Environmental and Analytical Chemistry

Environmental ChemistryThe Environmental and Analytical Chemistry Section was formed in 1992 to focus the School of Chemistry’s activities in these areas by bringing together academic staff with a common research interest in understanding a variety of aspects of natural and polluted present-day environments and ancient environments. Since these are complex systems, studies of both organic and inorganic species of natural and anthropogenic origin rely heavily on the use and development of modern analytical methods. The Section strength currently comprises 4 academic staff, 1 visiting industrial professor, 1 full time research associate, 9 postdoctoral research assistants, 5 technicians, ca. 28 Ph.D. students and 9 final year undergraduate project students.

Specialist Facilities

In addition to having access to central School of Chemistry analytical facilities, the laboratories are particularly well equipped as follows: GC, HPLC, mass spectrometry with EI, CI, FAB and MS-MS capabilities, GC-MS, stable isotope ratio (d13C and d15N) monitoring GC-MS, pyrolysis GC-MS, HPLC-MS with APCI and electrospray sources, computerised data processing and flame furnace atomic absorption spectrophotometry. The Section houses the central Organic Mass Spectrometry Facility (OMSF) for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) comprising Finnigan MAT 4500 (2), Finnigan MAT TSQ 700 and Delta S instruments. The Facility provides a service for, or collaborates with, outside NERC-funded researchers on a wide variety of projects. Other instrumentation includes 2 HP 5973 GC-MS systems (EI and NICI) and a Finnigan MAT Magnum ion trap.

Research Interests

  1. Determination of the distributions and stable isotope signatures of the components of complex mixtures of lipids and photosynthetic pigments in microorganisms and modern and ancient aquatic and terrestrial environments; elucidation of the sources of these components, the chemical and biochemical factors which lead to their transformation and preservation; application of the distributions to palaeoenvironment assessment and climate change.

  2. Studies of the components of organic materials recovered from archaeological excavations, e.g. plant resins, fats, oils, waxes, tars, etc., through identification of individual components and their stable isotopic signatures (d13C and d15N); analogous studies of modern materials produced by contemporary plants and animals, including investigations of the decay processes of organic residues during prolonged burial; applications to understanding human activity in antiquity.

  3. Development and application of new methodologies for determining trace atmospheric constituents of anthropogenic and natural origin, e.g. HFCs, PFCs, olefins, halocarbons, etc.; remote monitoring of species (e.g. O3, CO, CH4, etc.) in the atmosphere and assessment with respect to meteorological data and air parcel trajectories.

  4. Development and application of analytical methodologies for the determination of trace metals and organic pollutants in a variety of types of environmental and other situations; examples include metal speciation studies, identification of trace amounts of illegal drugs on banknotes, new steroidal indicators of sewage pollution, etc.

  5. There is a strong interest in applying the methodologies developed to industrial forensic science to detect the prohibited mixing or copying of a range of organic industrial commodities.

  6. Related research in Chemometrics - the application of statistical methods to instumental analysis, is also of interest (in collaboration with the Organic Chemistry Section).


The section is responsible for the undergraduate Environmental Chemistry teaching laboratory and contributes lectures on environmental chemistry and analytical chemistry to the School of Chemistry undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Research seminars by invited external speakers are also held regularly.

Staff Research Interests

Professor James Maxwell, FRS (Head of Section)
Dr Richard Evershed

Dr Graham Nickless

Dr David Roberts

Mr Jim Carter

Postgraduate Vacancies

To view the current list of Postgraduate Vacancies in the Department, click here.

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