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POB Group Alumni

 Stephen Yao (2019-2023)

Stephen Yao

Stephen received his BSc degree from University College Dublin in 2019. In his final year, he focused on the synthesis of triazole and imidazole containing lipoxin A 4 analogues whilst working under the supervision of Prof. Patrick Guiry. Stephen joined the O’Brien group as an MSc by research student working on 3-D building blocks for use in medicinal chemistry. Since then, he has completed a PhD programme, supported by the Wild Fund, on the same project. Outside of the lab, Stephen loves to travel and will always have an eye out for cheap flights. He has gone on to work at Apex Molecular.


Giordaina Hartley (2017-2022)


Giordaina completed her undergraduate degree at Teesside University, with an industrial placement year at the pharmaceutical company Covance. She completed her MSc by research at the University of York as part of the O’Brien group and stayed on to undertake a PhD. Her research focused on the C-H functionalisation of sulfoximines using organolithium reagents. She undertook a short postdoc in the group, working on working on inhibitors of the Nsp3 macrodomain of SARS-CoV-2. Giordaina left to pursue a career at Astex Theraputics. 


Ben Trowse (2018-2022)

Ben Trowse

Ben completed his MChem at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. His final year project, under the supervision of Dr Graeme Barker (O’Brien group alumni), investigated the lithiation-trapping of benzyl tetrazoles. Ben then joined the University of York to work towards a PhD under joint supervision of Thomas Farmer, James Sherwood and Peter O’Brien in the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence. Ben’s research focused on the application of green solvent, TMO, in organolithium chemistry and cross-coupling reactions. He undertook a short postdoc in the O'Brien / Smith groups working on the development of air stable organometallic gels. In his spare time Ben enjoys playing (probably too much) videogames with friends and watching rugby. Ben has gone on to work at Apex Molecular.


James Firth (2010-2014 & 2016-2022)

 ‌‌James Firth

James obtained his MChem from the University of Edinburgh and his PhD from the University of York under the supervision of Prof. Peter O’Brien, on the asymmetric lithiation of piperazines. He then undertook a postdoctoral position at the University of Leeds with Profs. Adam Nelson and Steve Marsden. James then returned to York as a postdoc and has worked with Profs. Peter O’Brien and Ian Fairlamb on high-throughput experimentation, the development of transition metal catalysed processes and technologies for fragment-based drug discovery.


Matthew Gill (2018-2022)

Matthew Gill‌‌

Matthew completed his undergraduate degree (MChem) at York, spending the final year on placement with AstraZeneca in Cambridge as a synthetic chemist. He then returned to York to join the O’Brien group and worked on the α-arylation of nitrogen heterocycles. In the process he has developed a procedurally simple and highly diastereoselective lithiation-α-arylation procedure. Beyond chemistry Matthew enjoys games of all descriptions, particularly card games and Warhammer 40,000. Matthew has gone on to a postdoctoral position at the University of York with Dr Chris Spicer.


Hannah Kemp (2021-2022)

Hannah Kemp

Hannah did her BSc in Natural Sciences Specialising in Neuroscience at the University of York. She has joined the O’Brien group as an MSc by Research student working on fragment elaboration using 3-D building blocks. Outside of the lab, Hannah is a crisis counsellor and enjoys pole fitness, bouldering, yoga and rollerskating.


Jonathan Churchill (2018-2022)

Jonathan Churchill

Jonathan studied for his undergraduate at the University of York (MChem), completing his final year project with the Materials Group studying “Synthesis and Characterisation of Functionalised Liquid Crystals” under the supervision of Dr Stephen Cowling. Jonathan’s PhD studies were supervised by Victor Chechik, Peter O’Brien and Alison Parkin, and his research involved developing and studying synthetic electroorganic transformations.


Chlow Howman (2020-2021)

Chloe received a MChem degree from the University of East Anglia in 2019. In her final year, she worked with Professor Mark Searcey investigating the development of a solid-phase methodology for the synthesis of yatakemycin derivatives. Chloe carried out a MSc by research from 2020-2021, investigating the synthesis and Suzuki-Miyaura cross-coupling of alpha-borylated pyrrolidines. After leaving the group, Chloe followed her passion for education and went on to teach secondary science. Outside of the lab, Chloe could be found walking her dog Lucy and completing jigsaw puzzles.


Hannah Smith (2019-2020)

Hanna Smith

Hannah Smith graduated from the University of York with a BSc degree in 2019. She then joined the O’Brien group to carry out a MSc by research. Her project focused on the development of new synthetic methodology for the synthesis of cyclic sulfoximines. Outside of the lab, Hannah is a keen runner and netball player - playing netball for both her college and York City Netball Club. 


Kevin Kasten (2017-2020)

 ‌Kevin Kasten

Kevin was born and raised in Berlin, Germany, where he also conducted his undergraduate studies at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. Research projects included the synthesis of Tamoxifen derivatives (Oliver Seitz) and the elucidation of structures and dynamics of photoswitchable Grubbs-type catalysts (Clemens Mügge, Stefan Hecht). Kevin then moved to the University of St Andrews, Scotland, to pursue a PhD in organocatalysis under the supervision of Andrew D. Smith. Studies included the NHC-catalysed Steglich rearrangement of pyrazolyl carbonates, the quinidine-catalysed formal [4+2] cycloaddition of ethyl 2,3-butadienoate to CF3-enones and the isothiourea-catalysed rearrangement of quaternary ammonium salts. In the O’Brien group, Kevin worked on an EPSRC funded project which explored the racemic and enantioselective α-lithiation and trapping of saturated heterocycles. He left the group and returned to the University of St Andrews, taking up a post-doctoral position under the supervision of Andrew D. Smith.


