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Department of Chemistry

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Abigail Scott takes Chemistry into Schools

Third year MChem student Abigail Scott has had her final project for the Chemistry into Schools module featured in the Northern Echo. Working with the class science teacher, Sandra Elliott, Abigail taught Year 5 pupils at Fishburn Primary School a number of different chemistry activities which they then presented to the younger children in Year 1 as part of a very successful science fair. Abigail and the class teacher also discussed the success of the science fair on Star Radio. The Northern Echo article about Abigail’s project at Fishburn can be found here.


(20 Mar 2017) » More about Abigail Scott takes Chemistry into Schools

Research looks at metals' roles in reactions of life

Nearly half of the reactions of life are driven by metals. Now a multidisciplinary collaboration between ten Durham University Bioscientists and Chemists has discovered how living cells are attuned to these vital elements.

This knowledge will assist in the engineering of metal supply to metalloenzymes for use in industrial biotechnology. It will support the development of bioactive compounds that subvert metal-handling inside microbes in order to replenish the dwindling arsenal of antimicrobial treatments.

The research has been published in Nature Chemical Biology.

(7 Feb 2017) » More about Research looks at metals' roles in reactions of life

Brussels Sprouts in Dementia Research

Professor Andy Whiting's research group and co-workers from University of Aberdeen are investigating synthetic retinoic acid analogues as a potential cure for Alzheimer's disease. Some vegetables, such as Brussels Sprouts, naturally contain vitamin A which is metabolised to retinoic acid in the body, so eating your sprouts is a good thing, just as your Mother told you! This work is described in a Youtube video at:

(2 Mar 2017) » More about Brussels Sprouts in Dementia Research

Engineering Nickel supply for biotechnology

Durham scientists have helped uncover the pathway for biosynthesis of the yellow, nickel-containing coenzyme F430, essential in microorganisms that convert CO2 to methane, as reported today in Nature. Metal-catalysts, such as F430, are critical for life, and many of them have applications in biotechnology. The research, led by groups in Kent and Germany, showed that this catalyst is very similar in structure to other brightly coloured metal-catalysts from different organisms - the iron-containing red pigment haem found in our blood, and the magnesium containing green pigment chlorophyll found in plants. Key to the synthesis of these cofactors is the insertion of a metal ion, which is glued into the centre of the coenzyme. Peter Chivers from Durham University provided the expertise needed to engineer nickel insertion inside E. coli cells, paving the way for future applications of nickel catalysts in biotechnology.

(28 Feb 2017) » More about Engineering Nickel supply for biotechnology

Low cost synthesis of Flucytosine at Durham

Research between the Durham Fluorine group (Professor Graham Sandford) and industrial collaborators Sanofi-Aventis and MEPI in France, funded by the European Union Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI; has led to a new, more efficient way of producing flucytosine, a WHO essential medicine used to treat a common and often deadly fungal form of meningitis in people with HIV / AIDS. Professor Graham Sandford and PhD student Antal Harsanyi (both shown in photograph) carried out the flucytosine synthesis at Durham.

(2 Feb 2017) » More about Low cost synthesis of Flucytosine at Durham

Prof Beeby's Mappa Mundi investigation

Early January, Team-Pigment visited Hereford Cathedral to analyse the pigments used in the world famous Mappa Mundi which dates back to ca. 1300. This stylised world map is usually on display at the Cathedral, and the Durham/Northumbria team was given special permission to study it for three days. The team, shown below (Gamerson, Beeby (Durham) and Nicholson (Northumbria), used Raman and reflectance spectroscopies to determine for the first time some of the materials used to colour the map.

(18 Jan 2017)

Research into contrast agents on Serbian TV

Research by Professor David Parker into the research and development of contrast agents, which are extremely useful in clinical diagnosis, has featured on Serbian TV.

Professor Parker was interviewed by Serbian TV RTS2, at an international conference held in Belgrade at the end of September.

Commenting on his research, Professor Parker said:

"We are studying systems which are mainly used in magnetic resonance tomography. This is a technique that doctors use to aid diagnosis of disease. Many people are subjected to such scans in hospitals, and radiologists working with the doctors, explore the patient's body, by observing the water signal in the body. We are engaged in developing new chemical systems from scratch, and they will also be able to be observed during magnetic resonance imaging.

(5 Dec 2016) » More about Research into contrast agents on Serbian TV

Adams Poster Prizewinners 2016

Congratulations to Gemma Parker (1st prize), Andrei Markin (2nd) and Natalie Mitchell (3rd) in winning the D.B. Adams Poster prizes. These awards, inaugurated in 2014, are made annually in memory of Dr David Brinley Adams (Durham: BSc, 1967 – 1970, PhD, 1970 – 1973, Senior Demonstrator, 1973 – 1975) in recognition of academic excellence in the MChem poster competition.

(16 Nov 2016)