer.

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Dr Ben Littlefield on BBC Radio Berkshire

Chemist and Outreach and Access Facilitator for the Faculty of Life Science, Dr Ben Littlefield, was on BBC Radio Berkshire over the weekend. He appeared on Matt Allwright’s Saturday Solution to talk about the ‘Science Slam’ event taking place in Reading that evening. If you missed it, you can listen again, about 1h09m in to the programme.

Emeritus Professor Ian Mills is appointed OBE in the New Years Honours 2015.

MILLS IanEmeritus Professor Ian Mills has been appointed OBE in the New Years Honours 2015.

Emeritus Professor Ian Mills FRS has been appointed OBE in the New Year Honours 2015 for services to Chemistry and Metrology: the science of measurement.

Professor Mills enjoyed a great personal success in persuading his peers that the basic units of the world’s main system of measurement should be based exclusively on the fundamental constants of physics.

He was the lead author of two papers (in 2005 and 2007) which proposed that it was timely for the Système international d’unités (SI) to be liberated from the variability of the metal cylinder currently defining the kilogram: a material artefact whose mass, by its very nature, cannot be absolutely stable.

An immediate benefit of this advance is that the SI – used across science, technology and commerce – becomes more stable, precise and useful, and that the worlds of atomic and cosmic physics can be united.

The initial hostility to and disapproval of this vision swung round to approval and fulsome support, as evidenced at the ‘New SI’ meeting of the Royal Society in 2011. Later that year, the 24th General Conference on Weights and Measures unanimously supported his proposals without a single abstention – remarkable for a large, international meeting.

Professor Mills was a member of academic staff in Chemistry at the University of Reading from 1957 to 1995, and is now Emeritus Professor of Chemical Spectroscopy. His interest and vision in improving the SI stemmed from his leading-edge work in high-resolution spectroscopy, which was recognised in 1996 by his election to Fellowship of the Royal Society.

At the end of 2013, after 18 years in the role and at the age of 83, he retired as President of the Consultative Committee on Units of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, which works to improve the way in which scientists express and apply the results of their work. That event marked over 30 years of contribution to metrology; he had, since 1983, been a member and then chairman of the IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) Commission on Symbols, Units and Nomenclature in Physical Chemistry.

Professor Ian Mills said: “Most scientists collect a few medals over the course of their career – but the Queen’s medals have a particular significance.

“The product of my spectroscopy research is an improvement in our knowledge of the structure and properties of molecules, which lead to applications in many different fields. I have enjoyed all aspects of my work at the University of Reading, including teaching, giving public lectures and supervising 17 PhD postgraduate students.

“The aim of my metrology work is an improvement in the language of science – ensuring that scientists use the same precision and rigour when communicating with each other and with the public as they do when conducting their own research.

“It certainly gives me a warm and humbling feeling to be receiving an OBE.”

Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading, commented: “I am delighted that Professor Ian Mills was recognised in the New Year Honours and I congratulate him on behalf of everyone at the University of Reading.

“Ian’s distinction in the field of metrology roles is well deserved as he brought to it the rare combination of a wide and deep knowledge of science, strategic vision and eye for detail, openness and firmness, rigour, diplomacy and a sense of humour.

“He is universally respected, liked and supported and has been a distinguished ambassador for British science on the international stage.”

Success in REF 2014

The results of the latest assessment of research performance, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) came out at midnight on 18th December. These results directly affect the amount of funding the department receives from central government (via HEFCE) and hence are extremely important.

We were therefore extremely pleased to see that 93% of the department’s research was rated as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*). 90% of our academic staff were included in the submission, demonstrating the strength and depth of the research going on within the department

Chemistry Research Colloquium – Dr Erwin Reisner – Cambridge University “Combining Concepts from Homogenous and Heterogeneous catalysis for Solar Fuel Synthesis”

On Monday 8th December the Chemistry Research Colloquium is by Dr Erwin Reisner, Cambridge University.

Dr Reisner is the  2014 “RSC Harrison-Mendola Memorial Prize” winner.

His talk “Combining Concepts from Homogenous and Heterogeneous catalysis for Solar Fuel Synthesis” will be at 4pm in Chemistry LTG preceded by refreshments in the foyer at 3.40pm.




Dr Geoff Brown from the Department of Chemistry is part of a successful bid for £3M funding from the BBSRC.

G BrownCongratulations to Dr Geoff Brown, who is part of a successful bid for £3M funding from the BBSRC.

The research, led by Prof Ian Graham (Biology, University of York), will investigate the biosynthesis of diterpenoids. These naturally-occurring chemicals produced by plants have a huge range of uses (fragrances, pharmaceuticals, vitamins, sunscreen, sweeteners, …) but are only produced in small quantities, making their extraction too expensive for commercialisation. They’re also notoriously difficult to synthesis in the laboratory on a large-enough scale.

This project aims to exploit synthetic biology, the reprogramming of simple biological organisms, to get around these problems and produce the molecules in larger quantities. This will involve lots of chemical analysis, which is where Dr Brown and our state-of-the-art Chemical Analysis Facility will come in. In particular, our 700 MHz NMR spectrometer will be used extensively to determine the chemical structures of the diterpenoids produced and explore their biosynthesis in more detail.

Watch out for updates in a year or so!