Dr Matthew Powner

  Dr Powner is a Reader of Organic Chemistry. His group currently consists of 3 postdocs, 8 PhD students and 2 MRes students. Research in his group includes developing systems chemistry approaches to elucidating the chemical Origins of Life, synthesis and purification strategies in water, synthesis and chemistry of nucleotides and non-natural nucleotide analogues, ribozymes and ribozyme catalysis, photochemistry, crystal engineering and organocatalysis. 

Dr Powner is an Investigator of the Simons Foundation, New York (2013-present) and an EPSRC Research Fellow (2013-present). He has worked at UCL since 2012 (2012-5: Lecturer, Senior Lecturer; 2015-present: Reader). He was a Harvard Fellow then a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Associate at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, working with Prof. Jack W. Szostak (2009-2011).  
Summary of research group

The Origins of Life is one of the great unsolved scientific problems of our age. 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. 

Over the past decade, we have worked with a small number of researchers to develop a ‘systems’ approach to Origins of Life research that connects disciplines, technologies and institutions in new collaborations between the astrophysical and planetary context of the Origins of Life, the development of prebiotic chemistry, the assembly of the first cells, the advent of Darwinian evolution and the earliest signs of life on the young Earth.

Our research covers a diverse range of biologically and industrially relevant chemistry, which includes multi-component reactions, green chemical reactions, heterocyclic synthesis, nucleotide and peptide chemistry, pH-controlled chemistry, photochemistry, crystallographic studies and sulfur- and phosphorus chemistry.

Research highlights
Research Facilities
  • NMR
  • LC-MS
  • GC-MS
  • Automated UHPLC and Flash LC
  • UV-Vis
  • IR
  • Photochemical reactors
  • Thieme Verlag Chemistry Journal Award (2015)
  • Simons Foundation Investigator, Simons Foundation, New York (2013)
  • EPSRC Research Fellowship (2013)
  • Origins of Life Challenge (co-winner with Prof. J Sutherland, LMB-MRC, Cambridge) (2012)
  • The Roscoe Medal (Gold), Science, Engineering and Technology for Britain (2012)
  • Stanley Miller Award, International Society for the Study of the Origins of Life (2011)
  • Harvard Research Fellowship, Harvard University, USA (2010)
  • PhD-plus Research Fellowship, EPSRC (2009)
  • Degussa award, University of Manchester; Sigma-Aldrich prize, University of Manchester; Glaxo prize, University of Manchester (2005)
  • 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 (2004)
  • American Chemical Society (Member)
  • Royal Society of Chemistry (Member)
Research interests
  • Origins of Life
  • Photochemistry
  • Multi-component Reactions
  • Catalysis
  • Biopolymers
  • Lipids
  • Sustainable chemistry
  • Lecturer, 1st Year UG – Basic Organic Chemistry (CHEM1201)
  • Tutor, 1st & 2nd Organic Chemistry (CHEM1201, CHEM2201)
  • Lecturer, 4th Year Masters & Post-Graduate – Biomimetic Chemistry (CHEMM205, CHEMG205)