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:

15th January 2019  – Marcel Jaspers, Marine Biodiscovery Centre, University of Aberdeen

Extreme Drug Discovery: Finding New Medicines From Extreme Environments

Abstract: Natural products have an excellent track record in the discovery of novel pharmaceuticals to treat infections and cancer. The use of plants and microorganisms is common, but two major problems are the repeated rediscovery of known compounds and the difficulty in sourcing a sustainable supply for downstream clinical applications. In this presentation, I will show how both these roadblocks to the effective use of natural products in pharmaceutical discovery can be overcome. The solutions rely on the use of novel biological diversity to source novel chemical diversity and the application of molecular genetics to create a biotechnological platform to increase supply and make analogues.

The use of marine invertebrates has shown itself to be a valuable source of structural diversity with a significant degree of difference between ‘marine’ and ‘terrestrial’ carbon frameworks. However, marine invertebrate-derived compounds still suffer from the lack of a reliable supply. For this reason we have started to investigate marine bacteria, in particular those from deep-sea and cold habitats. Other extremophile habitats we have been exploring for unique bacterial diversity are the hyper-arid Atacama desert and high and low pH environments. All these habitats give taxonomically unique bacteria with a high degree of divergence from known strains, and produce novel chemistry.

The use of bacteria gives a sustainable supply of the compound of interest and a limited set of analogues. However, to access further analogues is difficult without a synthetic chemistry approach. We have recently shown the use of biosynthetic enzymes in vitro to generate complex macrocyclic peptides containing heterocycles, commonly known as the cyanobactins. This platform technology promises to make available a vast Universe of novel chemical entities using a biotechnological approach.

30th January 2019  – Angela Murray, University of Birmingham

The intersection of synthetic biology, nanotech and chemical catalysis

Abstract: TBC

13th February 2019  –

Sarah Ragan, School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University
Title: Connecting the initial conditions of star formation to their Galactic origins

Abstract: Galactic plane surveys of the Milky Way in a variety of gas or dust tracers give us different perspectives on how the physical conditions of the interstallar medium vary throughout the Galaxy. The Herschel Infrared Galactic Plane Survey (Hi-GAL) covers the peak of the spectral energy distribution of dense, cold dust and thus supplies an essential part of the observational description of the conditions necessary for star formation in our Galaxy. With a catalogue of over 100000 compact Hi-GAL sources, I will discuss how star formation varies as a function of Galactocentric radius and proximity to spiral arms. This allows us to revisit several long-standing questions about the effect large-scale Galactic properties have on star formation on parsec scales. Moreover, with a comprehensive profile of the Milky Way over kiloparsec scales, these results provide a more detailed context in which to understand star formation in external galaxies.

13th March 2019  – Yann Garcia,Institute of Condensed Matter and Nanosciences, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium

Title: Spin crossover nanomaterials and smart sensors

NB: Please note this event will take place in Ingram Building Room 110 at 12pm. 

Abstract: Iron(II) spin crossover (SCO) complexes attract a great deal of interest,[1] due to their potential technological applications, for instance as pressure sensors.[2] To ease their implementation into devices, numerous strategies have developed for the preparation of SCO nanomaterials.[3] Although sophisticated methods can be applied, the use of a botanic biomembrane as a soft and green support for SCO micro and nanocrystals growth proved to be very efficient.[4] Several SCO hybrid materials have been prepared, for instance with MCM-41 and the 1D polymer [Fe(Htrz)2trz]BF4 known to switch its spin state above the room temperature region.[5] More recently, we have tuned the SCO behavior of these materials to the room temperature region with a wide bistability domain of 60 K,[6] which bears potential for the aircraft industry.[2] Recent progress on a mononuclear FeII neutral high-spin complex which was screened for sensing abilities for a series of toxic industrial chemicals will also be discussed.[7]


