Dynamic and diverse with excellent research facilities and a strong international and interdisciplinary collaborative profile. We engage and work with multiple partners (academic and industry) to enhance the impact of our research with research funding from a range of sources.

Study Information

At a Glance

Degree Qualification
MSc or PhD

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Our research covers all aspects of chemistry ranging from basic laboratory science to applied research that impacts on many aspects of modern life, such as new chemical compounds for energy conversion and storage, advanced materials such as liquid crystals, exotic magnets and superconductors, drug discovery/medicinal chemistry, pharmaceuticals, and environmental and analytical sciences. We have strong links with industry, which is reflected by major industrial sponsorship to fund research.

Our aim is to conduct chemical research that ranks among the best in the UK and internationally. Example areas of research strength include Advanced Materials, Energy, Environment and Health, resulting in high quality research outputs including papers in Nature Materials, Nature Chemical Biology, Nature Chemistry, Nature Communications, and 18 patents for a range of applications including a new proton conducting membrane, novel catalysts and treatments and diagnostic agents for Alzheimer’s disease.

In REF2021, 95% of our submission was rated as world beating or internationally excellent. Our research environment was judged to be 100% world leading or internationally excellent and we are ranked joint first for world leading research impact in Scotland.

Research in the Department is supported by state-of-the-art laboratory facilities. Our core facilities provide researchers with access to a range of cutting-edge equipment, staffed by experts who help with experimental design, training and data analysis.

We welcome applications from self-funded students at any time.

Postgraduate students are supported by the Postgraduate School which provides induction, skills training opportunities and help with career planning.

Our Research

The Department of Chemistry at the University of Aberdeen is an outward looking and vibrant department with strong international collaborative links and prestige.

We engage and work with multiple partners (academic and industry) to enhance the impact of our research and have been highly successful in obtaining funding from a range of sources.

Research in the department of Chemistry is structured through 4 key clusters:

  • Advanced materials
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Health (Drug discovery, Medicinal chemistry, Biomaterials, Pharmaceuticals and Chemical biology)

These research clusters bring together staff and students with shared research interests, to encourage multidisciplinary collaboration.

Advanced Materials
The Advanced Materials theme brings expertise in materials synthesis, characterization and modelling to tackle important challenges in liquid crystals, exotic electrical and magnetic materials and functional biomaterials. The research groups in this theme are Ab-Elektro, Liquid crystals, Photo-active materials and Solid state chemistry.

Research is focussed on the synthesis and investigation of sustainable materials and processes for energy conversion and storage and global warming mitigation. Our strengths include research in hydrogen fuel cells, electrolysers (e.g., water splitting, CO2 conversion), heterogeneous catalysts, photo-, electro- and photoelectrocatalysts, and carbon capture. The research groups in this theme are Solid state chemistry, Ab-Elektro, Heterogeneous catalysis and Photo-active materials.

Pioneering work includes the development of elemental speciation and elemental bioimaging methodologies for solving pertinent problems in environments.

Research includes medicinal chemistry, the discovery, analysis, metabolic profiling and synthesis of molecules of biological and medical significance. The strategy has been to strengthen the link between discovery, synthesis and biosynthesis in order to create chemical diversity with potent and selective biological and pharmacological activity.
We also have research programme in computational chemistry investigating the interactions of antimatter with atoms and molecules. Such studies have relevance for medical PET scanning (Positron Emission Tomography) and antiproton-beam cancer therapy.

The research groups in this theme are Marine Biodiscovery Centre, SyMBioSIS, TauRx group and Theoretical and Computational chemistry.

Research Interests


Our research focuses on fundamental aspects of interfacial electron transfer, structure of the electrical double layer, and electrocatalysis, with strong emphasis on electrochemical energy conversion and storage (e.g., fuel cells, electrochemical and photoelectrochemical water splitting, CO2 electroreduction). Other research areas of activity are corrosion and metal electrodeposition.

Find out more about Ab-Elektro.

Supervisor: Professor Angel Cuesta

Heterogeneous catalysis

Our research involves the design and application of heterogeneous catalysis with a particular emphasis on using supported metals for hydrogenation processes. We are particularly interested in establishing structure-performance relationships so that catalytic traits can be tailored to improve activity and selectivity

Find out more about Heterogeneous catalysis.

Supervisors: Dr Alan McCue, Professor Russell Howe

Liquid crystals

Research in the liquid crystal group involves the design, synthesis and characterisation of novel liquid crystals which exhibit new types of phases having remarkable properties. We study the relationships between molecular structure and the thermal and optical properties of the liquid crystal in order to both enhance our fundamental understanding of this fascinating state of matter and optimise the application potential.

