Research Degrees

MSc, MPhil, PhD

Head of Research Area

Head of Research: Professor Jim Anderson


Academic Staff: 18

Research Fellows: 20

Research Students: 50

For Further Information Contact

Graduate School Admissions Unit
College of Physical Sciences
University of Aberdeen
St. Mary's
AB24 3UF

Related Taught Programmes


Chemistry in Aberdeen has been recognised as a subject in its own right since 1793, making this one of the oldest Chemistry Departments in the country.

The Department occupies the Meston Building, adjacent to the medieval centre of the University campus, and is well equipped for research in all branches of Chemistry. The Department's main areas of specialisation are in Materials Chemistry (ceramics, glasses, zeolites, polymers, liquid crystals, catalysts, novel electrical materials), Organic Chemistry, Environmental/Analytical Chemistry and computational Chemistry. Recent appointments have enabled us to strengthen our work in catalysis and surface science environmental and analytical chemistry and organic synthesis. This summer we will open a new laboratory facility which houses the biodiscovery centre.

The Department has a wide range of modern equipment, notably a state-of-the-art thermal analysis laboratory, two electron microscopes, an electron probe microanalyser, powder and single crystal x-ray diffractometers (including a Bruker SMART 1000 CCD area detector single crystal instrument and D8 Advance diffractometer with high temperature and texture analysis facilities), three liquids n.m.r. spectrometers (250, 400 and 600 MHz and 400MHz solids), three ICP systems (including the only ICP-TOFMS instrument in the UK and a laser ablation attachment), mass spectrometers, Laser Raman with microscope, an i.r. scanning microscope, optical microscopes, e.s.r., i.r., u.v. and visible spectrometers, GC-MS, plus equipment for a.c. impedance spectroscopy and non-standard materials synthesis.

Most postgraduate degrees are by research, but include compulsory PG lecture courses, seminar programmes and research group meetings which involve students in Departmental life. In addition to the research postgraduate degrees, the department offers a two year Euromasters (2nd cycle Bologna) MSc in Chemical Sciences with both taught and research project components.

The research school has a strongly international flavour, with research students and a steady stream of research visitors from all over the world. Many of these international links grow into collaborations lasting for many years. There are existing links with European Universities which are expanding through the Framework 7 EU funding initiatives. In addition, we currently have many industrially funded PhD students in all areas of our research.

Our Research

Whilst our teaching is organised into the traditional sections of Organic, Physical, Analytical and Inorganic Chemistry, our research sweeps away these boundaries through intra- and inter- departmental collaborations. These include links with Engineering, Plant and Soil Science, Bio-Medical Physics, Orthopaedics, Geology, Molecular and Cell Biology and Zoology. In addition, we have many national and international collaborations.

Inorganic Materials Chemistry
Synthesis and characterisation of new inorganic materials. Zeolites and new compounds with zeolite-like structures, catalytic materials. Structure/property correlations in electroceramics, ionic conductors, new transition metal oxides. Single crystal structure determination. Study of biomaterials using diffraction and spectroscopic methods (Prof. R F Howe, Dr W T A Harrison, Dr J M S Skakle, Dr R K P Wells, Dr A McLaughlin).

Materials for Heterogeneous
Catalysis and photocatalysis Synthesis and characterisation of new catalysts and photocatalysts Production of hydrogen, use of biomass and green chemistry. Control of selectivity in hydrogenation and oxidation reactions. Catalysis by solid acids and bases. Application of techniques for in situ spectroscopy of catalyst surfaces. Photocatalysis for destruction of pollutants. (Prof. J A Anderson, Prof. D.E. MacPhee, Dr R K P Wells Prof. R F Howe and Prof H. Idriss).

Polymers with medical applications, bone replacement materials. Synthesis and characterisation of novel materials. Work in collaboration with Biomedical Physics, Orthopaedics and Biomedical Sciences (Dr I R Gibson, Dr J M S Skakle, Prof C T Imrie).

Cement Chemistry
The chemistry of cement systems, hardening processes, cement formulations. Development of new, high performance, chemically resistant cements. New techniques for investigating corrosion in reinforced concrete. Major nationally and internationally-supported research projects on highly durable very long-lived cements for the containment and immobilisation of toxic and radio-active wastes (Prof. F P Glasser, Prof. D E Macphee).

Polymer Chemistry
Liquid crystals - novel materials for electro-optical technologies, information storage, nonlinear optics. New amorphous polymers with applications in electrical devices, batteries. (Prof. C T Imrie, Prof M D Ingram)

Organic Chemistry
Organic molecules for targeted drug delivery. Potential antibiotics and anti-tumour agents from marine natural products. NMR studies of cell processes. Organic derivatives of main group elements: structures, applications in synthesis. Metallated carbohydrates; unusual water-soluble chiral organometallic compounds. Low melting organic glasses for controlled drug and vaccine delivery. Synthesis of unusual strained polycyclic molecules related to fullerenes. Organic ferromagnetic materials, organic molecules with unusual optical properties or applications in electrophotography. Organic crystal engineering (Prof M Jaspars, Dr J M D Storey, Dr L Trembleau, Dr R. Ebel, Dr H. Deng, Dr M J Plater).

Environmental and Analytical Chemistry
Determination of trace volatile organic compounds in air and diving atmospheres. Identification of organic and inorganic pollutants in oilfield wastes, mining run-offs, landfill sites, domestic water supplies. Generation of organometallic compounds in environmental processes. Toxicity and metabolism of arsenic compounds (e.g. in minerals and in seaweeds). Development of new ICP-MS techniques for environmental analysis (Prof J Feldmann, Dr E. Krupp and Prof. D E Macphee).

Spectroscopy and Theoretical Chemistry
Vibrational spectroscopy of organometallic compounds, characterisation of CH bonds and unusual molecular structures and environments. Studies of molecular vibrational dynamics and calculation, using extensive supercomputing techniques, of reliable potential energy sources (Dr M M Law).

The nature of our research creates good industrial contacts with many job opportunities; many of our PhD graduates move on to industrial posts in the UK and abroad. Others continue with research or academic work in Universities or research institutes, or move into teaching. We also find that those who wish to move into different careers (e.g. management, finance, administration, civil service, I.T.) have little difficulty in doing so.


Tuition fee rates for the academic year can be found at :-

Sources of Funding

Many students are funded through the research councils (mainly EPSRC and BBSRC) and through industrial funding. Others may be funded by the University, and others are funded by the government bodies of the particular student.

Elphinstone PhD Scholarships

ElphinstoneTo commemorate the 500th anniversary of our founder, Bishop William Elphinstone, we are offering a new £5 million PhD scholarship programme in memory of his commitment to excellence and "the pursuit of truth in the service of others".

More Details on the Elphinstone PhD Scholarships »

Course Contact

Related Information

General Information

Student Recruitment & Admissions Service
University of Aberdeen
University Office
King's College

Tel: +44 (0)1224 272090 / +44 (0)1224 272091
Fax: +44 (0)1224 272576