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Prestigious research grants worth over a quarter of a million pounds awarded to University

World-leading scientists from the University of St Andrews have been awarded research funding worth just over a quarter of a million pounds from the prestigious Leverhulme Trust.

Dr Euan Kay
Dr Euan Kay

Dr Euan Kay and Professor Douglas Philp, both from the School of Chemistry, have been awarded a total of over £281,000 from the Leverhulme Trust for a project titled ‘Hierarchical reaction networks: nanoscale amplification by molecular replication’.

Complex structures and functions, including replication, self-sorting, feedback control and chemical evolution, are fundamental features of all living systems. These phenomena result from programmed interactions in chemical mixtures, which translate information stored in molecules to control assembly, disassembly and repair of every organelle, cell, tissue, organ and organism in both space and time.

Many of the remarkable features of biology arise from harnessing the unique properties of nanometer-sized objects, but this is a world that has only become accessible to synthetic chemistry relatively recently.

Professor Doug Philip
Professor Doug Philp

The newly funded research project will develop a new set of chemical building blocks that will expand systems chemistry into nanometer length scales for the first time.

By combining technologies developed in Dr Kay’s lab for making smart “nanoparticles” with molecules developed in Professor Philp’s lab that can replicate, creating multiple copies of themselves, the researchers aim to create a programmable toolkit of “self-replicating” nanoparticles. These nanoparticles will be able to translate a specific molecular scale instruction into smart materials with bespoke large-scale structures, simply by mixing the appropriate components together.

Dr Kay said: “In the long-term this research could lead to new life-like materials behaviours that adapt in response to a pallet of chemical triggers, with future applications in areas as diverse as sensing, catalysis, medical implants and optical materials.”

The Leverhulme Trust was established by the Will of William Hesketh Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers. Since 1925 the Trust has provided grants and scholarships for research and education. Today, it is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing approximately £80m a year.


The Leverhulme Trust awards funding across academic disciplines, supporting talented individuals in the arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences to realise their personal vision in research and professional training. As well as substantial grants for research, the Trust offers fellowships for researchers at every stage of their career, grants for international collaboration and travel, and support for the fine and performing arts.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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