School of Chemistry

Latest news

Find out what is happening in the School of Chemistry here at Leicester. For the latest developments, and regular updates on our activities throughout the year, follow us on Twitter (@Leicesterchem), Facebook (Leicester Chemistry), and Instagram (@leicesterchem)!

Nonlinear Adventures For James Pickering

Blackboard with chalk equations and graphs behind overlapping laser beams

Physical chemistry powerhouse James Pickering is an expert in nonlinear optics, as demonstrated in a series of three tutorial reviews published recently in the journal Biointerphases. The articles form part of a Special Topic Collection, 'Tutorials in Sum-Frequency Generation Spectroscopy', guest edited by James. The tutorial reviews provide a welcome introduction to a complex field, and were recently picked as a 'SciLight' by the American Institute of Physics.

Coincidentally, the final tutorial review in the series was published online whilst James was undertaking experiments at Diamond Light Source in collaboration with Philip Ash from the School of Chemistry and Leicester Institute of Structural and Chemical Biology. During these experiments James was able to fuel another passion, cycling, and currently holds the fastest time on the unofficial Diamond Light Source TT. Congratulations James!

Map of the cycle route around the ring at Diamond Light Source, showing James Pickering has the fastest time for cycling around this circular route.

James is a relative newcomer to the School of Chemistry, joining us towards the end of 2021, and is a teaching-focussed academic with a strong interest in delivering high-quality teaching in physical chemistry and mathematics. James develops novel explanations and presentations that help students to explore and understand the complex physical phenomena that underpin chemistry.

Madras experience for Dr Blackburn

Our Director of Education, Richard Blackburn, spent a fantastic morning attending the International Conference on Service Learning and Science Communication, hosted by Madras Christian College and sponsored by the American Chemical Society. Richard was invited to present a lecture about the fantastic science communication initiatives that he runs within Leicester Chemistry, highlighting the use of infographics, and poster sessions for undergraduate project students. A great day of learning about science communication was had by all! You can read more about Richard's experiences via LinkedIn.

Cordell's New Concepts

Rebecca Cordell has been awarded £20,000 as part of the University of Leicester's New Concepts Fund for Early Career Researchers. In collaboration with John Holt, the project, utilising facilities at Space Park Leicester, concerns optimisation of trace surface deposited organic compound analysis for contamination testing of astro-material handling equipment. Congratulations Rebecca!

Representing the future of Analytical Science

The Analytical Science Network’s annual conference ‘Emerging Analytical Professionals’ took place from 13-15 May 2022. Chloe Davis, Sean Scott, and Hannah Hilton-Tapp from the Materials and Interfaces Group attended the three-day conference, which included oral and poster presentations from early career professionals in various roles within the analytical chemistry field.

Photograph of Sean Scott with his poster at the Emerging Analytical Professionals conference

During the conference, Chloe presented a talk on ‘Electrochemical Analysis of the Galvanic Deposition Technique to Visualise Latent Fingermarks’ and Sean presented a poster entitled ‘Design for recycle: alternative binders for optimising recyclability’.

Bake Your Research

This Easter members of the School of Chemistry took part in a 'Bake Your Research' event for local universities, and team from the Doveston Lab won the 'Easter Showstopper' prize, voted for by a RSC East Midlands judging panel.

A cake representing research carried out in the Doveston lab

Above is the award-winning bake from the Doveston Lab, who are interested in using biophysical techniques to study the interactions between proteins (protein-protein interactions, PPIs). One protein of interest is called 14-3-3, a dimeric adapter protein. The bake shows their sophisticated biophysical 'toolkit' as well as the 14-3-3 dimer itself. A truly impressive effort!

A cake representing research in the Hodgkinson lab

This entry represents work from the Hodgkinson group, who are interested in the synthesis of novel proteolysis targeting chimeras (PROTACs) for targetted degradation of Class I histone deacetylases (HDACs) in corepressor complexes via E3 ligase recruitment. Their bake represents all components of their complex systems using a variety of flavoured cakes, and ubiquitin (Ub) hot cross buns.

A cake representing the delamination method used by Sean and Jennifer

The final entry from Leicester came from Sean and Jennifer, two physical chemists interested in methods for simplification of recycling material from lithium-ion batteries. Their bake represents an ultrasonic delaminator which they use in their research, constructed from a fruit cake frame, sponge ultrasonic blade, jelly delamination solution, and gingerbread electrodes.

Peake-y Blinder for Atmosphere for Chemistry Researchers

Photograph of the exterior of the Space Park Leicester building on an overcast day

Atmospheric Chemistry researchers from the School are pleased to have moved into their luxurious new surroundings in Space Park Leicester. The laboratories were officially opened in March 2022 at a special 'launch' ceremony attended by UK astronaut Tim Peake, who received a tour of the site and spent time interacting with young scientists of the future.

UK astronaut Major Tim Peake being shown the Space Park laboratory equipment by Dr Rebecca Cordell

PhD student Doug Gregg, pictured below sampling the air inside Space Park Leicester, is particularly keen to make the most of the opportunities afforded by these world-leading facilities.

Doug Gregg sampling air using a pump inside the laboratories

Flipping Marvellous: Pancake Day Celebrations

In the School of Chemistry's first social event for almost two years, our Pancake Day celebrations were a huge success and raised roughly £50 in donations for aid funds for Ukraine. A big turnout brought together the whole School, with undergraduates, postgraduates, academic, and technical staff joining together for the occasion. Josh and Meg spent 3 hours producing over 100 pancakes for the occasion, whilst Fabiana and Ginevra made a selection of Italian sweet treats for us all to enjoy!

Pancake Day celebrations in the School of Chemistry, staff and students enjoying sweet treats together

Science Marches on for Josh and co-workers

Huge collaborative efforts between members of the Hodgkinson, Cowley, and Schwabe groups, have been published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. Led by Josh Smalley, this latest work on new Class I HDAC degraders shows that HDAC1/2 degradation is critical for induction of apoptosis and cell arrest in cancer cells.

Graphical abstract showing conditions where different HDAC degraders are successful at inducing apoptosis in cancer cells

'Optimization of Class I Histone Deacetylase PROTACs Reveals that HDAC1/2 Degradation is Critical to Induce Apoptosis and Cell Arrest in Cancer Cells', J.P. Smalley, I.M. Baker, W.A. Pytel, L.-Y. Lin, K.J. Bowman, J.W. Schwabe, S.M. Cowley, J.T. Hodgkinson, J. Med. Chem. 2022, 65, 5642.

An International Start to the Year

Four members of the Hodgkinson group enjoying coffee in a cafe with new PhD student Aline

Aline Renata Pavan has joined the Hodgkinson group from Brazil. She is a PhD student from São Paulo State University (UNESP) where she is working on a project to develop HDAC1/2 inhibitors for the treatment of Sickle Cell Disease as part of the Laboratory of Drug Research and Development (LAPDESF) research group. As a whole her research group is housed within the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences and have been working to design and synthesise new compounds for neglected diseases, plus also cardiovascular, infectious, and inflammatory diseases. Welcome Aline!

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