York chemists win prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry awards

Posted on 8 May 2018

Three Department of Chemistry academics have been recognised for their contribution to chemistry.

The Royal Society of Chemistry's annual prizes and awards recognise achievements by individuals, teams and organisations in advancing the chemical sciences. Each year’s winners follow in the footsteps of some of the most influential and inspiring scientists in the world.

Dr Williams Unsworth, Professor Simon Duckett and Professor James Clark of the Department of Chemistry at York, have been recognised for their achievements and contribution to chemistry.

Dr William UnsworthRoyal Society of Chemistry Hickinbottom Award winner for 2018

Dr Unsworth develops new ways to make two important classes of organic materials known as ‘macrocycles’ and ‘spirocycles’. Both have high value in various applications, most notably as medicines and crop protection products, but both are difficult to make using existing methods, which can serve as a barrier to their use. New, practical ways to access these materials more easily are therefore of high importance, as they can help enable the discovery of new drugs and other technologies that can ultimately benefit society.

Dr Unsworth said: 

I am honoured and humbled to have been chosen to receive the 2018 RSC Hickinbottom award. The list of previous winners features many of the greats of UK Organic Chemistry, several of whom are genuine personal heroes of mine, and I couldn’t be happier to be following in their illustrious footsteps. I am very grateful to the RSC and everyone on the awards committee and I’m really looking forward to sharing some of research on macrocycle and spirocycle synthesis during the lecture tour.”

The Hickinbottom Award is awarded for creativity in the development of new methods for the synthesis of functionalised macrocycles and spirocycles. Dr Unsworth receives £2000 and a medal, along with the Briggs Scholarship, which awards £4000 to support one of Dr Unsworth’s research students. He will also complete a UK lecture tour.

Professor Simon DuckettRoyal Society of Chemistry Tilden Prize winner for 2018

Professor Duckett’s work focuses on a key technique used in chemistry to probe the identity, and reactivity, of materials, called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). This method is very closely related to magnetic resonance imagining (MRI), which is used in medicine to probe disease.

Professor Duckett explains: “Our research improves the quality of the pictures these instruments take by dramatically increasing the size of the response they see. The result of this change is that smaller samples can now be examined, scan times can be reduced and potentially lower cost measurement devices built. Hence, in the future, this research may offer a route to widen the availability of MRI for the treatment and analysis of disease.

On winning the Prize, Professor Duckett said:

 “I am very honoured to have been selected to receive one of the Royal Society of Chemistry's 2018 Tilden Prizes. This award reflects the sustained efforts of many collaborators, post-doctoral researchers and PhD students, over a number of years. I look forward to being able to share, and acknowledge, some of their contributions and our innovations during the lecture tour.

The Tilden Prize is awarded for increasing the sensitivity of NMR spectroscopy through the inventions of the SABRE and SABRE-relay methods. Professor Duckett receives £5000 and a medal.

Professor James Clark - Royal Society of Chemistry Green Chemistry Award winner for 2018

Professor Clark’s work focuses on getting value from waste and in particular turning waste into molecules and useful products. His team has made new solvents from forestry waste products, for many applications including cleaning and industrial processing. They have also used orange peel, potato peels and seaweed to make other useful chemicals and materials. They collaborate with industries across the globe to make sure that their methods work.

Professor Clark said:

“[I am] delighted to receive the award from the organisation that helped me start the green chemistry movement in the UK 20 years ago this year!

The Green Chemistry Award is for the design, development or implementation of novel chemical products or processes which have the potential to reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances. Professor Clark receives £2000 and a medal, and will complete a UK lecture tour.

Find out more about the Royal Society of Chemistry's 2018 awards.