The Physical Sciences Colloquia are intended for a broad audience – from undergraduate students to retired professors. The topics encompass the interests of all research groups in the School: from Applied Optics, through Astrophysics, Planetary Science and Forensic Imaging to Functional Materials Physics and Chemistry.
The colloquia are held on Wednesdays at 2 pm in the Ingram Lecture Theatre (ILT) unless otherwise specified. The programme is constantly updated. Click on the speaker’s name and the talk’s title for biographical information/contact details and an abstract, respectively.
Everybody welcome!

Present Term

All our colloquia for this term will be on our Events Calendar which we regularly update when we have a confirmed speaker so make sure to check back regularly! You can also have a look at speakers for our present term by clicking on their entry below:

26th September 2018  – Neil Wells, Department of Chemistry, The University of Southampton

NMR Spectroscopy (useful for more than simple proton spectra)

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a powerful tool for studying many interesting and dynamic biological and physical processes but is often regarded exclusively as a method for structural elucidation. In this talk, case studies will illustrate the utility of NMR to probe more interesting phenomena as we venture beyond the humble proton spectrum.


10th October 2018  – Catherine Pepin, Institut de Physique Théorique (CNRS), Saclay, France

Fractionalization or no fractionalization: a review of the pseudo gap phase of cuprates superconductors

In this talk Catherine will address the mysterious issue of origin of the pseudo gap phase in Cuprate superconductors in the light of the few questions which enable us to distinguish between the various scenarios. In particular, she introduces to concept of fractionalization and see whether it is relevant, and where in the phase diagram of the Cuprates.


17th October 2018  – Simon Coles, National Crystallography Service, University of Southampton

New Opportunities at the National Crystallography Service

The National Crystallography Service (NCS) is an EPSRC-funded “National Research Facility” – as such its purpose is to provide access to instrumentation and expertise that goes beyond what is available, affordable or sensible to operate at any single institution. For most experiments the NCS is accessible, free at the point of use, to those who are eligible to apply to EPSRC for funding. Built on many years of staffing expertise and state-of-the-art equipment, the main business of the NCS is to look at small, weakly diffracting and difficult-to-handle crystals for the purpose of characterisation. The service caters for both the synthetic chemistry (full structure determination leading to publication) and crystallographic (dataset only) communities and is amongst the highest throughput and most powerful single crystal diffraction facilities in the world.

This talk will outline the facilities and their capability with respect to supporting synthetic chemistry. Furthermore, recent changes in funding have generated new opportunities in terms of providing access to more advanced techniques. The talk will outline the crystallographic research that has been performed in Southampton in recent years, which will illustrate the new range of pump-prime advanced experiments that will be possible via the NCS. These are namely: charge density studies, high pressure crystallography, gas adsorption/desorption in crystalline materials and the application of variable temperature to the study of solid state behaviour.


24th October 2018  – Frederik Wurm, Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research
NB This talk starts at 1pm

Function and beauty: transforming biopolymer-motifs into synthetic functional materials

Nature on planet earth has created diverse complex biopolymers: proteins, lignin, nucleic acids, etc: they structure, catalyze or determine life. Chemists have been using biopolymers for various applications ranging from packaging to enzymatic synthesis or drug delivery. We transform molecular and structural motifs from biopolymers into synthetic analogs. DNA is our major blueprint to develop new phosphorus-containing polymers, which are rarely found in today’s polymer science, despite their tremendous synthetic and potential in various applications. Recent work has illustrated the potential of PPEs for future applications beyond flame-retardancy, the main application of PPEs today, and provided a coherent vision to implement this classic biopolymer in modern applications that demand biocompatibility and degradability as well as the possibility to adjust the properties to individual needs.

We have developed a robust strategy to well-defined PPEs by olefin metathesis and the anionic ring-opening polymerization (AROP). The “living” AROP of 2-alkyl-2-oxo-1,3,2-dioxaphospholanes provides also functional polymers with excellent control over molar mass and dispersity. Copolymers of different monomers allow adjustment of the hydrophilicity or their crystallization gives rise to anisotropic materials.

Thermoresponsive and degradable polyphosphonates with both lower and upper critical solution temperature are available from the copolymerization of 2-alkyl-2-oxo-1,3,2-dioxaphospholanes. The polyphosphoester (PPE) platform is also interesting for tuning the blood interactions and the so-called “stealth” behavior of polymeric nanocarriers. We recently reported that degradable PPEs could substitute the famous PEG in drug carriers as they recruit essential proteins from the blood plasma to prevent unspecific cellular uptake. Nanocarriers, functionalized with PPE copolymers underline that the choice of the recruited protein is essential to the stealth behavior that will allow us to understand and use the interactions of polymeric nanocarriers and blood for a targeted delivery of actives.

The presentation summarizes synthetic protocols to PPEs, their applications in biomedicine, e.g., as biodegradable drug carrier or in tissue engineering, and their flame retardant properties.


