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Abbie Whittock (PhD)

PhD Project

Photo of self

I am currently in the fourth year of my PhD as part of the Analytical Sciences CDT here at the University of Warwick under the supervision of Prof. Vas StavrosLink opens in a new window (University of Warwick supervisor), Dr Juan Cebrián and K.T. Selvy (industrial supervisors, Lubrizol). My research focuses on the photodynamics of sunscreen molecules like a lot of the Stavros Group.

The family of molecules that I am interested in are called Mycosporine-like Amino Acids (MAAs). These molecules are synthesised in nature by cyanobacteria, algae and fungi and are believed to act as a natural sunscreen for these organisms and other small organisms that consume them. They are believed to be some of the strongest absorbers known to occur in nature, they have antioxidant properties and are incredibly photostable making them highly desirable to the cosmeceutical industry. The major problem with these molecules is that they are very difficult to obtain in high yields so I am working with a few other students here at the University of Warwick (Adam Cowden, Nazia Auckloo, Paula Martin de Prado and Sopida Wongwas) who are trying to synthesise MAA inspired molecules and improve the biosynthetic yield of MAAs. My research is centred around performing steady-state experiments and solution-phase transient absorption spectroscopy to begin to understand the photochemical and photophysical properties of MAAs and MAA-inspired molecules. Complementary computational studies are also conducted by myself within this project to aid the experimental analysis. The aim is that a better understanding of the relaxation mechanisms of these molecules will aid their use and the design of future UV filters for commercial use.

Analytical Sciences CDT


Chemistry BSc (2015-2018)

I studied at the University of Birmingham for my Bachelor's degree where I obtained a First Class Honours. I found myself always picking analytical modules which I enjoyed the most and this lead me on to pick an MSc in analytical chemistry.

Analytical Sciences and Instrumentation MSc (2018-2019)

I studied my Master's here at the University of Warwick where I obtained a Distinction. During my Master's I undertook a 20 week individual project under the supervision of Prof. Vas Stavros titled 'Microbial Sunscreens for Better Life'. The work that I am doing now is a continuation of this project.


1. Abiola, T.T.; Whittock, A.L.; Stavros, V.G. Unravelling the Photoprotective Mechanisms of Nature-Inspired Ultraviolet Filters Using Ultrafast Spectroscopy. Molecules 2020, 25, 3945.

2. Whittock, A.L.; Turner, M.A.P.; Coxon, D.J.L.; Woolley, J.M.; Horbury, M.D.; Stavros, V.G. Reinvestigating the Photoprotection Properties of a Mycosporine Amino Acid Motif. Front. Chem. 2020, 8, 881.

3. Whittock, A.L.; Auckloo, N; Cowden, A.M.; Turner, M.A.P.; Woolley, J.M.; Wills, M.; Corre, C;Stavros, V.G. Exploring the Blueprint of Photoprotection in Mycosporine-like Amino Acids. J. Phys. Chem. Lett., 2021, 12, 3641. 

4. Whittock, A.L.; Abiola, T.T.; Stavros, V.G. A Perspective on Femtosecond Pump-probe Spectroscopy in the Development of Future Sunscreens. J. Phys. Chem. A2022, 126, 2299. 

5. Whittock, A.L.; Woolley, J.M.; Auckloo, N.; Corre, C.; Stavros, V.G. Investigating the Ultrafast Dynamics and Long-Term Photostability of an Isomer Pair, Usujirene and Palythene, from the Mycosporine-like Amino Acid Family. Molecules, 2022, 27, 2272. 

6. A.L. Whittock, A.M. Cowden, M. Wills and V.G. Stavros Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., Examining the Substituent Effect on Mycosporine-Inspired Ultraviolet Filters. 2023, 25, 7401.


1. Spectroscopy and Dynamics Group Meeting (2020 Poster, 2021 Attendee, 2022 Talk, 2023 Poster)

2. Analytical Science Centre for Doctoral Training Annual Conference (2020 Talk, 2021 Poster, 2022 Talk and Poster)

3. Faraday Joint Interest Group Conference (2021 Poster)

4. IUPAC Photochemistry, Amsterdam (2022 Poster)

5. SCS Formulate (2022 Attendee)


Academic Achievement awards for my BSc mark and MSc mark

Analytical Science Centre for Doctoral Training Annual Conference talk prizes 2020 and 2022 and poster prize 2022

Spectroscopy and Dynamics Group Meeting poster prize 2023