Fergus is presented with the 2017 IUPAC-Solvay International Award for Young Chemists


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Many congratulations to Dr Fergus Poynton, who was presented with the IUPAC-Solvay International Award for Young Chemists by the president of IUPAC, Natalia Tarasova at the opening ceremony of the 46th World Chemistry Congress  last week. The acclaimed award is given each year to the best PhD theses in the chemical sciences worldwide, and Fergus received it alongside the remainder of the winners from both 2016 and 2017.

The week-long conference was held in São Paulo, Brazil, and included other such highlights as lectures by Nobel laureates Ada Yonath, Fraser Stoddart and Robert Huber, along with a series of symposia on Environmental Chemistry, ‘Big Data’, and Women in Chemistry.

Fergus received the 2016 Royal Irish Academy Young Chemists Prize in June for his doctoral thesis “Spectroscopic Investigations into the Excited-State Processes and Reactivity of Ruthenium(II) Polypyridyl Complexes”.

Fergus presented with the RIA Young Chemist Prize

Congratulations to Dr Fergus Poynton, who was formally presented with the RIA Young Chemist Prize today. The prize is awarded annually by the Royal Irish Academy for the most outstanding chemistry thesis in Ireland.

Fergus won the prize in March for his thesis “Spectroscopic Investigations into the Excited-State Processes and Reactivity of Ruthenium(II) Polypyridyl Complexes”, he has since won one of the five IUPAC-Solvay International Awards for Young Chemists, and will receive the prize at the 46th IUPAC World Chemistry Congress in São Paulo this July.

In a special ceremony in the Academy, the prize was presented by Prof. Pat Guiry, Vice-Chair of the Physical, Chemical & Mathematical Sciences of the RIA. The ceremony was also attended by Fergus’ family and friends, as well as collaborators Clive Williams, TCD and Susan Quinn from UCD, co-supervisor John Kelly and his colleagues from the Donnelly research group in the School of Medicine.

Well done!

New paper on DNA-targeting phototherapeutic drugs published in Chem. Eur. J.

Congratulations to Fergus and Bjørn on their recent paper in Chemistry a European Journal titled Inosine can increase DNA’s susceptibility to photo-oxidation by a Ru(II) complex due to structural change in the minor groove. Key to the development of DNA-targeting phototherapeutic drugs is determining the interplay between the photoactivity of the drug and its binding preference for a target sequence. In this work, the photoactivity of Λ-[Ru(TAP)2(dppz)]2+ and its binding to oligonucleotides was studied, showing enhanced photo-oxidation when guanine is substituted with inosine, in spite of inosine being less easily oxidised. The work has been performed in collaboration with Prof. Susan Quinn of University College Dublin, Páraic Keane and Prof. Christine Cardin of the University of Reading, Prof. John Kelly from Trinity College Dublin and groups at the Diamond Light Source and Rutherford Appleton Laboratories in England.


Structural features of the interaction of the Ru(II) complex with two different DNA sequences.

Fergus wins the 2016 RIA Young Chemists Prize

We’d like to extend big congratulations to Fergus on winning the 2016 Royal Irish Academy Young Chemists Prize. Fergus received his doctorate in December on Ru(II) polypyridyl DNA-targeting agents.

Fergus will be formally awarded the prize in May, and has been nominated by the RIA for the IUPAC-Solvay International Award for Young Chemists. Well done Fergus!

Dr Fergus Poynton Graduates (and says Farewell to the TG Group)


Oxana congratulates Fergus on receiving his doctorate.

As part of the Christmas commencements at Trinity College Dublin, Dr Fergus Poynton was conferred with his PhD degree in the Public Theatre.

Everyone in the TG group would like to say a big thanks and goodbye to Fergus, a friend to all of us and an excellent chemist. Fergus’ work on Ru(II) polypyridyl probes has led to a cover article in Nature Chemistry, along with recent publications in Faraday Discussions, Angewandte Chemie and Chemical Science, among others.

Best of luck to Fergus in all his future endeavours. We’ll miss you!

Recently, Fergus and Sandra represented the Gunnlaugsson group at the 12th Nucleic Acids Forum in London, alongside Prof. John Kelly.

Sandra and Fergus at

Sandra and Fergus at the poster session

Fergus gave a talk entitled “Photochemically Active DNA-Intercalating Complexes – Insights by Combining Crystallography and Transient Spectroscopy”, where he presented some of our collaborative work into how time-resolved infrared spectroscopy, coupled with X-ray crystallography, enables us to study the interaction of the excited-states of intercalated ruthenium polypyridyl complexes with DNA and provides new insights into the nature of the binding sites of these complexes. Some of this work was recently published in

Sandra presented a poster entitled “New Ruthenium(II) Polypyridyl Complexes as Promising PDT Agents in HeLa Cells and Luminescent Probes for DNA”, showing the new classes of ruthenium polypyridyl complexes she designed and their potential biological applications.

Fergus Poynton successfully defends his PhD Thesis

Fergus Poynton, who joined the group in 2011 following his very successful spell as a Trinity College Scholar during his Bachelors Degree in Chemistry, defended his PhD Thesis (‘Spectroscopic Investigations into the Excited-state Processes and Reactivity of Ruthenium(II) Polypyridyl Complexes’) today.

Celebratory Viva Party for Fergus. (Right to left: Thorri, Fergus, John and Fanny)

Celebratory Viva Party for Fergus. (Right to left: Thorri, Fergus, John and Fanny)

The four year research project was conducted in collaboration with Trinity’s Prof John Kelly and Dr. Susan Quinn of UCD from which came many high impact publications including one which made the cover of Nature Chemistry. Examiners, including Trinity’s Prof. Rachel Evans and Prof. Andrée Kirsch – De Mesmaeker (Fanny) from the Université Libre de Bruxelles,  joined the research group for a reception in the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute afterwards to celebrate.