St Andrews chemist to receive prestigious award

Thursday 25 April 2013

Professor David O'HaganA leading chemist from the University of St Andrews is to receive a Wolfson Research Merit Award from the Royal Society.

Professor David O’Hagan, Professor in the School of Chemistry at the University, is named in an exclusive list published today (Friday 26 April) of just 27 outstanding scientists working in the UK to receive the accolade.

The award, from the UK’s national academy of science, is made in recognition of his work in translating discoveries in organofluorine chemistry into practical applications.

Prof O’Hagan’s work focuses on the biochemistry and organic chemistry of the element fluorine which is present in a wide range of everyday objects and medicines.

He expressed delight at the award but was quick to praise talented colleagues and students at St Andrews for making his work a daily “pleasure”.

He said: “It may seem a bit esoteric to have a focus on a particular element, but fluorine compounds are important.

“They are widely represented in pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, polymers and materials such as liquid crystals for laptop / iPad / TV displays etc.

“We also work with an enzyme that fluorinates, known-as the ‘fluorinase’, and have been exploring it as a tool to incorporate the radioactive isotope, fluorine-18, into sugars for use in medical imaging.

“Thus, the research in the group is really very broad and we enjoy many fruitful collaborations with colleagues in St Andrews and in other labs.

“It is certainly very nice to receive external recognition. But I have been lucky at St Andrews to work with talented PhD and postdoctoral co-workers who seem to continuously discover new and exciting things through their creativity and intelligence.  It makes each day at work a pleasure.”

Jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the scheme aims to provide universities with additional support to enable them to attract science talent from overseas and retain respected UK scientists of outstanding achievement and potential.

The newly appointed award holders are working on a wide range of project topics including the use of personalised genome data for cancer treatment, climate tipping points, and the exploration of Mars.

Note to Editors

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The Wolfson Foundation is a grant-making charity established in 1955. Funding is given to support excellence. More information is available from

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The Society’s fundamental purpose, as it has been since its foundation in 1660, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

For further information please visit Follow the Royal Society on Twitter at or on Facebook at

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews

Contact Fiona MacLeod on 01334 462108/ 0771 414 0559.

Ref: (wolfson 25/04/13)

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