chemistry students in the lab

Key facts

Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021

Joint 3rd in the UK (Chemistry) – based on the proportion of world-leading research

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject 2022

3rd in the UK

The Department of Chemistry has a thriving research community.

Our research spans six main themes:

  • Synthesis and catalysis
  • Chemical biology and healthcare
  • Environmental and green chemistry
  • Energy
  • Imaging, sensing and analytical chemistry
  • Materials and molecular design

Our skills are also central to several multidisciplinary molecular science research centres:

  • The Centre for Plastic Electronics
  • The Institute of Chemical Biology
  • The Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering
  • The EPSRC UK National Service for Computational Chemistry Software

The Department has strong links with industry, reflected in generous funding for teaching and research, and extensive facilities including well-equipped research laboratories and state-of-the-art chemical instrumentation.

Students sponsored by industry spend part of their PhD training period working with their sponsor. Our former students are currently employed by companies such as Agilent Technologies, Argenta, AstraZeneca, BASF, BiFocus, BP, Dow, GlaxoSmithKline, Infineum, Lilly, Novartis, Organon, Pfizer, Roche, Syngenta and UCB CellTech.

The Department now occupies the new Molecular Sciences Research Hub on the College's new White City Campus.


The Department is well equipped with modern chemical instrumentation, both sectional equipment associated with particular projects and an extensive range of general purpose instruments. These include:

  • Six Fourier transform high field nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers (some with extensive multi-nuclear facilities) operating at 250, 270, 300, 400 and 500 MHz
  • VG Autospec Q mass spectrometer with fast atom bombardment, laser-Raman spectroscopy and laser-Raman microscopy
  • Fourier transform infrared spectrophotometers
  • Unicam crystal high pressure liquid chromatography
  • A scanning tunnelling microscope

There is an excellent range of chemistry journals (electronic and print) and books available in the Central Library on the South Kensington Campus.

Study opportunities

The Department offers a number of study options to help you take your knowledge to the next level.

If you are interested in Doctoral study, it’s important to gain support for your application from your potential supervisor before making a formal application to the College.

About the course

Research programmes

Chemistry students in lab

Our research is organised into six main themes. These play a key role in coordinating research activities, providing a range of opportunities for postgraduate and postdoctoral research and training within the Department.

Synthesis and Catalysis

This research theme embraces the core disciplines of practical chemistry. It includes all aspects of synthesis across molecular length scales, from a chemical bond to a nanoparticle (10-10 to 10-8m), as well as the study of molecules as they undergo dynamic changes (reaction mechanisms and kinetics).

The aim is to understand mechanistic processes, develop synthetic methods and create associated technologies that can deliver a molecular target quickly and efficiently, while consuming minimal resources (i.e. step- and atom-economy).

Chemical Biology and Healthcare

This theme focuses on the development and application of novel molecular tools and techniques for the study of biology, biomedical understanding and ultimately industrial or clinical benefit.

By working closely with our collaborators in the healthcare, pharmaceutical, biotech, personal care and agritech sectors we are transforming our understanding of the mechanisms of disease, developing new platform technologies to support drug discovery science and product innovation pipelines, pioneering new and cost-effective molecular therapies, facilitating the repurposing of drugs and developing quality of life treatments.

Environment and green chemistry

This research theme focuses on all aspects of sustainable chemistry.

It includes the development and translation of molecular tools and technologies to improve the efficiency of resources and yields, to impact upon challenges within the agri-sciences & agrochemistry, green synthesis & processes, efficient recycling and degradation, and studying the influence of chemistry upon the environment.


Energy research within the Department of Chemistry covers the development, measurement and simulation of new molecules, materials and devices with tailored chemistry and innovative structures for energy generation, storage, transmission and efficient usage, enabling our transition to a low carbon future.

Imaging, Sensing and Analytical Chemistry

At the heart of designing and understanding new and existing molecular processes is the need for qualitative or quantitative analysis of the species present. This research theme addresses this challenge by exploring and developing new detection strategies to improve molecular specificity, sensitivity, and contrast for a wide range of applications, from early stage diagnostics to medical imaging, proteomics, sensing of environmental pollutants and toxins, and understanding species transport in complex media.

Materials and Molecular Design

Materials and Molecular Design research involves the development and optimisation of molecules and advanced materials for a wide range of applications including pharmaceuticals, catalysts, self-healing, advanced electronics, biomaterials, electrical insulation, nanocomposites, energy storage and generation. This is achieved through advances in synthesis and growth, characterisation and theoretical modelling.