Dr Charlotte E. Willans

Associate Professor

Dr. Charlotte E. Willans
University of Leeds Independent Research Fellow (Principal Investigator)


  • 1998-2002: Masters Degree in Chemistry with a Year in Industry, University of York.
  • 2001-2002: Research Assistant at DSM with Prof. Johannes de Vries and Dr. André de Vries – fourth year MChem research project (Geleen, Netherlands). Project entitled ‘ligand-free palladium-catalysed Heck reactions’.
  • 2002-2005: Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), University of York (Supervisors: Dr. Francesca M. Kerton and Dr. Jason M. Lynam), working on lanthanide complexes for catalysis and organophosphorus cages.
  • 2006-2008: Post-Doctoral Research Associate with Prof. Jonathan Steed, Durham University. Projects included metal organic frameworks (in collaboration with Prof. Len Barbour, Stellenbosch, South Africa), anion binding and N-heterocyclic carbenes.

Post-Doctoral Research Associates

Tom Nicholls
Tom Nicholls obtained his PhD in chemistry from the University of Tasmania (Australia) in 2018 under the supervision of Dr Alex Bissember and A/Prof. Michael Gardiner. His PhD work focused on the design and synthesis of novel copper-based visible light photocatalysts and their applications to the development of new synthetic methodology. In 2019, he joined the Willans group as a Post-doctoral research associate focusing on the development of organometallic NHC complexes and their applications to C–H activation reactions in flow.

PhD Students

Abigail Frith
Abi Frith (funded by the Mary and Alice Smith scholarship). Abi completed her Medicinal Chemistry BSc at the University of Leeds in 2017. She continued at Leeds to undertake her Chemical Biology and Drug Design MSc, during which she completed a research project in Prof Patrick McGowan’s group. This focused on synthesising a library of ruthenium(III) bisquinaldamide coordination complexes and evaluation for use in cancer therapies. On finishing her undergraduate studies, she joined the Willans group in 2018. Abi is currently looking at developing cytotoxic silver N-heterocyclic carbene complexes for conjugation to gold nanoparticles to aid targeted drug delivery within the body.
Hamish Stephen
Hamish Stephen (funded by EPSRC CASE award with AstraZeneca, Johnson Matthey & Syngenta and jointly supervised by Dr Richard Bourne and Prof. Nik Kapur). Hamish began an integrated masters in Natural Sciences at the University of Leeds in 2014 and joined the Willans group for his final year project in 2017 where he investigated how the backbone of N-heterocyclic carbenes affects the ability of ruthenium-NHC complexes to catalyse reactions. He is currently looking at the electrochemical synthesis of iron complexes in flow with the aim using them in a high throughput screening platform. Outside of chemistry, Hamish can usually be found climbing and walking throughout the UK.
James Williams
James Williams grew up in the rural peak district, in the north of England. In 2015 he started his integrated Masters in Chemistry degree at the University of Sheffield where he joined the Thomas group for his final year project in 2018. He worked under the supervision of Kirsty Smitten, investigating ruthenium polypyridyl complexes as novel antimicrobial agents. Upon completing his Masters, he joined the Willans group in 2019 at the University of Leeds. His research is now focussed on sustainable chemical synthesis through the use of improved palladium catalysts, and is in collaboration with Prof Ian Fairlamb, York.
Bence Solymosi
Bence was born and raised in Zirc, Hungary. He completed his B.Sc. in Chemistry at the University of Pannonia (Veszprém, Hungary). His thesis work involved developing a mixed metal sulfide semiconductor catalyst for the photochemical decomposition of hydrogen sulfide absorbed in an alkaline medium. He entered a competition held by the Hungarian National Conference of Student Research Societies earning 1st place and a special award in the Environmental Chemistry and Environmental Technology section. Bence then went on to earn an M.Sc. in Chemistry with a specialization in Analytical Chemistry at Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest, Hungary). His thesis work involved the analysis of UV laser assisted decomposition of amino-thiodiazoles isolated in Ar ice, through serial IR spectroscopic measurements. Bence did an Erasmus+ Postgraduate Traineeship at the University of Leeds under the supervision of Dr Charlotte Willans and Dr Tom Chamberlain. This project involved the development of nanocarbon supported manganese oxide that is capable of decomposing hydrogen peroxide into reactive oxygen species and thus degrade aqueous organic pollutants. He started his Ph.D. in 2020 under the supervision of Dr Charlotte Willans, Dr Robert Menzel, and Dr Tom Chamberlain. His project centres on the development of high surface area nanocarbon supported mixed metal oxide electrodes for the efficient in situ production of H2O2 and subsequent generation of reactive oxygen species to degrade aqueous organic pollutants.
Tom Prentice
Tom graduated in 2020 with an Integrated Master’s in Chemistry (MChem) from the University of Leeds. During the third year of his degree he completed a Year in Industry at Lubrizol, a speciality chemicals company. Tom worked in the Applied and Strategic Research department where he investigated the demulsification effects of fuel additives with water ingress in automotive fuel. In the Masters’ year of his degree, Tom was under the supervision of Dr Richard Bourne where he investigated the multi-objective optimisation of reactions in flow through changing discrete variables. Following his degree, Tom joined the Willans Group where he is working on understanding the complexities of transfer hydrogenation of imines using iridium supported catalysts. His PhD project is funded by AstraZeneca and the Lowson Scholarship.
Megan Bradbury
Megan graduated from the University of Leeds in 2020 with an Integrated Masters degree in Chemistry, including a Year in Industry at GlaxoSmithKline during her third year. During her Masters year, Megan completed a research project in the Blacker group, working on the development of a continuous flow process to produce 2,5-diformylfuran, a monomer for bio-renewable plastic manufacture. Upon finishing her degree, Megan joined the CDT in Molecules to Product. Her PhD project concerns the development of novel base-metal catalysed processes using an industry 4.0 platform combining in-line analysis and algorithm control, with subsequent electrochemical removal of the metal from the product. Megan is supervised by Dr Charlotte Willans, Dr Richard Bourne and Prof. Nik Kapur and is sponsored by AstraZeneca.

