Dr Karen Johnston

Senior Lecturer

Chemical and Process Engineering


Personal statement

My research focuses on (but is not limited to) soft-hard matter interfaces, including polymer composites and heterogeneous nucleation. I use multiscale simulations to provide insight into material properties and I enjoy collaborating closely with experimentalists. I am driven by curiosity and I am interested in a variety of systems, such as phase behaviour of soy milk coffee mixtures. For more information please visit my personal webpage:


Back to staff profile

Area of Expertise

  • Density functional theory (DFT): electronic structure, adsorption and surface energies, vibrational frequencies etc.
  • Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations: structure and dynamics of thin films, liquids, solutions, solids etc. 

Prize And Awards

Strathclyde Team Award

More prizes and awards


Member of the Institute of Physics

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Back to staff profile


Investigation of vibrational changes due to adsorption of glycine on gold
Mohammadpour Mozhdeh, Johnston Karen
Computational and Theoretical Chemistry Vol 1227 (2023)
Filler-induced heterogeneous nucleation of polymer crystals investigated by molecular dynamics simulations
Wadkin-Snaith Dominic, Mulheran Paul, Johnston Karen
Polymer Vol 281 (2023)
Chitin and chitosan binding to the α-chitin crystal; a molecular dynamics study
Hudek Magdalena, Kubiak-Ossowska Karina, Johnston Karen, Ferro Valerie A, Mulheran Paul A
ACS Omega Vol 8, pp. 3470-3477 (2023)
Polyhydroxybutyrate : a review of experimental and simulation studies of the effect of fillers on crystallinity and mechanical properties
Majerczak Katarzyna, Wadkin-Snaith Dominic, Magueijo Vitor, Mulheran Paul, Liggat John, Johnston Karen
Polymer International Vol 71, pp. 1398-1408 (2022)
Multicomponent chiral quantification with Ultraviolet circular dichroism spectroscopy : ternary and quaternary phase diagrams of Levetiracetam
Charpentier Maxime D, Venkatramanan Raghunath, Rougeot Céline, Leyssens Tom, Johnston Karen, ter Horst Joop H
Molecular Pharmaceutics Vol 20, pp. 616-629 (2022)
Tuning interfacial concentration enhancement through dispersion interactions to facilitate heterogeneous nucleation
McKechnie David, Mulheran Paul A, Sefcik Jan, Johnston Karen
Journal of Physical Chemistry C Vol 126, pp. 16387-16400 (2022)

More publications

Back to staff profile

Research Interests

Polymer composites are widely used in industry due to their strength, flexibility and light weight. Although generic properties of polymers at surfaces are well understood the interaction between a particular polymer and filler particle is not. The main challenge in simulating polymer-solid interfaces is the different length and time scales involved. This research bridges the gap between the micro- and mesoscale properties using a hierarchical multiscale approach. Density functional theory (DFT) calculations are used to obtain the detailed quantum interactions at the interface and this information is used to build surface potentials for atomistic and coarse-grained (CG) molecular dynamics simulations.


Professional Activities

Seminar at Astra Zeneca, Macclesfield
CCP5 AGM 2023
ISIC 2023
Accelerate outreach presentation
High Polymer Research Group
ChemEngDay UK 2023

More professional activities


Sustainable plastics for bathroom products
Zhang, Xiaolei (Principal Investigator) Johnston, Karen (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2022 - 30-Jan-2022
IBioIC CTP PhD studentship Optimisation of alginate films for sustainable food packaging applications
Johnston, Karen (Principal Investigator) Mulheran, Paul (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2021 - 30-Jan-2025
ISCF - Biocomposite design for food packaging
Johnston, Karen (Principal Investigator) Liggat, John (Co-investigator) Mulheran, Paul (Co-investigator) Magueijo, Vitor (Researcher)
01-Jan-2020 - 30-Jan-2024
Doctoral Training Partnership 2020-2021 University of Strathclyde | Anker, Samira
Johnston, Karen (Principal Investigator) Sefcik, Jan (Co-investigator) Anker, Samira (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2020 - 01-Jan-2024
Catching nucleation in action using surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy
Johnston, Karen (Principal Investigator) Faulds, Karen (Co-investigator) Sefcik, Jan (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2020 - 30-Jan-2023
CCP5 funded summer project
Johnston, Karen (Principal Investigator)
18-Jan-2020 - 24-Jan-2020

More projects

Back to staff profile


Dr Karen Johnston
Senior Lecturer
Chemical and Process Engineering

Email: karen.johnston@strath.ac.uk
Tel: 548 4084