UCL: UCL academics honoured by the Royal Society of Chemistry

Professor Thanh was named winner of the Interdisciplinary Prize, recognising her brilliance in research and innovation – specifically, for her contributions to our fundamental understanding of chemical syntheses and her physical studies of nanomaterials, which could be used to help with diagnosis and treatment of cancer as well as other biomedical applications.

Her research using magnetic nanoparticles to deliver chemotherapy, demonstrated using cells in the lab, may help to improve cancer treatment. She is also investigating a replacement for gadolinium, a contrast agent used for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that cannot be used in people with kidney failure and whose use has the potential to contaminate water supplies.

Professor Thanh said: “I am very happy – it is a great honour to have my collaborative research to be recognised. This prize is for my team and my collaborators as well.”

Professor Beale was named winner of the Peter Day Award for developing new ways of using bright light sources to identify active species in catalysis and energy storage.

His group studies chemical reactions and processes as they happen, and in their native environment, to understand how and why they occur. This understanding is crucial for designing the next generation of materials that will allow us to live more sustainably.

Professor Beale said: “I am delighted to be receiving this prize in recognition of the work we have done over the years. It has very much been a team effort.”

Meanwhile, Dr Stamatakis (UCL Chemical Engineering) is among an international team of scientists from the UK and the US who have been awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Faraday Division Horizon Prize, celebrating the most exciting chemical science taking place today.

The Single-Atom Alloy Catalysis Team, a collaboration between theoreticians and experimentalists, won the prize for the development of single-atom alloys, a new class of catalysts that play a prominent role in the energy and sustainability fields.

Single-atom alloys use precious metals engineered at the atomic level, providing opportunities for greener, cheaper and more efficient chemical processes by reducing waste, improving energy efficiency and demonstrating longer lifetimes.

They are envisioned to be the catalysts of the future for various applications, including energy storage and clean air technologies as well as renewable fuels and chemicals manufacturing.

Dr Stamatakis said: “Almost all large-scale industrial chemical processes use catalysts developed by trial-and-error experimentation during the 20th century. Many of these processes are energy-inefficient, with enormous carbon footprints. Single-atom alloys provide great opportunities for more efficient chemical processes which we urgently need for a more sustainable future.

“My team, alongside that of Professor Angelos Michaelides, helped deliver the theoretical predictions that guide the development of these innovative alloys.”

Key to the research has been Dr Stamatakis’s software simulating surface phenomena and chemical reactions on heterogeneous catalysts. The software has been commercialised by UCL Business and is now licensed to more than 500 users worldwide.

Dr Helen Pain, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said the prize winners were “fantastic examples of why we celebrate great science”.

In addition to her Interdisciplinary Prize, Professor Thanh is also a finalist in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Technologies Competition 2022, for her work on nanomaterials that could potentially be used to deliver cancer treatment. She was also awarded the SCI/RSC Colloids Groups 2023 Graham Prize Lectureship which recognises outstanding mid-career researchers in colloid and interface science.

The Interdisciplinary Award comes with a medal and £5,000, while the Peter Day Award comes with a medal and £3,000. The Faraday Division Horizon Prize winners receive a trophy and individual certificates.

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