Warwick Scientists Clinch Top Royal Society Chemistry Prizes

Scientists from The University of Warwick have been awarded prizes from the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Professors Reinhard Maurer, Scott Habershon, Tim Bugg, and Sébastien Perrier, have been recognised for their contributions to Chemistry – driving forward research with far-reaching applications in medicine, sustainability and more. The awards were announced today, Wednesday 12 June.

Professor Reinhard Maurer – winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry's Marlow Prize

Professor Maurer has made important contributions to the understanding of chemistry at surfaces through computer simulations. The chemistry at surfaces underpins important industrial and electrochemical processes. His research group develops and applies computational simulation methods to predict structural, electronic, and optical properties of interfaces and to study chemical reaction dynamics at the atomic scale – leading to the design of new experiments and improved materials.

Professor Maurer said: "My work straddles disciplines and spans across research communities. As a result, it can be difficult to categorise. This recognition of my work was surprising and humbling. It means a lot to me."

Professor Scott Habershon – winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry's Bourke-Liversidge Prize

Professor Habershon has also used computational simulations analyse molecule behaviours across different timescales – from the ultrafast photochemistry of vision and photosynthesis to the years-to-decades-long breakdown of plastics. His research team produce video-game-like simulations that mimic the real world and help us understand how chemical reactions happen at the microscopic level of atoms and molecules.

The team is also using computers to search for new catalysts that can transform carbon dioxide into other useful chemicals rather than letting it escape into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

Professor Habershon said: "I'm delighted to win this prize! It's fantastic recognition of a lot of different projects – and brilliant researchers – coming together to help us build better simulations to predict how chemistry happens."

Professor Tim Bugg – winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry's Interdisciplinary Prize

Professor Bugg researches how to make fuels and chemicals from renewable plant materials – a process called 'biorefinery', which is gaining global traction to combat climate change.

His research group focuses on bacterial enzymes which can be used to break down lignin – a material found in the cell walls of plants. Lignin is very hard to break down, but the group has discovered several new bacterial enzymes that can degrade it and studied how these enzymes work at a molecular level.

The team have also engineered lignin-degrading bacteria to produce useful chemicals like vanillin, a flavoring agent which is used in the food industry, and materials for new bio-based plastics.

Professor Bugg said: "It's a great honour to receive an RSC Prize. I'm proud of the work that we have done on lignin degradation since 2008, and I've had a number of excellent researchers (PhD students and postdocs) come through my group during that time who have made this possible, so I feel that this is a recognition of their hard work and ideas as well as my own."

Professor Sébastien Perrier – winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry's Interdisciplinary Prize

Professor Perrier aims to address pressing global health challenges by combining chemistry, materials science and biology. His pioneering work explores how cells interact with these materials at the nanoscale. His research holds promise for breakthroughs in drug delivery systems, brain-targeted therapies, and antibacterial agents, hinting at a future where nanotechnology plays a vital role in healthcare.

Professor Perrier said: "Receiving the RSC Interdisciplinary Prize is an incredible honour and validation of the collaborative efforts that drive my team's research across multiple fields. This prize is a team effort and is shared by my amazing research group members and collaborators, past and present. It is deeply gratifying to see the recognition of my team's work on addressing complex challenges at the interface of chemistry, materials science, biology and medicine. I strongly believe that the next generation of researchers should be trained in multiple disciplines so that we can address modern challenges."

Dr Helen Pain, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: "The chemical sciences cover a rich and diverse collection of disciplines, from fundamental understanding of materials and the living world to applications in medicine, sustainability, technology and more. By working together across borders and disciplines, chemists are finding solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges.

"Our prize winners come from a vast array of backgrounds, all contributing in different ways to our knowledge-base and bringing fresh ideas and innovations. We recognise chemical scientists from every career stage and every role type, including those who contribute to the RSC's work as volunteers. We celebrate winners from both industry and academia, as well as individuals, teams, and the science itself.

"Their passion, dedication and brilliance are an inspiration. I extend my warmest congratulations to them all."

The Royal Society of Chemistry's prizes have recognised excellence in the chemical sciences for more than 150 years. This year's winners join a prestigious list of past winners in the RSC's prize portfolio, 60 of whom have gone on to win Nobel Prizes for their work, including 2022 Nobel laureate Carolyn Bertozzi and 2019 Nobel laureate John B Goodenough.

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