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Durham University

Department of Chemistry

Prof. Robin Harris

Emeritus Professor in the Department of Chemistry
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42021

(email at

Research Interests

The versatility and power of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy often make it the technique of choice in chemistry. My research interests have covered all aspects of NMR and its applications to the determination of structural features (chemical, electronic, crystallographic and macromolecular) and molecular dynamics in all phases of matter and in many different areas of chemistry. We make use of measurements of chemical shifts, coupling constants, dipolar and quadrupolar interactions, bandshapes and relaxation times to obtain information for both homogeneous and heterogeneous systems. I have recently had special interest in:

  • Relationships between NMR spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction. Crystal structure. Polymorphism (e.g. of pharmaceutical compounds).
  • Analysis of solid-state spectra to obtain information about dipolar interactions (and hence molecular geometry) and shielding anisotropy.
  • High-resolution NMR of abundant spins (1H and 19F) in solids using specialised pulse sequences. Applications to hydrogen bonding.
  • DFT Computuations of shielding for crystalline solids. Inter- and intra-molecular influences on chemical shifts.
  • Spectra of heavy metals (such as 119Sn, 195Pt and 207Pb). Applications to organometallic chemistry.
  • Materials chemistry. Multinuclear (29Si, 27Al, 17O, 15N etc.) studies of ceramic compounds.

As an NMR group we frequently collaborate with synthetic chemists in the U.K. and overseas, so we are involved in the study of novel areas of chemistry. Our approach is physicochemical, and use is made of techniques other than NMR where necessary. We are specially interested in the interplay of NMR and powder diffraction data for the complete structure determination of microcrystalline materials. There is opportunity for research workers to develop and demonstrate a variety of skills, including problem-solving, sample handling, insight into chemical structure and bonding, collation and correlation of data, control of sophisticated instrumentation, powers of analysis, understanding of NMR concepts, consideration of theory, computing, and electronics. The group has three spectrometers for solid-state NMR: a Varian Inova 300, a Varian VNMR400, and a Varian InfinityPlus 500. We also have access to a range of solution-state NMR spectrometers and to solid-state NMR systems operating at a very high magnetic fields (14.7 and 19.4T). A substantial proportion of our work is financially supported by industry.

However, in my (retired) Emeritus status, I do not accept Ph.D. students or postdoctoral fellows. The Solid State NMR group is now led by Dr. Paul Hodgkinson.


  1. R.K. Harris. P. Hodgkinson, C.J. Pickard, J.R. Yates and V. Zorin, Magn. Reson. Chem., 2007, 45, 5174
  2. R.K. Harris, J. Pharm. Pharmacol., 2007, 59, 225
  3. G.A. Bowmaker, R.K. Harris and S.-W. Oh, Coord. Chem. Rev., 1997, 167, 49.
  4. R.K. Harris, Solid State Sciences, 2004, 6, 1025
  5. G. McGeorge, R.K. Harris et al., J. Phys. Chem. A, 1998, 102, 3505.


Journal Article