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St Andrews chemists win prestigious awards

Tuesday 07 May 2019

Two chemists at the University of St Andrews have won prestigious prizes from the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).

Professor Russell Morris has been named winner of a Tilden Prize while Dr Allan Watson has been named winner of the Hickinbottom Award.

Founded in 1939, the Tilden Prizes (up to three are awarded each year) are for advances in chemistry, and commemorate Sir William Augustus Tilden, British chemist and pioneer in the teaching of science.

The Hickinbottom Award, for contribution to organic chemistry, was established in 1979 to commemorate organic chemist Professor Wilfrid Hickinbottom.

Professor Morris, was recognised by the RSC for his outstanding contribution to the synthesis, characterisation and application of framework solids.

His research works with microporous materials - solids with holes in them of similar size to small molecules. Uses include water softeners in washing powders, catalysts in oil refineries for petrol production, and catalytic converters in cars to reduce pollution. His team seeks new ways to manufacture these so they can be better controlled, while also developing applications in medicine, for example.

Professor Morris said: “It is an honour to win the Tilden Prize from the Royal Society of Chemistry. I feel it reflects the outstanding research that goes on throughout the whole of the porous materials community in the UK, but I must especially acknowledge my collaborators and colleagues in St Andrews and beyond who have been so instrumental in developing the science of these fascinating solids.”

Dr Watson’s research aims to understand chemical reactions in order to solve problems, specifically how to make chemical bonds more efficiently so that molecules can be made faster. The types of molecules range from pharmaceuticals (drug molecules) to agrochemicals (herbicides). By discovering ways of improving the synthesis of these molecules, the research will help find new approaches for human health as well as food production.

Dr Watson said: “I am both honoured and humbled to have been selected to receive the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Hickinbottom Award. This is a recognition of the work of my fantastic research group, past and present, and I thank them wholeheartedly for driving our research programme forward. I’d also like to recognise the generous collaborators in academia and industry that we work with and who are critical to the success of our projects. I look forward to sharing some highlights from my group’s research during the lecture tour.”

Dr Robert Parker, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry said: “Over the years, our lives have been significantly improved by the chemical sciences, from medicines and food to the environment itself. We are proud of the contribution the chemical sciences make to our global community, which is why it is right for us to recognise important innovations and expertise such as these.

“Our Prizes and Awards recognise people from a range of different specialisms, backgrounds and locations. Every winner is an inspiration to the chemistry community and will play an incredibly important role in enriching people’s lives for generations to come.”