Dr Matthew Powner

Dr Matthew Powner

Address: Room 408a Department of Chemistry University College London Christopher Ingold Laboratories 20 Gordon Street London, WC1H 0AJ, UK.
Phone No: +44 (0)20 7679 4542
Extension: 24542
Dr Matthew Powner

Research areas of interest:

  • Origins of Life
  • Multicomponent reactions
  • Nucleotides, peptides and amphiphilies
  • Sulfur chemistry
  • Phosphorus chemistry
  • Photochemistry


A chemical origin of life has been postulated in response to the
biochemical unity of life. Understanding the predisposed reactivity that
could have led from a chemical system to biological organisation is a
question almost without parallel for the scientific understanding of the
natural world.

We seek to understand what chemical pathways could have led to biological
form and function. Our research covers a diverse range of biologically and
industrially relevant chemistry, which includes multicomponent reactions,
green chemical reactions, synthesis of heterocyclic compounds, nucleotide
and peptide chemistry, pH-controlled chemistry, photochemistry,
crystallographic studies, and sulfur and phosphorus chemistry.

Selected publications:

  • Aaron E. Engelhart, Matthew W. Powner & Jack W. Szostak Nature Chem. 2013, 5, 390. doi:10.1038/nchem.162.
  • Frank R. Bowler, Christopher K. W. Chan, Colm D. Duffy, Béatrice Gerland, Saidul Islam, Matthew W. Powner, John D. Sutherland & Jianfeng Xu Nature Chem. 2013, 5, 383. doi:10.1038/nchem.1626
  • Powner, M.W.; Zheng, S-L.; Szostak, J.W. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2012, DOI: 10.1021/ja306176n
  • Powner, M.W.; Sutherland, J.D. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. 2011, 366, 2870.
  • Powner, M. W.; Sutherland, J. D.; Szostak, J. W. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2010, 132, 16677.
  • Powner, M. W.; Sutherland, J. D. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2010, 49, 4641.
  • Powner, M. W.; Gerland, B.; Sutherland, J. D. Nature 2009, 495, 239.
  • Powner, M. W.; Sutherland, J. D.  ChemBioChem. 2008, 9, 2386.


  • 2013-present Simons Foundation Investigator, Simons Foundation, New York.
  • 2013 - EPSRC Research Fellowship
  • 2011-present Lecturer of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, UCL
  • 2010-11 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Associate, Harvard Medical School & Massachusetts General Hospital, USA
  • 2009-10 Harvard Research Fellow, Harvard Medical School & Massachusetts General Hospital, USA
  • 2005-09 PhD, University of Manchester, UK
  • 2001-05 MChem Chemistry, University of Manchester, UK


  • 2015 Thieme Chemistry Journal Award.
  • 2012 Origins of Life Challenge (co-winner with Prof. John Sutherland)
  • 2012 The Roscoe Medal, Science Engineering and Technology for Britain.
  • 2011 Stanley Miller Early Career Research Award, The International Society for the Study of the Origins of Life 
  • 2010 Harvard Research Fellowship, Harvard
  • 2009 PhD-plus Research Fellowship, EPSRC
  • 2006 Degussa European Science-to-Business Award representative, University of Manchester
  • 2005 Degussa award, University of Manchester; Sigma-Aldrich prize, University of Manchester; Glaxo prize, University of Manchester
  • 2004 Royal Society of Chemistry prize, University of Manchester; Eric Braithwaite prize, University of Manchester; Swan prize, University of Manchester; Merck Sharp and Dohme award, University of Manchester