1) D. Unruh, P. Homenya, M. Kumar, R. Sindelar, Y. Garcia, F. Renz, Dalton Trans. 2016, 45, 14008. Perspective.
2) K. Boukheddaden, M. H. Ritti, G. Bouchez, M. Sy, M. M. Dîrtu, M. Parlier, J. Linares, Y. Garcia, J. Phys. Chem. C. 2018, 122, 7597-7604
3) S. Majumdar, G. Sliwinski, Y. Garcia, In Hybrid Organic-Inorganic Interfaces: Towards Advanced Functional Materials, 2018, 17. Wiley VCH, Eds. M. H. Delville, A. Taubert.
4) A. D. Naik, L. Stappers, J. Snauwaert, J. Fransaer, Y. Garcia. Small, 2010, 6, 2842.
5) T. Zhao, L. Cuignet, M. M. Dîrtu, M. Wolff, V. Spasojevic, I. Boldog, A. Rotaru, Y. Garcia, C. Janiak. J. Mater. Chem. C, 2015, 3, 7802. Hot paper.
6) M. M. Dîrtu, A. D. Naik, A. Rotaru, L. Spinu, D. Poelman, Y. Garcia, Inorg. Chem. 2016, 55, 4278.
7) Y. Guo, S. Xue, M. M. Dîrtu, Y. Garcia, J. Mater. Chem. C 2018, 6, 3895-3900. Cover. Fnrs news.

27th March 2019  – G. Dan Pantoș
Department of Chemistry, University of Bath

Title: Chirality in Dynamic Combinatorial Chemistry

Abstract: Chirality is at the core of all biological processes as it influences protein (mis)folding, substrate recognition etc. Unsurprisingly, point chirality impacts the outcome of dynamic combinatorial libraries (DCLs). In some cases, enantiomeric or diastereomeric products are formed when chiral building blocks are combined, while in other cases structural divergence is observed. Structurally Divergent Reactions on Racemic Mixtures (SDRRM) lead to two distinct chemical entities starting from two enantiomers.[1] We will discuss the outcomes of chiral DCLs including the first Dynamic Combinatorial approach to generate structural divergence from racemic building blocks. The divergence is due to a combination of a kinetic resolution during the synthesis of diastereomeric macrocycles and a stereospecific electron-donor (D) – electron-acceptor (A) interaction, leading to structurally distinct pseudorotaxanes. These factors, combined with a difference in the stability of the final products, lead to the spontaneous assembly of two structurally different, non-isomeric [2] catenanes: one with a DAAD aromatic stack, while the other has a DADD stack. This work provides a new approach towards understanding and developing SDRRMs and raises the possibility of supramolecular interactions in aqueous media, playing a crucial role in the biological world’s homochirality.[2,3]


1. Miller, L. C. & Sarpong, R. Chem. Soc. Rev. 2011, 40, 4550-4562.
2. Guijarro, A. & Yus, M. The Origin of Chirality in the Molecules of Life: a Revision from
Awareness to the Current Theories and Perspectives of this Unsolved Problem.
(Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK, 2008).
3. Amplification of Chirality (Ed. K. Soai). Topics in Current Chemistry 2008, 284, 1-201.

3rd April 2019  – Dr Petra Á. Szilágyi, Queen Mary University of London, School of Engineering and Materials Science

Title: Size control of nano-objects through embedment in functionalised metal-organic frameworks: a promising way to obtain ‘naked’ nano-objects with atomic precision

Abstract: Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are crystalline materials and have high and regular porosity. They boast of topological and chemical tuneability. They are therefore promising materials for supporting nano-objects within their pores. [1-4]

Recently, we have been able to demonstrate that both nanoclusters and single atoms of Pd may be immobilised and stabilised on functionalised MOFs in a combined experimental-theoretical approach.[5-6] Our newest research, which will be discussed here, reveals that by the adequate matching of linker functionality and guest materials, mostly transition metals, may allow for the controlled formation of ‘naked’ atom clusters (2-6 atoms). [7] I will review a powerful approach to both synthesise, model and experimentally probe these clusters.

It should be emphasised, that in this size regime the properties of materials display a higher size than chemistry dependence, therefore this approach unlocks the opportunity of the synthesis and eventual design of nano-composites with unprecedented properties. Some examples, particularly for heterogeneous catalysis, applications will also be discussed.


[1] Chem. Soc. Rev. 2013:1807
[2] Eur. J. Inorg. Chem. 2010:3701
[3] CrystEngComm. 2015:199
[4] J. Mater. Chem. 2012:10102
[5] Chem. Commun. 2016:5175
[6] J. Mater. Chem. A, 2017, 2017:15559
[7] in preparation

8th May 2019  – Ashley King, Natural History Museum, London

Title: TBC

Abstract: TBC

Past speakers are on the next page.