MChem Students

Past Members

  • Max Fenton (2009/10, MChem)
  • Claire Comer (2009/10, MChem)
  • Jake Bumpus (2010, Summer Undergraduate)
  • Diana C. F. Monteiro (2010/11, MChem) – destination: Wellcome Trust PhD Programme (Leeds). Postdoctoral Fellow, Hamburg University
  • Adam Millett (2010/11, MChem) – destination: PhD student with Prof. Peter Sadler (Warwick)
  • Jake Fielden (2010/11, MSc in Chemical Biology)
  • Sophie C. Flanagan (2011/12, MChem)
  • Jake Bumpus (2011/12, MChem)
  • Dr Emma K. Bullough (2009/13, PhD, University Henry Ellison Scholarship) – destination: Croda (Goole)
  • Andrew Dyer (2012/13, MChem) – destination: PhD in the Doctoral Training Centre for Bioenergy (Leeds)
  • Yarseen Shafi (2012/13, MEng)
  • Lisa Brennan (2013, Summer Undergraduate)
  • Andrew Spencer (2013, Summer Undergraduate) – destination: PhD student with Prof. Igor Larrosa (Manchester)
  • Helen Blundell (2013/14, MChem)
  • Oliver Hemming (2013/14, MChem) – destination: PhD student with Prof. Richard Layfield (Manchester)
  • Katie Paske (2013/14, MChem) – destination: Chemistry teacher
  • Dr Benjamin R. M. Lake (2010/14, PhD, funded through BP) – destination: PDRA with Dr Mike Shaver (Edinburgh)
  • Madhurima Das (2013/14, MSc)
  • Susan Henkelis (2014/15 MChem) – destination: PhD student with Prof. Russell Morris (St Andrews)
  • Natalie Lambert (2014/15 MChem)
  • Dr Heba Abdelgawad (2013/2016) – destination: Medical Science Liaison at Merck
  • Dr Michael Chapman (2013/2016) – destination: Postdoctoral Research Associate with Prof. John Blacker (Leeds) followed by Indivior (Hull)
  • Dr Grant Sherborne (2013/2016) – destination: Postdoctoral Researcher in the Schoenebeck group at RWTH Aachen University in Germany
  • Daniel Lovesey (2015/16 MChem)
  • Joseph Sheppard (2015/16 MChem) – destination: PhD student with Dr Bao Nguyen (Leeds)
  • Rachel Kearsey (2015/16 MChem) – destination: PhD student with Prof. Andrew Cooper (Liverpool)
  • Emily Roome (2017/18 MChem)
  • Hamish Stephen (2017/18 MChem) – destination: PhD student in the Willans group
  • Dr Jordan Holmes (2013-2017) – destination: SIKA (Preston)
  • Dr Jonathan Fowler (2014-2018) – destination: PDRA with Prof Richard Winpenny (Manchester)
  • Dr Wasupol (Bank) Rungtanapirom (2014-2018)
  • Dr Chris Horbaczewskyj (2015-2019) – destination: Experimental officer with Prof Ian Fairlamb (York)
  • Dr Frances Singer (2015-2019) – destination: PDRA with Dr Antoine Buchard (Bath)
  • Dr Christiane Schotten (PDRA 2018-2021) – destination BASF