Dr Alyssa-Jennifer Avestro

Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow
Lecturer (Hon.) in Molecular Materials Chemistry



Alyssa-Jennifer Avestro (who goes by ‘Alyssa’ informally) is an organic chemist trained in the synthesis, spectroscopic and electrochemical analysis of supramolecular and polymeric materials. She graduated a BS in Materials Chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 2010. After completing her PhD studies with 2016 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Sir Fraser Stoddart FRS, she relocated to the United Kingdom in January 2016 to launch her independent academic career as a research group leader in the Department of Chemistry at Durham University. There, she has been supported by a prestigious Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1951 Research Fellowship. In 2018, she was awarded a five-year Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow (jointly sponsored by the Global Challenges Research Fund) and will be joining the Department of Chemistry at the University of York in January 2019 to take up her joint post as an honorary Lecturer in Molecular Materials Chemistry. Here, she and the Avestro Group will make up the energy research leg of the newly formed Molecular Materials Research Grouping (#MolMatYork) at York.

Alyssa’s research interests are focussed on developing a fundamental understanding of through-space π-electronic geometries in one, two, and even three dimensions within (supra-/macro-)molecular and hybrid molecular materials featuring rather unconventional rational design. Such materials will be developed with an eye towards raising the relevance of π-organic molecules for efficient optoelectronics, semiconductors, chemical sensors, advanced nanotechnologies, functional surfaces, and energy transport–storage–and conversion devices. For regular updates on Avestro Group research, please visit the Avestro Group website at avestrogroup.com and on social media at @ajavestro and #AvestroGroup.

For more information on project openings and opportunities to work with the Avestro Group, see the Vacancies tab and send an email Alyssa at alyssa-jennifer.avestro@york.ac.uk.

Education and Career Summary

  • 2019–present Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow
    Lecturer (Hon.) in Molecular Materials Chemistry
    Department of Chemistry, University of York, UK
  • 2019–present Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry
    Department of Chemistry, Durham University, UK
  • 2017–2018 Assistant Professor of Research (fixed-term appointment) Department of Chemistry, Durham University, UK
  • 2016–2018 Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851
    Research Fellow Department of Chemistry, Durham University, UK
  • 2010–2015 PhD in Chemistry (Organic / Materials)
    Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University, USA
    Thesis Advisor – J. Fraser Stoddart, 2016 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
  • 2006–2010 BS in Materials Chemistry, minor degree in Bioengineering Department of Chemistry, University of California at Berkeley, USA
    UG Research Advisor – Jean M J Fréchet
  • 2002–06 AA in Liberal Arts (Physical Sciences)
    Contra Costa College, USA (Completed concurrently with secondary education)

Recognition, Awards and Highlights

  • 2018 Durham Energy Institute Associate Fellow
  • 2017 SciFinder Future Leaders Award
  • 2017 L’Oréal–UNESCO UK–Ireland For Women in Science Highly Commend Award
  • 2016–18 Durham Energy Institute Early-Career Fellow
  • 2016 Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Prize for International Collaboration
  • 2015 Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) Swiss Government Excellence Scholar
  • 2014–15 National Science Foundation GROW Research Fellow, Université de Genève, Switzerland
  • 2011–14 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, Northwestern University, USA
  • 2006–10 UC Regent’s and Chancellor’s Scholar, University of California at Berkeley, USA
  • 2010 President’s Scholar, Contra Costa College, USA



Multi-Dimensionally Conjugated Supra(Macro)Molecular Materials

The overarching aim of Avestro Group research is to understand how precise π-electronic interactions between functional aromatic surfaces can give rise to a material’s inherent and emergent optical, electronic and transmission properties. We target organic synthetic molecules and (supra-)macromolecular materials that present fundamentally interesting through-space π-electronic geometries arranged in one, two and even three dimensions of space. Our strategies involve supramolecular self-assembly, coordination chemistry, as well as precisely orientated covalent bonding into shape-persistent structures. In all projects, Avestro Group researchers exploit an interdisciplinary array of methods including organic synthesis, advanced spectroscopy, electrochemistry, diffraction, materials analysis, and computational modelling to study our systems. Promising materials will be pursued further for semiconductor, energy storage (e.g., rechargeable organic batteries) and energy conversion (e.g., organic photovoltaics, OLEDs) applications. Substrates, electrodes and prototypical devices are prepared in-house and alongside collaborators in Malaysia, China, and India (i.e., aligned with the Global Challenges Research Fund remit) to enhance the excellence and impact of our research.

