Professor Neil Hunt
Physical Chemistry



Neil graduated in Natural Sciences from Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge in 1997 and remained in Cambridge to complete his PhD in Diode Laser Spectroscopy of Transient Species with Prof Paul Davies in 2000. Following his PhD Neil moved to a Welsh Post-doctoral Fellowship at Rice University, Houston working with Prof R.F. Curl. Following further post-doctoral study in the field of ultrafast spectroscopy of complex fluids and biological systems at the Universities of East Anglia and Strathclyde, he became an EPSRC Advanced Research Fellow in 2006. In 2008 he was awarded a European Research Council Starting Investigator grant and was appointed to a Professorship in Ultrafast Chemical Physics at Strathclyde in 2016.



Research in the NTH group uses ultrafast two-dimensional infrared (2D-IR) spectroscopy to determine the role of fast structural and solvation dynamics in biomolecular processes, ranging from ligand binding to proteins and DNA to the reactions that occur in the active sites of enzymes.

Ultrafast 2D-IR spectroscopy is the infrared equivalent of powerful multidimensional NMR spectroscopy methods in that it employs a sequence of infrared laser pulses to spread the IR absorption spectrum of a sample over a second frequency axis. The result is that the traditional IR absorption spectrum appears along the diagonal of the 2D-IR plot while the off-diagonal region contains peaks that report on couplings or energy transfer between vibrational modes. These peaks provide new information relating to molecular structure and dynamics. Combining this information with the high time resolution of 2D-IR (~ 100 fs) allows experimental visualisation of H-bond motion, dynamic conformational fluctuations of proteins or DNA and the ability to follow structural changes of reacting molecules in real time.

Examples of our work include applications of 2D-IR spectroscopy to detect the dynamics of water molecules in enzyme active sites that may play a part in their function and to understand the role of water motion in the action of synthetic catalytic systems that mimic biological molecules. We have also examined how protein structural dynamics could contribute to mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance and examined the structural and dynamical implications of ligand binding to DNA.

Recently, we have begun to explore new directions involving the application of 2D-IR to analytical problems, showing that 2D-IR can quantify the secondary structure content of protein samples and performing a proof-of-concept 2D-IR screening applications acquiring >2000 2D-IR spectra of DNA-ligand complexes and categorising them using novel data analysis tools

NTH collaborates closely with scientists at STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory’s (RAL) Central Laser Facility and this has led to the development of 2D-IR instruments on three different RAL spectrometers that are available to the wider UK research community.


Professor Neil Hunt will take up his position at the University of York in June 2018 and is currently advertising with Dr Alison Parkin for PhD students to start in October 2018.

Project title: Unravelling enzymatic hydrogen production mechanisms with ultrafast 2D-IR spectr (PDF  , 232kb) 

For more information contact or

See all PhD projects for UK and EU students available for October 2018 entry. 



Selected publications

 Quantifying secondary structure changes in Calmodulin using 2D-IR spectroscopy

Minnes Lucy, Shaw Daniel J., Cossins Benjamin P., Donaldson Paul M., Greetham Gregory M., Towrie Michael, Parker Anthony W., Baker Matthew J., Henry Alistair J., Taylor Richard J., Hunt Neil T. Analytical Chemistry Vol 89, pp. 10898- 10906(2017)

Examining the role of protein structural dynamics in drug resistance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Shaw Daniel J., Hill Rachel E., Simpson Niall, Husseini Fouad S., Robb Kirsty, Greetham Gregory M., Towrie Michael, Parker Anthony W., Robinson David , Hirst Jonathan D. , Hoskisson Paul, Hunt Neil T. Chemical Science (2017)

Disruption of key NADH-binding pocket residues of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis InhA affects DD-CoA binding ability

Shaw Daniel J., Robb Kirsty, Vetter Beatrice V., Tong Madeline, Molle Virginie, Hunt Neil T., Hoskisson Paul A. Scientific Reports Vol 7, (2017)

Ultrafast 2D-IR and optical Kerr effect spectroscopy reveal the impact of duplex melting on the structural dynamics of DNA

Hithell Gordon, González-Jiménez Mario, Greetham Gregory M., Donaldson Paul M., Towrie Michael, Parker Anthony W., Burley Glenn A., Wynne Klaas, Hunt Neil Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, (2017) 

2D-IR spectroscopy shows that optimised DNA minor groove binding of Hoechst33258 follows an induced fit model 

Ramakers Lennart A. I., Hithell Gordon, May John J., Greetham Gregory M., Donaldson Paul M., Towrie Michael, Parker Anthony W., Burley Glenn, Hunt Neil Journal of Physical Chemistry B, (2017)

Using experimental and computational energy equilibration to understand hierarchical self-assembly of Fmoc-dipeptide amphiphiles 

Sasselli I.R., Pappas C. G., Matthews E., Wang T., Hunt Neil, Ulijn Rein, Tuttle Christopher Soft Matter Vol 2016, pp. 8307-8315, (2016)

Contact details

Prof. Neil Hunt
Professor of Physical Chemistry
Department of Chemistry
The University of York
YO10 5DD