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Department of Chemistry

Prof. David Parker, FRS

Professor in the Department of Chemistry
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42033

(email at

Coordination chemistry; diagnostics and imaging; lanthanides; chirality


David Parker grew up in the North-East of England and graduated with a First in Chemistry from Oxford in the summer of ‘78. After a D.Phil. with John M Brown on mechanistic studies in asymmetric catalysis, in October 1980 he took up a NATO fellowship to work with Jean-Marie Lehn in Strasbourg. He returned to Durham in January 1982 to a Lectureship in Chemistry and was promoted to a Chair in 1992. He received the RSC Hickinbottom Fellowship for 1988/9, the Corday-Morgan Medal and Prize in 1989, the ICI Prize in Organic Chemistry in 1991, an RSC Interdisciplinary Award in 1996, a Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship (1998/9), the inaugural IBC Award for Supramolecular Science and Technology in 2000, the first RSC award for Supramolecular Chemistry in 2002, a Tilden Lectureship and Silver Medal in 2003, the Ludwig Mond Medal in 2011 and the triennial Lecoq de Boisbaudran award for rare earth science in 2012. In 2002, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, and in 2014 was recognized as a RISE Fellow by EPSRC. He has twice served as Chairman of Durham Chemistry and held an ERC Advanced Grant (2011-16).

Research Interests

The chemistry of new chiral systems is being studied using multidisciplinary techniques to address key aspects of complexation phenomena in aqueous and biological media. It examines:

  • new aspects of coordination and complexation chemistry, developing metal complexes or conjugates that may bind reversibly or react selectively with biomolecules; their behaviour in vitro and via in cellulo examinations to in vivo applications;
  • the development of very bright 1 and responsive, luminescent lanthanide complexes in which the metal-based emission is a function of the local ionic or chiral environment; this work embraces the synthesis of imaging probes for bioactive species and the development of chiral probes for circularly polarised luminescence (CPL) spectroscopy and microscopy (with Robert Pal in Durham);
  • the synthesis and characterisation of functional magnetic resonance probes, developing responsive and targeted paramagnetic contrast agents that provide information on local pH and temperature in deep tissue, using ParaShift Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy (MRI/MRS: with AM Blamire in Newcastle).

We enjoy fruitful collaborations with academic and industrial research groups in Italy (Turin and Alessandria), France (CISBio Bioassays) and the USA (Harvard and Baltimore). Within the group, pulsed NMR at six field strengths, luminescence spectroscopy and microscopy, electrospray mass spectrometry, HPLC and ratiometric methods of analysis are used to define the nature of solution complexation phenomena.

Responsive Lanthanide Complexes and Sensors

Several single component, macrocyclic complexes of the lanthanide ions have been devised in which the delayed emission from the metal ion within a defined compartment (e.g. a cell organelle) is a sensitive function of pH, dissolved oxygen and the concentration of certain anions - including phosphorus(V) oxy-anions, bicarbonate, lactate citrate and urate2-5. The factors determining the cellular localisation profile of well-defined series of metal complexes are examined, including studies of the mechanism of cell uptake and trafficking 6. In collaboration with colleagues in Newcastle and Harvard, fast relaxing and paramagnetically shifted probes for dual and triple 1H imaging in vivo are being developed for MRI and MRS, notably using complexes of dysprosium, erbium and thulium.7,8 In collaboration with leading groups in Southampton and Manchester, new theories of electronic and nuclear relaxation are being devised. The consequences of the anisotropy and orientation of magnetic and electric susceptibility tensors in f element complexes with ligand fields of differing sizes is being explored, with profound consequences in NMR shift and relaxation behaviour and in optical emission spectroscopy. 


  1. AT Frawley, D Parker and R Pal, Chem. Commun. 2016, 52, 13349-13352; SJ Butler, M Delbianco, L Lamarque, BK McMahon, ER Neil, R Pal, D Parker, JW Walton, JM Zwier, Dalton Trans 2015, 44, 4791; M Delbianco, V Sadovnikova, E Bourrier, L Lamarque,JM Zwier, D Parker, Angew Chem Int Ed Engl, 2014, 53, 10718.
  2. M Starck, R Pal and D Parker, Chem-Eur. J. 2016, 22, 570-580; SJ Butler, D Parker Chem Soc Rev, 2013, 42, 1652; R Carr, NH Evans, D Parker Chem Soc Rev 2012, 41 4673.
  3. CP Montgomery, BS Murray, EJ New, R Pal, D Parker, Acc Chem Res 2009, 42, 925; EJ New, DG Smith, D Parker, JW Walton, Curr Opin Chem Biol 2010, 14, 238.
  4. ER Neil MA Fox, R Pal and D Parker Dalton Trans. 2016, 45, 8355-8366; DG Smith, R Pal, D Parker, Chem Eur J 2012, 18, 11604.
  5. BK McMahon, R Pal, D Parker Chem Comm 2013, 49, 5363; SJ Butler, BK McMahon, R Pal D Parker JW Walton, Chem Eur J 2013, 19, 9511.
  6. EJ New, A Congreve, D Parker, Chem Sci 2010, 1, 111.
  7. PK Senanayake, NJ Rogers, P Harvey, K-LNA Finney, AM Funk, JI Wilson, R Maxwell, D Parker and AM Blamire, Magn Reson Med 2017, 77, 1307-1317; K Mason NJ Rogers, E Suturina, JA Aguilar AS Batsanov, DS Yufit, D Parker, Inorg Chem 2017, 56, 4028-4038; AM Funk, K-L NA Finney, P Harvey, AM Kenwright, ER Neil, NJ Rogers, PK Senanayake, D Parker, Chem Sci 2015, 6, 1655; AM Funk, PH Fries, P Harvey AM Kenwright and D Parker J Phys Chem A 2013, 117, 905. 
  8. OA Blackburn, RM Edkins, S Faulkner, AM Kenwright, NJ Rogers, S Shuvaev and D Parker, Dalton Trans, 2016, 45, 6782-6800; P Harvey, AM Blamire, JI Wilson, K-L NA Finney, AM Funk, PK Senanayake, D Parker, Chem Sci 2013, 4, 4251.


The Parker group WWW pages

Selected Publications

Journal Article

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