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University of Warwick trio win prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry Prizes

Three world-class researchers from the University of Warwick have been recognised for their outstanding work by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Dr Sebastian Pike was named winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Sir Edward Frankland Prize, with Dr Adrian Chaplin named winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson Prize, and Professor Julie Macpherson winning the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Tilden Prize.

Dr Sebastian Pike was named winner of the prize for his studies on the synthesis and photochemistry of metal-oxo cluster molecules, and their use as precursors to functional materials. Dr Pike also received £3,000 and a medal.

This year’s winners join a prestigious list of past winners in the RSC’s prize portfolio, 60 of whom have gone on to win Nobel Prizes for their work, including 2022 Nobel laureate Carolyn Bertozzi and 2019 Nobel laureate John B Goodenough.

Metal oxide materials are used in a multitude of modern applications, from sun creams and paints to state-of-the-art self-cleaning windows and antibacterial surfaces for next-generation medical devices. Many of these applications stem from the ability of metal oxides to absorb light and use this energy to direct chemical reactions.

From top to bottom: Dr Sebastian Pike (L), Dr Adrian Chaplin (R) and Professor Julie Macpherson

On receiving the prize, Dr Pike said: “I'm surprised and very pleased! It is a great motivation to keep going with our ideas.”

Dr Pike’s research investigates molecular versions of metal oxide materials and studies how their properties may be optimised by carefully tuning their size, composition, and surface chemistry.

These molecules act as tiny reactive centres that absorb light and can catalyse reactions. Their precise, atomically defined structures, make them easier to study and understand than larger metal oxide materials that have a more complicated surface.

The ability to precisely tune properties (for instance, to absorb the maximum amount of visible light whilst still driving the required chemical transformation), will be essential for the design of next-generation materials that can efficiently use solar energy to produce fuels and useful chemicals.

Dr Adrian Chaplin meanwhile won the Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson Prize for contributions to organometallic chemistry involving the imaginative use of pincer ligands. He also received £3,000 and a medal.

After receiving the prize, Dr Chaplin said: “I am really honoured to receive this prestigious prize from the RSC, which recognises work conducted by my team over the past decade here at Warwick.

“Our work is challenge driven, but largely fundamental in nature so I am particularly pleased that such basic science is acknowledged as it is vital to support technological applications in the long-term that are not necessarily predicable. I look forward to using this opportunity to speak about our recent results at universities around the UK.”

Dr Chaplin’s research is based on molecular compounds of transition metals and understanding how they can be used in chemical synthesis. His research group is working on the activation and transformation of alkanes and nitrous oxide.

These are abundant, but challenging, reagents to use in catalysis in an energy efficient manner. Methane and nitrous oxide are also potent greenhouse gases and their use in chemical manufacture is desirable from a remediation perspective.

Professor Julie Macpherson won the Tilden Prize prize for pioneering instrumental methods and applications in electrochemistry, electroanalysis and catalysis, sensor and imaging systems, material characterisation and electrochemical nanostructure synthesis.

Professor Macpherson also receives £5,000 and a medal.

“I’m delighted to have been awarded the Tilden prize. However, this is an award not just for me but all the amazing group members that I have had the pleasure to work with both past and present,” she said.

“None of this would have been possible without their passion, hard work and commitment to unravelling new science.”

Professor Macpherson’s work focuses on the use of carbon-based materials in electrochemical systems for a variety of applications including environmental monitoring and electrochemical energy storage. One of the key materials being used is lab-grown boron doped diamond (BDD), an electrochemically active form of diamond.

Due to its unique and wide-ranging properties, BDD is finding use as a robust sensor for determining the health status of rivers and seas.

BDD is also capable of generating highly oxidising species which can be used to fight viruses and bacteria as well as clean up waste-water systems. The non-corrosive nature of the material also means it can act as a possible carbon replacement for corrosion susceptible graphite type materials in fuel cells.

Dr Helen Pain, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “The chemical sciences are at the forefront of tackling a range of challenges facing our world. From fundamental chemistry to cutting-edge innovations, the work that chemical scientists do has an important role to play in building our future.

“The RSC’s prizes programme enables us to reflect on and celebrate the incredible individuals and teams whose brilliance enriches our knowledge, advances our understanding, and brings new ideas and technologies that benefit society as a whole. We’re very proud to recognise the contributions of our winners today.”

The Royal Society of Chemistry’s prizes have recognised excellence in the chemical sciences for more than 150 years. In 2019, the organisation announced the biggest overhaul of this portfolio in its history, designed to better reflect modern scientific work and culture.

The Research and Innovation Prizes celebrate brilliant individuals across industry and academia. They include prizes for those at different career stages in general chemistry and for those working in specific fields, as well as interdisciplinary prizes and prizes for those in specific roles.

For more information about the RSC’s revised prizes portfolio, visit

Rewarding Excellence and Gaining Recognition

The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Prizes portfolio is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the world, recognising achievements by individuals, teams and organisations in advancing the chemical sciences. They reward those undertaking excellent work in the chemical sciences from across the world.

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