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Department of Chemistry

Dr Karen E. Johnston

Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42063

(email at


Karen E. Johnston completed her undergraduate degree in Chemistry and Mathematics at the University of St Andrews, where she was awarded the Charles Horrex prize for best undergraduate physical project. She then undertook her PhD with Professors Sharon Ashbrook and Philip Lightfoot, also at the University of St Andrews. Her thesis focused on the synthesis and structural characterisation of novel perovskite-based materials using a combination of powder diffraction, solid-state Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and first-principles Density Functional Theory (DFT) calculations. Following her PhD research, she undertook post-doctoral work with Professor Robert W. Schurko at the University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Here she focused on the development of wideline solid-state NMR techniques for the study of quadrupolar nuclei in transition-metal organometallic complexes. She also worked on the development of indirect detection methods for the study of nitrogen-containing pharmaceuticals. This was completed in collaboration with Professor Marek Pruski at The Ames Laboratory, Iowa State University. Karen then completed a second post-doctoral position in the Advanced Lithium Storage-European Research Institute (ALISTORE-ERI) with Dr Nicolas Dupré (Nantes, France) and Professor Clare P. Grey (Cambridge). Here she focused on the characterisation of ternary alloys for use as negative electrode materials in lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries.

Current Research Interests

• Solid State Chemistry
• Functional Materials
• Li-ion Batteries
• Solid-State NMR Spectroscopy (SSNMR)
• DFT Calculations

Our current research aims to combine high-resolution powder diffraction (X-ray and neutron) with multinuclear solid-state NMR and first-principles DFT calculations to study structure in the solid state. We are interested in the characterisation of both ordered and disordered materials. Current areas of interest include high temperature ceramics, e.g., perovskite-based systems. We are also interested in conversion materials for use as negative electrodes in Li- and Na-ion batteries. One area of particular interest is the design, synthesis and characterisation of novel solid electrolyte materials for use in both Li- and Na-ion batteries. Understanding the local structure of these materials will provide detailed insight into the physical properties they exhibit.

Current Vacancies and Research Opportunities

We welcome enquiries about research in our group at all levels, including MChem, PhD and post-doctoral positions. Contact Dr Karen Johnston with a CV and covering letter to discuss potential positions available. Informal enquiries are also welcome. 


Journal Article