• Biological Materials

Biological Materials

The Centre for Materials Science (Chemistry) has two main research themes: Biological Materials and Functional Materials

The Biological Materials Grouping has particular expertise within the following areas:

  • Bioanalytical Sciences
  • Organic/Medicinal Chemistry
  • Computational Chemistry/Biology
  • Lipid Nanostructures

Biological Materials is producing world leading research at the physical life science interface that have important scientific, economic and social impact. Our research is rooted in the application of cutting edge science to real world problems, research such as diagnosing disease, drug design, photoantimicrobial chemotherapy and inhalation toxicity of nano-particulates.

Expertise and Subject Areas

Bioanalytical Sciences – The interdisciplinary Bioanalytical Sciences Research Group is led by Dr Matthew J Baker. The group has a wide range of research projects in the area of biophotonics, biomedical spectroscopy, bioanalytical forensics, drug detection and defence science

Organic / Medicinal Chemistry - The Organic Medicinal Research Group is led by Dr Robert B. Smith. The group has a wide range of research projects in the areas of antimicrobial chemotherapy, wound technology and NIR colour chemistry.

Computational Chemistry / Biology – Group leader of the Molecular Modelling Group is Dr. Joseph M. Hayes. Research combines a multidisciplinary approach in the areas of drug design, organic and supramolecular chemistry, with computational predictions directing the course of laboratory experiments.

Lipid Nanostructures – The Lipid Nanostructures Group is led by Dr Chandrashekhar V Kulkarni. The main research of this group is based on nanostructured self-assemblies of lipids but it also extends towards the study of other amphiphilic molecules including surfactants and membrane proteins. Some of the forefront projects include model intracellular biomembranes, lipid nanoscaffolds, biomolecular interactions with lipid nanostructures, designing and fine tuning of lipid nanostructures, and exploring their novel applications for pharmaceutical and cosmetic formulations; e.g. using hierarchically ordered soft materials.

Synthetic Biomaterials – Led by Dr Kelarakis this area is developing synthetic biomaterials for therapeutic applications.

Smart Biomaterials and Biosensors – Led by Professor Subrayal Reddy, the group is developing membranes and synthetic receptors (artificial antibodies) for use in disease diagnostics and therapeutics. Techniques include molecular imprinting of biologicals (proteins, viruses and cells) and electrochemical, acoustic and optical sensing.

Molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) are smart materials with antibody-like binding affinity for a given target biomolecule e.g. protein or virus. Through self-assembly, an imprint of the target is left in the MIP which facilitates highly selective rebinding of the original target. Compared to biological antibodies, MIPs are synthetic, stable and economical alternatives with ease of mass production. Professor Reddy’s Group is developing bio-functional MIPs to deliver alternative therapeutic neutralising antibodies. The MIPs are also being used to produce virus biosensors with potential applications spanning healthcare, the environment and biodefence.

Professor Reddy’s group published a paper in ‘Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology’ in May 2019 in collaboration with the Pirbright Institute and the University of Surrey entitled Evaluation of Molecularly Imprinted Polymers as Synthetic Virus Neutralizing Antibody Mimics regarding the use of their smart materials (Molecularly Imprinted Polymers) to neutralise virus infection.  There is potential now for these materials to be studied as new therapeutic agents in the fight against viral infection and in the development of novel diagnostic tests for early detection of diseases.  A Research Fellow recruited on the DTA3/COFUND Marie Skłodowska-Curie PhD Fellowship programme will be taking this work forward in collaboration with The Pirbright Institute.


The approach to impact for the Centre for Materials Science (Chemistry) has led to research outputs with high impact. CMS has focused on three main themes to maximise the impact of our research:

  • Economic – supporting industry, focussed on specific areas of expertise, nationally and internationally through applied research.
  • Public Safety, Wellbeing and Health – Directing applied research towards food security, energy supply and medical technologies.
  • Societal – Developing diagnostic tests and designing drugs that can save lives and increase the efficiency of public services. Developing materials for environmental clean-up and through regular outreach activities.

Courses and Postgraduate Study

BSc Chemistry

MChem Chemistry

MSc Synthetic Organic Chemistry

MSc by Research