Who Supports A-Team Research?

Avestro Group research is currently supported by generous financial contributions from The Royal Society, the UKRI’s Global Challenges Research Fund, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Laidlaw Foundation, Universities UK International (UUKi) and the Departments of Chemistry at the University of York and Durham University. We are also grateful for the support provided to us in the past by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, the Durham Greenspace Initiative, and the Royal Society of Chemistry. 

Learn more (below) about Avestro Group sponsors, both past and present:



Independent Work (Post-PhD)

Saidi, N. M.; Numan, A.; Omar, F. S.; Apperley, D. C.; Algaradah, M. M.; Ramesh, K.; Avestro, A.-J.*; Subramaniam, R. T.* “Sonochemically-Enhanced Polymer Gel Electrolytes for High Ion Mobility in Dye-Sensitised Solar Cells,” ACS App. Mater. Inter. 2018, under review.

Sturala, J.; Etherington, M. K.; Bismillah, A. N.; Higginbotham, H. F.; Aguilar, J. A.; Bromley, E. H. C.; Avestro, A.-J.*; Monkman, A. P.*; McGonigal, P. R.* “Excited-State Aromatic Interactions in the Aggregation-Induced Emission of Molecular Rotors,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, 139, 17882–17889.

Avestro, A.-J.* “Catalysing Excellence: In a Competitive High-Stakes Arena, Can We Be Our Own Catalysts for Success?” Chem 2016, 1, 13–15.

Mentored Work

Liu, L.; Cotelle, Y.; Avestro, A.-J.; Sakai, N.; Matile, S.* “Asymmetric Anion–π Catalysis of Iminium / Nitroaldol Cascades to Form Cyclohexane Rings with Five Stereogenic Centers Directly on π-Acidic Surfaces,” J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2016, 138, 7876–7879.

Cotelle, Y.; Benz, S.; Avestro, A.-J.; Ward, T. R.; Sakai, N.; Matile, S.* “Anion–π Catalysis of Enolate Chemistry: Rigidified Leonard Turns as a General Motif to Run Reactions on Aromatic Surfaces,” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2016, 55, 4275–4279.

Zhao, Y.; Cotelle, Y.; Avestro, A.-J.; Sakai, N.; Matile, S. “Asymmetric Anion–π Catalysis: Enamine Addition to Nitroolefins on π-Acidic Surfaces,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015, 137, 11582–11585.

McGonigal, P. R.; Deria, P.; Hod, I.; Moghadam, P. Z.; Avestro, A.-J.; Horwitz, N. E.; Gibbs-Hall, I. C.; Blackburn, A. K.; Chen, D.; Botros, Y. Y.; Wasielewski, M. R.; Snurr, R. Q.; Hupp, J. T.; Farha, O. K.; Stoddart, J. F.* "Electrochemically Addressable Trisradical Rotaxanes Organized Within a Metal-Organic Framework," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 2015, 112, 11161–11168.
 - Invited contribution to the issue of Inaugural Articles by 2014-elected members of the National Academy of Sciences

Chen, D.†; Avestro, A.-J.†; Chen, Z.; Sun, J.; Wang, S.; Xiao, M.; Erno, Z.; Algaradah, M. M.; Amine, K.; Nassar, M. S.; Meng, Y.; Stoddart, J. F. "A Rigid Naphthalenediimide Triangle for Organic Rechargeable Lithium-ion Batteries," Adv. Mater. 2015, 27, 2907–2912. [†Equal Contributions]
 - Featured on the cover of Volume 27, Issue 18 

Wilson, E. A.; Vermeulen, N. A.; McGonigal, P.R.; Avestro, A.-J.; Stoddart, J. F.* “A Dynamic Scrambling Methodology for Preparing a Mixed-Ring Hetero[3]rotaxane,” Chem. Commun. 2014, 50, 9665–9668.