31st October 2018  – Isaac Abrahams, Queen Mary University of London

Watch this space: vacancy association and ordering in oxide ion conducting solid electrolytes

Oxide ion conducting solid electrolytes are the key components of solid oxide fuel cells. Bismuth oxide has the highest known oxide ion conductivity of any solid but exhibits this only in its delta-phase which is only stable above 730 C and exhibits a defect fluorite structure. Substitution of Bi3+ by a range of other cations can lead to preservation of the delta phase to room temperature and despite concern over their stability under reducing atmospheres it has been demonstrated that they can be successfully incorporated into intermediate temperature fuel cells. These systems show high concentrations of vacancies on the oxide ion sublattice with respect to the ideal fluorite structure. Ordering of vacancies at intermediate temperature and related changes in the oxide ion distribution can lead to conductivity decay and in some cases a change in gross structure. In this work we show how this vacancy ordering can be probed directly using reverse Monte Carlo modelling of total neutron scattering data. Thermally induced changes in the oxide ion-vacancy distribution are shown to be correlated with changes in the conductivity behaviour.


7th November 2018  – Bill Heslop, LearnSci

Title: TBC


14th November 2018  – Melanie Britton, School of Chemistry, University of Birmingham

MRI of electrochemical systems: batteries, corrosion and electroplating

The design and development of improved electrochemical technologies, such as batteries, anti-corrosion, and electroplating, requires detailed understanding of the electrochemical reactions, ion transport and concentration gradients within these systems. However, there are few methods that are able to visualise and quantify these non-invasively, spatially, in situ and in real time. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has proved to be an excellent tool for non-invasively studying complex, spatially heterogeneous chemical systems in materials, engineering and chemical research [1]. While, MRI has enormous potential for in situ investigation of the spatial distribution, speciation, and mobility of molecules and ions in electrochemical devices, there are currently very few examples of MRI being used to probe such systems. This is largely due to the experimental challenges associated with setting up an electrochemical cell inside a strong magnetic field and the imaging artefacts caused by the presence of metals that lead to undesirable variations in the radiofrequency (RF) and magnetic fields across the sample[2]. However, it has been found, recently, that such technical issues can be overcome and that it is possible to collect viable data[3] in electrochemical systems. This talk will present the challenges for studying electrochemical systems by MRI and demonstrate how they can be overcome to enable the collection of unique and quantitative data during the electrodissolution and deposition of metal ions in a range of electrochemical cells. Results will be presented, visualising the discharge process in a model Zn-air battery[4], corrosion of metallic copper in an aqueous electrolyte [5] and the electroplating of zinc in a room temperature ionic liquid (RTIL).

[1] M.M. Britton, Prog. Nucl. Magn. Reson. Spec., 101 (2017) 51-70.
[2] L.H. Bennett, P.S. Wang, M.J. Donahue, J. App. Phys., 79 (1996) 4712-4714.
[3] A.J. Davenport, M. Forsyth, M.M. Britton, Electrochem. Comm., 12 (2010) 44-47.
[4] M.M. Britton, P.M. Bayley, P.C. Howlett, A.J. Davenport, M. Forsyth, J. Phys. Chem. Lett., 4 (2013) 3019-3023.
[5] J.M. Bray, A.J. Davenport, K.S. Ryder, M.M. Britton, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 55 (2016) 9394-9397.


21st November 2018 – Professor Becky Parker, Director, Institute for Research in Schools

Title: IRIS (Institute for Research in Schools) – opportunities to develop and deliver research projects in local and regional schools

IRIS makes cutting edge research projects open to school students and their teachers. We do this by making data accessible to schools and also by lending out kits. We support schools across the country and many teachers find our research programmes reinvigorating CPD for them. We have national programmes on space science, particle physics, chemistry, environmental science, antibiotic resistance, engineering, wellbeing and genomics. The talk will outline opportunities for you to get involved or develop similar approaches with local and regional schools based on your research. The University of Kent has already run some amazing research projects with schools.


28th November 2018 – Kevin Lam, University of Greenwich

Title: Electrochemistry, Organometallics & Medicinal Chemistry – An “out of the box” Approach to Drug Design

Can we still innovate in Drug Design? Do we have to follow Lipinski’s rules of five? Are metals really toxic? This talk will try to shake up conventional thinking and disclose a new class of metallic drugs. Surprisingly, for centuries, most anticancer drugs have been based on purely organic scaffolds. Bioorganometallic chemistry was first defined in the 1980s. During its infancy, the field was clearly overshadowed by the supremacy of research on organometallic catalysts, since it was assumed that organometallic complexes were incompatible with oxygen and water and, thus, unsuitable for use in biological systems. Despite the enormous potential of organometallic drugs, this new field remains underestimated and understudied.
Our group has recently discovered, synthesised and patented Cymanquine, a novel organomanganese-containing compound which exhibits promising anticancer and parasitic activities. Through this talk, we will disclose a new approach to drug design that relies on combining electrochemistry with organometallic and medicinal chemistry.


5th December 2018 – Dylan Williams, University of Leicester, RSC 2018 Higher Education Teaching Award Lecture

Title: Context and Problem Based Learning: An Integrated Approach

The Department of Chemistry at the University of Leicester has been using context and problem based learning (C/PBL) in chemistry teaching since 2007. The integration of C/PBL into teaching at Leicester has improved the retention rate of first year students. The varied modes of assessment for C/PBL activities have also led to an improvement in the transferable skills of Leicester chemistry students.
This talk will discuss the practicalities of developing and integrating context and problem based learning (C/PBL) activities into a physical science programme, highlighting potential challenges as well as aspects of good practice. The session will include examples of C/PBL activities developed at Leicester. The session will conclude with a brief discussion of the impact that C/PBL has had on the student experience at Leicester.


12th December 2018 – Keith Butler, ISIS Neutron and Muon Source

Title: TBC


Past speakers are on the next page.