Prof Andrea Sella

Prof Andrea Sella

Professor of Chemistry

Dept of Chemistry

Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences

Joined UCL
1st Oct 1990

Research summary

In the past I worked extensively on structure and bonding of the rare earth elements with a focus on the oxidation state of cerium but I am seldom involved in molecular chemistry these days. That said I have recently worked with Prof Steve Price to prepare PF3 and isotopically labelled phosphine, PD3.

In recent years I have focused more on collaborative work with Prof Paul McMillan (Chemistry) and Dr Chris Howard (Physics) on the synthesis and study of layered carbonitrides and their exfoliation. Our interest is currently on the nature of nano-dispersions which we are investigating with a number of techniques including diffraction and microscopy, but also classic techniques like osmometry.

A second strand, in collaboration with Dr Christoph Salzmann involves the encapsulation of pnictogens in carbon nanotubes and other nano- and mesostructured materials. The work involves handling extremely sensitive, sometimes pyrophoric materials, using Schlenk and glove box techniques. 

A third strand involves the history of chemical apparatus which I have been exploring through a monthly column for Chemistry World "Classic Kit". Over the past two years, a collaboration with Dr Rupert Cole of the London Science Museum has allowed us to uncover the history of fractional distillation columns that emerged in the second half of the 19th century, apparatus that we have reconstructed with the help of our glassblower Mr John Cowley. 

Teaching summary

I coordinate and lecture on UCL Chemistry's Chemistry for Biologists first year programme. This is a large course with over 300 students. It is a course I have used as a sandbox for conducting experiments in large group teaching. Through this course I have introduced the use of a VLE (in the late 1990s), lecture recording, an extensive bank  of online questions (>1000)  that can be used for both formative and summative assessment, the development of arrayed practicals supported by POV-style videos, and the use of social media as mechanisms for large class engagement.

In 2015 I introduced a new practical project for first year students which emphasises the crucial interplay of data with political issues in our society. In our #UCLChemAirPoll project (http://uclchemairpoll.wordpress.com), 150-200 first year undergraduates visit  primary school classes across London in teams of three to discuss air pollution and to get the children to inform the process of where air pollution should be measured in their neighbourhood. Measurements of NO2 levels across a wide swathe of London are mapped to give both our students and the children and their families a richer idea of the seriousness of the problem of air pollution in our city. 


University of Oxford
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1990
University of Toronto
Other higher degree, Master of Science | 1986
University of Toronto
First Degree, Bachelor of Science (Honours) | 1984


Born in Italy, Prof Sella grew up in the US, Italy and East Africa. He studied chemistry at the University of Toronto where studied with Brice Bosnich and then Prof Robert H Morris. He moved to Oxford where he studied for a DPhil with Malcolm Green. He has been at UCL since.