Hanna Klein (2016-2020)

 Hanna Klein

Hanna completed her MSc research on the Synthesis of Antimalarial Antifolates at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. At the end of 2013, she moved to the US and began working for Endocyte Inc., an American biopharmaceutical company situated within Purdue University’s Research Park. Here, she worked on the development of Small Molecule Drug Conjugates (SMDCs) as part of a targeted therapy approach for the treatment of cancer and inflammatory diseases. She joined the O'Brien group in 2016 as part of the EU funded, Marie Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN), FragNet. Her PhD project focused on the design and synthesis of 3-D fragments and elaboration of fragments in 3-D. After leaving the group, Hanna took up a post-doctoral position in the group of Professor Fredrik Almqvist at Umea in Sweden.


Nico Seling (2017-2020)

 Nico Seling

Nico carried out his BSc and MSc Chemistry at RWTH Aachen in Germany, graduating in 2016. He spent the last six months for his MSc dissertation at the University of York in the O'Brien group examining novel organolithium methodology. After a short internship at the Université de Rouen in France, he returned to the O'Brien group in January 2017 for his PhD studies. His research project explored the racemic and asymmetric C-H functionalisation of heterocycles using organolithium reagents. Nico moved to a post-doctoral position in the group of Chris Spicer at York before taking up a position with Concept Life Sciences.


Sophie Berrell (2016-2020)


Sophie graduated from the University of Leeds (MChem) with a placement involving research of an opioid addiction treatment drug and its impurities, in order for the drug to be approved. Sophie carried out her PhD studies under the supervision of Peter O’Brien, Victor Chechik and Alison Parkin. Her research involved the development of synthetic methodology using electrochemically-generated free radicals on drug-like scaffolds. She left the O’Brien group to take up a position with Apex Molecular.


Lewis Gooch (2016-2019)

 Lewis Gooch

Lewis carried out his BSc degree at the University of Salford also completing a placement year at KidScan cancer research charity. His research involved developing an improved organolithium methodology for an asymmetric synthesis of diarylmethane derivatives, supervised by Dr Jim Wilkinson. In his final year, he worked on an independent research project utilising organolithium approaches towards the synthesis of dehydroemetine analogues for use as an anti-malarial agent. He carried out a PhD in the Fascione and O’Brien groups establishing novel approaches for the bio-orthogonal modification of proteins.


Alex Hindle (2018-2019)


Alex carried out her BSc at Keele University, focusing on the synthesis of novel antimalarial agents for her final year project. She additionally undertook a year in industry at the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, where her research contributed to the approval of a new blood cancer drug. Alex studied for a MSc by research in the O'Brien group. Her research focused on the C-H functionalisation of sulfoximines using organolithium reagents. After finishing her MSc, Alex carried out a PhD at the University of Leeds under the supervision of Professors Adam Nelson and Steve Marsden.


Tom Downes (2015-2019)

 Tom Downes

Tom studied for his undergraduate degree at Oxford University, where he spent his masters year working on the synthesis of novel antibiotics based on a tetramate core. He carried out his PhD studies in the O'Brien group on the 3-D fragment project, synthesising interesting molecules for medicinal chemistry. Outside of the lab, Tom enjoys rugby and cricket, and was well-known for corralling the rest of the group into board game nights. He left the group to take up a position at Evotec.


Paul Jones (2015-2019)

 Paul Jones

Paul did his MChem at the University of the Nottingham, with an integrated year in industry at Sygnature discovery. His masters project was funded by GSK, focusing on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. In the O’Brien group, he carried out a PhD on the design and synthesis of 3-D fragments to explore new areas of pharmaceutical space in collaboration with Astex, Astra Zeneca, Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Vernalis. After leaving York, Paul obtained a position at Sygnature.


Will Duckworth  (2014-2019)

 Will Duckworth

Will carried out his MChem degree at the University of York. He spent his final year under the supervision of Professor Richard Taylor and Dr. Timothy Hurst to explore synthesis of a range of carbonyl-linked bisoxindole structures. His PhD was conducted in collaboration with Simon Duckett on a range of isotopically-labelled nicotines and related structures with a view towards medicinal imaging applications such as MRI. This involved their synthesis, subsequent hyperpolarisation by Signal Enhancement By Reversible Exchange (SABRE) and evaluation/optimisation of their magnetic properties. 


Adam Islip (2012-2017)

 Adam Islip

Adam received his MChem degree from the University of York in 2013. His final year undergraduate project was undertaken with supervision from Prof. Peter O'Brien and Dr Peter Karadakov as was his PhD. This project involved the investigation of the lithiation reaction of N-Boc heterocycles using experimental and spectroscopic techniques as well as and computational DFT modelling. He went on to be a chemoinformatician/developer for Scitegrity Ltd.


Mickey James (2013-2017)

 Micky James

Mickey was born in Derby and completed his MChem Chemistry with a year in industry (GlaxoSmithKline), University of York. He was a joint PhD student with Richard Taylor & Peter O’Brien working on catalytic dearomatization reactions and their use in total synthesis. He recieved a Humboldt fellowship and joined the group of Prof. Dr. Frank Glorius at Münster.


Masakazu Atobe (2014-2017)

 Masa Atobe

Masakazu was a visiting researcher and obtained a PhD from Tokyo University of Pharmacy & Life Science, Japan. He is employed at Asahi Kasei Pharma Corporation in Japan. He was seconded to the O’Brien and Hubbard groups in order to work on a range of synthetic and chemical biology projects.  He was involved in projects exploring new 3-D pharmaceutical space through the design and synthesis of 3-D fragments, C–H functionalisation of cyclic ethers via lithiation-trapping & modulating enzyme activity by covalent modification with fragments.