Personal profile

Research overview

The main expertise in our group is in organic synthetic chemistry with a continuing interest in natural product synthesis. Recently we have expanded our expertise to include the use of renewable resources including the biopolymer lignin. We also maintain a strong interest in research at the chemistry/biology interface.

Research interests

Organic Synthesis:

It is our view that a core expertise in synthetic chemistry is an incredibly enabling thing. We develop the required skills in synthesis through a range of different projects including the synthesis of natural products and compounds with biological activity. We aim to develop new methods or apply existing methods in new circumstances. We believe a real strength in NMR analysis is essential.

Use of Renewable Resources:

One area in which we are looking to apply our expertise in organic synthesis is in the use of renewable resources. We are particularly interested in the biopolymers that are present in wood with a real focus on lignin - an underused aromatic polymer. We have developed new ways of isolating lignin from wood (for example the butanosolv process). In addition we have worked on the depolymerisation of lignin to give a small number of aromatic monomers in pure form. We work to demonstrate that this monomers are of relevance to the synthesis of industrially relevant compounds and natural products. We also view lignin oligomers as a starting point for the synthesis of more complex polymer systems/materials.

The Chemistry/Biology Interface:

It remains an exciting time to be working at the interface between chemistry and biology. Through extensive collaboration with high quality biology and biochemistry groups we look to interface our expertise in synthetic chemistry with fundamental discoveries in biology. This research area is usually referred to as Chemical Biology.

One continuing example of this work is our collaboration with Professor Gary Ward at the University of Vermont. This programme of research focuses on finding chemical tools to help understand motility and invasion of host cells by apicomplexan parasites. Some of the work has potential applications in medicinal chemistry. We are always interested in research projects that will develop skills in synthetic chemistry, high-throughput screening and protein target identification.

Academic/Professional Qualification

D.Phil., Chemistry, University of Oxford; M.A.(1st Class Hons), Chemistry, University of Oxford


Nick Westwood completed his undergraduate and PhD studies in Chemistry at Pembroke College, Oxford. He then spent 6 years in the USA, first as a NATO post-doctoral research fellow working for Prof. P.D. Magnus FRS in Austin, Texas and then as a post-doc and Instructor at what was the Institute of Chemistry and Cell Biology at Harvard working for Prof. Tim Mitchison FRS and Prof. Matthew Shair. He returned to the UK in 2001 as a Royal Society Research Fellow at St Andrews and is currently Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

Teaching activity

In addition to running tutorials in organic chemistry (CH1601 and CH2601) and laboratory demonstrating and running retrosynthesis workshops (CH2601), Nick lectures and runs revision tutorials on three honours modules at present: Quantitative Aspects of Medicinal Chemistry (CH3716), Synthetic Methodology (CH3612 – module convenor) and Chemical Biology (CH5614 – module convenor). He also contributes to teaching through running tutorials in St Andrews’ Integrating Chemistry course (CH4461/5461), acting as an academic monitor on the external placement module (CH4441), supporting students doing our recently developed Year 4 course on Chemistry Research Skills (CH4442) in particular helping them to prepare a literature review and hosting Year 5 project students. He runs all aspects of recruitment to the post-graduate taught (PGT) courses and often contributes to these programmes and related modules run in the English Language Teaching (ELT) School to support our overseas students.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Synthetic and Mechanistic Studies on the Inhibition of Elastases, University of Oxford

1 Sept 19921 Oct 1995

Award Date: 1 Oct 1995

Master of Arts, Chemistry, University of Oxford

7 Oct 198822 Jun 1992

Award Date: 31 Jul 1992


  • QD Chemistry


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