Centre for Synthetic Biology and the Bioeconomy

Staff Profile

Professor Andrew Benniston

Head of School



I graduated from the University of Warwick in 1984 with a 1st class honours degree in chemistry and stayed to carry out a PhD under the supervision of Professor Peter Moore working on the preparation and coordination chemistry of azamacrocycles. After a one year Royal Society Fellowship in the group of Dr Jean-Pierre Sauvage in Strasbourg, France I spent several years in Austin, Texas with Dr Tony Harriman at the Center for Fast Kinetics Research publishing several papers on photoactive rotaxane systems and photodynamic dyes based on merocyanine 540. In 1994 I joined the Chemistry Department at Glasgow University as a lecturer and continued studies into photoactive assemblies based on ruthenium complexes and using time-resolved resonance Raman to probe ultrafast reactions. In 2001 I joined the staff in the Department of Chemistry at Newcastle University and co-founded the Molecular Photonics Laboratory (MPL) and in 2011 was promoted to professor.

My main role in the MPL is concerned with the design and synthesis of multi-component supermolecules for fundamental studies in energy and/or electron transfer. A more recent aspect is applying the developed systems for photonic applications such as real-time monitoring of physical processes in nano-environments, solid-state luminescence pressure-sensitive materials, photochromic materials for data recording, and fluorescence sensors for biological imaging. The complexity of the molecular systems produced depends greatly on the problem to be addressed, but high purity and full structural characterisation are paramount.

Roles and Responsibilities

Head of School

Chair of Faculty Health & Safety Committee        


  • PhD University of Warwick
  • BSc (hons) 1st Chemistry: University of Warwick
  • FRSC, CChem

Previous Positions

  • 1994-2001 Lecturer: University of Glasgow
  • 1992-1994 Postdoctoral researcher: University of Texas at Austin
  • 1991-1992 Postdoctoral researcher: University of Strasbourg


Royal Society of Chemistry

Honours and Awards

  • Royal Society postdoctoral fellowship (1991)
  • Royal Society of Chemistry JWT Jones Travel Fellowship (1996)
  • Royal Society Travel Grant (2010)


English & French

Informal Interests

Time Travel


Research Interests

Our research interests cover many different aspects of photochemistry and over the past several years a number of publications have covered the synthesis and applications of BODIPY derivatives. Other systems include expanded acridinium dyes, pyrene dimers for triplet-triplet annihilation, fluorescent viscosity probes, reactive oxygen species (ROS) detectors and porphyrin derivatives for hydrogen production. As well as these studies projects have focused on mimicking the oxygen evolving complex in photosystem II and the magnetic properties of manganese complexes.

General themes  

  • Directional Electron Transfer
  • Multidimensional Molecular Switches
  • New Imaging Technology
  • Photochromic Materials
  • Synthesis and Spectroscopy of Fluorescent Dyes

Google Scholar https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=6S8Yjp0AAAAJ&hl=en

SCOPUS  https://www.scopus.com/authid/detail.uri?authorId=7003658171

ORCiD  https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8878-5014

Current Work

  • Energy transfer in molecular systems
  • Artificial enzymes
  • Fluorescent probes

Research Roles

My role is to design new molecular systems, supervise their synthesis and full characterisation and couple this to spectroscopic measurements. A project with Professor Peter Andras (Napier University) is concerned with the synthesis and testing of new neuron imaging probes. Overseas collaborators include Professor Nikolai Tkachenko (Finland), Professor Hugh Burrows (Portugal), Professor Juan Bartolome (Spain) and Drs Giamberini/Reinac (Spain).  

Postgraduate Supervision

The synthesis section of the Molecular Photonics Laboratory is currently supporting PhD and MChem students. 

Esteem Indicators

  • EPSRC College Member (2003-2005).
  • Grant Reviewer: National Science Foundation (USA).
  • Organiser: RSC Macrocycles and Supramolecular Chemistry Meeting (2005).
  • Invited contributor to the "Encylopedia of Supramolecular Chemistry" (Eds J. Steed & J. Atwood)(2004).
  • Invited contributor to the acclaimed book "Nanostructured Materials and Nanotechnology" (Ed H. S. Nalwa) (2001).
  • Invited articles for Chemical Society Reviews (1996), (2004) and (2006).
  • Invited review article for PCCP on Renewable Energy (2007 Front Cover Article) and ‘Instant Insight’ for Chemical Science.
  • Co-organiser RSC one-day symposium on Renawable Energy at Glasgow University (2009).
  • Invited perspective article for PCCP on BODIPY compounds (2009).
  • Keynote speaker at ACS Meetings in San Francisco and Boston (2010).
  • Coordinator FP7-PEOPLE-2009-IRSES Grant (2010-2013).
  • Royal Society Travel Fellowship (2010).
  • Contributor at Sixth International Conference on Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines (New Mexico, 2010).
  • Invited speaker at Solar Prague (COST) Meeting (2011).
  • Scientific Committee Member for Faraday Discussion on Artificial Photosynthesis (2011).
  • International Scientific Committee for IUPAC Photochemistry Meeting(Portugal, 2012).
  • Invited speaker XVII Conference on Physical Methods in Coordination and Supramolecular Chemistry (Moldova, 2012)
  • Invited organiser/lecturer at the 4th International Conference and Exhibition on Analytical and Bioanalytical Techniques (Las Vegas, 2013).
  • Keynote speaker at 5th International Conference on Analytical and Bioanalytical Techniques (Beijing, 2014).
  • Keynote speaker at XVIII Conference on Physical Methods in Coordination and Supramolecular Chemistry (Moldova, 2015).
  • H-index 40 (Google Scholar).


  • 10 EPSRC grants
  • 4 Nuffield Foundation grants
  • 2 Leverhulme grants
  • 1 Royal Society
  • 1 Commercial Funding
  • 1 Marie Curie IRSES



1 BoE


Undergraduate Teaching

  • NES 1403 Fundamentals of Inorganic Chemistry (Transition Metal Chemistry)
  • NES 2403 Inorganic Chemistry (Inorganic Reaction Mechanisms)
  • NES 8401 Advanced Problem Solving

Postgraduate Teaching

PhD and MChem project supervision