Find out more about Liquid crystals.

Supervisors: Professor Corrie Imrie, Professor John Storey, Dr Rebecca Walker, Dr Alf Martinez-Felipe, Dr Peter Henderson

Marine Biodiscovery Centre

Research on marine invertebrates and microorganisms obtained extreme environments such as the deep sea, polar regions and deserts. We work with many groups internationally to obtain these with legal certainty. An example of the discovery of bioactive compounds is work by scientists in the Marine Biodiscovery Centre, together with international collaborators to discover two compound families with activity in animal models for Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy. We are well equipped for natural product discovery and structure determination as well as using genome mining and molecular approaches to analyse biosynthetic gene clusters to enable a greater understanding of how they function.

Find out more about Marine Biodiscovery Centre

Supervisors: Professor Marcel Jaspars, Dr Rainer Ebel, Dr Laurent Trembleau, Dr Hai Deng, Dr Wael Houssen.

Solid state chemistry

Our research involves the synthesis and discovery of novel materials which exhibit fascinating properties. Examples include superconductors, electrolytes for ceramic hydrogen fuel cells, novel carbon capture compounds and exotic magnetic materials. We are particularly interested in structure-property relationships which enable us to tune the properties of our materials.

Find out more about Solid state chemistry.

Supervisors: Professor Abbie Mclaughlin, Professor Jan Skakle, Professor Bill Harrison, Professor Iain Gibson


Our research is situated at the interface of chemistry and biology. The chemistry branch include work to assist in the preparation of natural and synthetic enzyme substrates, inhibitors and various bioactive synthetic compounds (aromatics and peptides) for applications in Medicinal Chemistry.
The biology branch is interested in the characterization of antimicrobial and antiviral natural product scaffolds, the identification and exploration of novel enzymatic mechanisms, the discovery of biosynthesis pathways using bioinformatics and genetic manipulations, and the development of biosensors.

Find out more about SyMBioSIS.

Supervisors: Dr Laurent Trembleau, Dr Hai Deng

Theoretical and Computational Chemistry

We calculate quantum state energies, wavefunctions and potential energy surfaces. Such information on vibration-rotation-electronic quantum states of molecules is critical to the understanding of many branches of chemistry and other fields, including spectroscopy, astronomy, nanotechnology, combustion science, atmospheric science, surface chemistry and molecular modelling. Our work also includes quantum scattering and bound-state calculations on antimatter interacting with normal matter. There is considerable academic and practical interest in the interaction of antimatter with atoms and molecules.

Find out more about Theoretical and Computational Chemistry.

Supervisor: Dr Mark Law


Research with TauRx Therapeutics Ltd has been highly successful in developing treatments and diagnostic agents for AD resulting in 17 patents since 2014. It is the largest project in the University, running for almost two decades and currently employs 26 researchers (mostly PDRFs) in the Chemistry Department. The project is interdisciplinary including researchers in Applied Mathematics, the School of Psychology and the Institute of Medical Sciences (University of Aberdeen), University of Florence, Italy and the University of Sussex. In addition to chemistry design and development, the project has funded and operates a GLP/GCP testing facility, the only one of its kind in a University Department of Chemistry in the world.

Supervisor: Professor John Storey

Entry Requirements

Normally, the minimum entrance requirement for admission to the PhD is a degree with Second Class Honours (Upper Division) in chemical sciences, or equivalent. It is preferable that you hold a Masters in the chosen area of study as well.

If English is not your first language and you have not studied previously at an institution in the UK, you will need to demonstrate your proficiency in English by taking an IELTS, TOEFL or PTE academic test.

Fees and Funding

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1st in Scotland for research impact - REF2021

1st in Scotland for world-leading research impact in REF2021, the UK-wide assessment of university research. 


A postgraduate qualification in Chemical Sciences prepares you for a wide range of career options. Many of our graduates obtain posts in schools and Universities, pharmaceutical, fine chemical, oil and gas, and biotechnology sectors. In addition to gaining research skills, making friends, meeting eminent researchers and being part of the research community, a research degree will help you to develop invaluable transferable skills which you can apply to academic life or a variety of professions outside of academia.

Want more information of your career path? Please visit our Graduate Profiles

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Contact Details

Postgraduate Research School - School of Engineering, Geosciences and Natural and Computing Science
University of Aberdeen
Crombie Hall
AB24 3TS