Juríček, M.; Barnes, J. C.; Strutt, N. L.; Vermeulen, N. A.; Ghooray, K. C.; Dale, E. J.; McGonigal, P. R.; Blackburn, A. K.; Avestro, A.-J.; Stoddart, J. F.* “An ExBox [2]Catenane,” Chem. Sci. 2014, 5, 2724–2731.

Avestro, A.-J.; Gardner, D. M.; Vermeulen, N. A.; Wilson, E. A.; Schneebeli, S. T.; Whalley, A. C.; Belowich, M. E.; Carmieli, R.; Wasielewski, M. R.; Stoddart, J. F.* “Gated Electron Sharing Within Naphthalene Diimide-based Oligorotaxanes,” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, 53, 4442–4449; Angew. Chem., 2014, 126, 4531–4538.

Usta, H.†*; Yilmaz, M. D.; Avestro, A.-J.; Boudinet, D.; Denti, M.; Zhao, W.; Stoddart, J. F.*; Facchetti, A.* “BODIPY–Thiophene Copolymers as p-Channel Semiconductors for Organic Thin-Film Transistors,” Adv. Mater. 2013, 25, 4327–4334. [†Principal Investigator]

Fahrenbach, A. C.; Warren, S. C.; Incorvati, J. T.; Avestro, A.-J.; Barnes, J. C.; Stoddart, J. F.*; Grzybowski, B. A.* “Organic Switches for Surfaces and Devices,” Adv. Mater. 2012, 3, 331–348.

Basuray, A. N.; Jacqout de Rouville, H.-P.; Hartlieb, K. J.; Kikuchi, T.; Strutt, N. L.; Bruns, C. J.; Ambrogio, M. W.; Avestro, A.-J.; Schneebeli, S. T.; Fahrenbach, A. C.; Stoddart, J. F.* “The Chameleonic Nature of Diazapero-pyrenium Recognition Processes,” Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2012, 51, 11872–11877; Angew. Chem. 2012, 124, 12042–12047.

Avestro, A.-J.; Belowich, M. E.; Stoddart, J. F.* “Cooperative Self-Assembly: Producing Synthetic Polymers with Precise and Concise Primary Structures,” Chem. Soc. Rev. 2012, 41, 5881–5895.
 - Invited contribution to Special Issue on Supramolecular Polymers
 - Featured on the cover of Volume 41, Issue 18

Rodionov, V. O.; Gao, H.; Scroggins, S. T.; Unruh, D. A.; Avestro, A.-J.; Fréchet, J. M. J.* “Easy Access to a Family of Polymer Catalysts from Modular Star Polymers,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2010, 132, 2570–2572.
 - Article featuring undergraduate research

Intellectual Property

Chen, D.; Avestro, A.-J.; Sun, J.; Erno, Z. “Rigid Naphthalenediimide Triangle Structures.” Patent Application WO2016149611 A1 and US20160276669 A1: Filed 18 Mar 2016,† Published 22 Sept 2016 (†Priority Filing Date: Invention claims priority to US Provisional Patent 62/135,339: Filed 19 Mar 2015)

Ratto, T. V.; Holt, J. K.; Szmodis, A.; Avestro, A.-J.; O’Connell. “Non-Reactive Process for Fixing Nanotubes in a Membrane in Through-Passage Orientation.” US Patent US9095821 B1: Filed 09 Aug 2011, Granted 04 Aug 2015



The Avestro Group welcomes applications from all career levels: (a) PhD, (b) postdoctoral, (c) final-year Master’s, (d) non-final year undergraduates, and (e) visiting researchers/Erasmus+ students. Successful applicants will join a diverse and multi-disciplinary research group in the Chemistry Department at York and can expect regular engagement with members of the original A-Team based at Durham University and our collaborators from international partners. All projects in the Avestro Group involve organic synthesis and thus, applicants should be experienced / keen to undertake such activities. Researchers are also expected to hone their skills in at least one additional experimental or analytical technique (see Key Activities) to support peer-collaborative work within the group.

