Niamh Murphy in Nature article on “Teen spirit in the lab”

Niamh Murphy in the lab with PhD student Dermot Gillen

Future chemist Niamh Murphy, a part-time student in the group, was recently featured in the journal Nature, talking about her experiences working with the TG Group while at school and preparing for university.

Niamh first joined the group for a week of work experience in 2015 and has been returning during the 2017-2018 part-time, working with PhD student Dermot Gillen. Currently, Niamh is working on interesting Amonafide derivatives.


The article by Chris Woolston, in the Nature Careers section describes:

Nature - Teen spirit in the lab“The Gunnlaugsson lab made an impression on Niamh Murphy, who was 15 years old when she spent a week working there in November 2015. “It was like walking into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory,” Murphy says. “Everything was so new to me.” Murphy, who just turned 18, parlayed that week-long introduction into a 7-month stint as a lab assistant. She’ll finish that position in May, before starting studies in chemistry at the Dublin Institute of Technology. “I still feel like a puppy running around with a lot of older dogs,” she says. “

To me, column chromatography is so cool. But the postdocs do it every day.” […]  Murphy feels lucky to be in a lab where she can contribute to the research itself. Some teens she’s talked to, she says, have no chance to run equipment or perform other such tasks. She says that students should talk to lab alumni to determine whether the principal investigator will make teaching them a priority. “If you can find someone who is really invested in young people, like Thorri, you’ll be on your way,” she says.”

Also in the article, Thorri voiced his opinion on the benefits of welcoming young students into the lab, the benefits to them and to the wider public:

“We get quite a few requests,” he says. “We take them in for three or four weeks and let them do some experiments. They can see that scientists are not portrayed correctly on television most of the time. There’s a lot going on.” […] Gunnlaugsson says that he never expects adolescents to make immediate contributions to his lab, but he adds that his government grants over the years have imbued him with a sense of duty. “That’s money from the public, so we’re obliged to engage with the public,” he says. “We have to let them know what we’re doing.” Opening the doors to adolescents is an important part of that outreach effort, he says”

The group regularly hosts young students in the lab, as well as contributing to outreach of our own research and programmes run centrally in the School of Chemistry through the participation of a number of group members, both PhD and Post-doctoral researchers.

Well done Niamh for sharing your experience with other students, so that they might also be inspired to find a placement, and with academics world-wide, so that they might consider providing the same opportunities to others!

The full article is available here, and is part of a special issue on Adolescence.



Eoin McCarney wins Nature Chemistry poster prize at Southampton Supramolecular Symposium


Second year PhD student Eoin McCarney and postdoctoral researchers Joe Byrne and Chris Hawes attended the Southampton Supramolecular Symposium, which was organised by Dr Jonathan Kitchen (a former postdoc in the TG Group who is now an academic in University of Southampton) and Dr Steve Goldup. Eoin was presented with the Nature Chemistry poster prize by Head of Department, Prof Phil Gale, for his poster on the lanthanide directed self-assembly and gel formation of btp ligands.

Various medalists and prize-winners spoke at the meeting, including Assoc Prof James Crowley (Otago), Prof David Leigh (Manchester), Prof Andrew Cooper (Liverpool), Prof Micheale Hardie (Leeds).

Trinity Chemists Achieve Molecular First

A recent publication from the group reporting the first triple-clipped [3]-catenane by lanthanide-directed synthetic methods was highlighted by College and Nature’s Research Highlights. Read College’s Press Release here:

Chemists from Trinity College Dublin have achieved a long-pursued molecular first by interlocking three molecules through a single point. Developing interlocked molecules is one of the greatest challenges facing researchers, and the Trinity chemists’ achievement represents the first time three molecules have been linked in a non-linear ‘chain-like’ form.

Interlocked molecules have major applications in nanoscience, as they can be used as molecular shuttles and switches, and because they can function as molecular motors, mimicking the action of many biological systems.

Molecules that are interlocked together are unique in that they are not connected by any chemical bonds, which give other compounds their individual, defined structures following chemical reactions. Instead, the interlocked molecules typically exist as rings that together form a chain, like the pattern seen on the front cover of the iconic Book of Kells.

Led by Professor of Chemistry at Trinity, Thorfinnur Gunnlaugsson, the work was carried out by PhD student, Dr Christophe Lincheneau, who is now a postdoctoral fellow at CEA Grenoble. Dr Lincheneau used a metal ‘lanthanide’ ion called Europium and a catalyst developed by the Nobel Laureate, Professor Robert Grubbs of Caltech, to interlock three molecules through a single point. The important discovery was recently published in the high-impact journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Chemical Communications. It was also featured in Nature Chemistry’s April issue as one of three Research Highlights.

Professor Gunnlaugsson said: “This work opens up a new avenue for developing complex supramolecular self-assembly structures. The luminescent properties of the lanthanide were very important to our study, as they allowed us to monitor the self-assembly processes between Europium and the molecules in real-time.”

Europium luminescence is a powerful tool with wider applications. For example, it is currently being used to aid authorities in the prevention of counterfeiting, while luminescent lanthanide ion complexes are employed in the various denominations of Euro notes as red and green-emitting dyes.

Professor Gunnlaugsson’s research group, which is located in the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, was also able to accurately determine the mass of their interlocked ‘[3]catenane’ by using the School of Chemistry’s state-of-the-art nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscope and mass spectrometry facilities, which are part-funded under the HEA PRTLI Programmes. Their published research was funded by Science Foundation Ireland under the 2010 Principle Investigation Programme.

“We are now actively pursuing the development of other interlocked molecules and self-assembly structures using the lanthanide template design strategy we have developed and discussed in our recent publication. We hope this is just the first of many exciting and important discoveries,” added Professor Gunnlaugsson.