Please contact Alyssa directly (alyssa-jennifer.avestro@york.ac.uk) for details on project openings and communicating expressions of interest. Please include a CV, a summary of your experience, and copies of any relevant publications. Undergraduates and visiting students should note that a 10-week minimum research stay is typically necessary to complete training and make meaningful progress on projects.

We especially encourage self-funded researchers and those interested in applying for fellowships to get in touch. A non-exhaustive list of funding opportunities is included below and will be updated regularly. Please contact Alyssa at least two months in advance of any funding deadline to discuss your eligibility, fit and to develop proposals.

Fully-Funded PhD Studentships

48-month PhD studentship funded by The Royal Society
High-Redox Density Molecules & Self-Assembled Molecular Materials
Start date: Flexible, no later than Oct 2019 but earlier start preferred
Key Activities: crystal engineering, electrochemistry, conductivity, photospectroscopy

36-month PhD studentship funded by an EPSRC DTG
Two-Dimensional (2D) Functional Organic Molecular Networks
Start date: October 2019
Key Activities: self-assembly, electrochemistry, surface science, solid-state analysis

Fully-Funded Postdoctoral Research Associate Positions

12-month appointment (extendable) funded by The Royal Society
Three-Dimensionally Conjugated Organic & Hybrid Materials for Efficient Electron Transport
Start date: ASAP (no later than 31 March 2019)
Key Activities: coordination chemistry, spectroscopy, electrochemistry, solid-state analysis, devices

Undergraduate / Master’s / Short Term Projects

Activities in support of primary research projects

  • Microwave-assisted synthesis of functional rylenes and exotic aromatic imides
  • Light-emitting aromatic imides for bright OLED investigations
  • High-resolution microscopy of H-bonded assemblies
  • Crystal engineering of redox-active molecules and coordination materials
  • Building a better battery: rechargeable organic energy storage devices
  • Controlled assembly and properties of shape-persistent 'molecular clips'

Potential Self-Funding Opportunities (Non-Exhaustive List)

Scheme Deadline
RSC Undergraduate Summer Research Bursary April 2019
Laidlaw Research and Leadership Scholarship (current York students) Spring 2019
DAAD Scholarships (German applicants only) Spring 2019
Commonwealth Master’s Scholarship (Commonwealth applicants) Spring 2019
Chevening Master’s Scholarship November 2018


Prospective PhDs & Current Postgraduates

Department of Chemistry Wild Fund Scholarship (prospective York PhDs) April 2019
British Council Newton–Bhabha PhD Placement (Indian applicants) August 2019
Inlaks Foundation Scholarship (Indian applicants) April 2019
Commonwealth PhD Scholarship (Commonwealth applicants) Spring 2019
Commonwealth PhD Scholarships (Commonwealth applicants, high-income countries)  
Commonwealth 12-mo Split-Site Scholarship (Commonwealth applicants) Spring 2019
Marshall Scholarships (American applicants) September 2019
UK-China Joint Research & Innovation Partnership (Newton Fund) PhD Placement (Chinese applicants) September 2019


Postdoctoral Researchers

SERB Overseas Postdoctoral Fellowship (Indian applicants) December 2018
Experientia Foundation Scholarship (Czech applicants) March 2019
Royal Society Newton International Fellowship (non-UK applicants) March 2019
Royal Society Sino-British International Fellowship (Chinese applicants) March 2019
EPSRC Postdoctoral Fellowship Variable
Marshall Sherfield Fellowship (USA only) October 2019
Commonwealth Rutherford Fellowship (Commonwealth applicants) December 2019


Contact details

Dr Alyssa-Jennifer Avestro
Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow / Lecturer (Hon.) in Molecular Materials Chemistry
Department of Chemistry
The University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 328962