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:



Has expertise in:

    • 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. 

Prizes and awards

Strathclyde Team Award

More prizes and awards


Member of the Institute of Physics

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


Polyhydroxybutyrate : a review of experimental and simulation studies on the effect of fillers on crystallinity and mechanical properties
Majerczak Katarzyna, Wadkin-Snaith Dominic, Magueijo Vitor, Mulheran Paul, Liggat John, Johnston Karen
Polymer International (2022)
Effect of glycine on aggregation of citrate-functionalised gold nanoparticles and SERS measurements
Vesga Maria J, McKechnie David, Laing Stacey, Kearns Hayleigh, Faulds Karen, Johnston Karen, Sefcik Jan
Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects Vol 621 (2021)
Adsorption of glycine on gold nanoparticles
MOHAMMADPOUR Mozhdeh, Johnston Karen
Cocrystals of Praziquantel : discovery by network-based link prediction
Devogelaer Jan-Joris, Charpentier Maxime D, Tijink Arnoud, Dupray Valerie, Coquerel Gérard, Johnston Karen, Meekes Hugo, Tinnemans Paul, Vlieg Elias, ter Horst Joop H, de Gelder René
Crystal Growth and Design Vol 21, pp. 3428-3437 (2021)
Glass transition temperature of a polymer thin film : statistical and fitting uncertainties
McKechnie David, Cree Jordan, Wadkin-Snaith Dominic, Johnston Karen
Polymer Vol 195 (2020)
Interfacial concentration effect facilitates heterogeneous nucleation from solution
McKechnie David, Anker Samira, Zahid Saraf, Mulheran Paul A, Sefcik Jan, Johnston Karen
Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters Vol 11, pp. 2263-2271 (2020)

More publications


My teaching philosophy is to provide the best learning environment by challenging students through providing questions related to everyday exampes, that develop student's understanding and problem solving skills.

I am the course organiser and lecturer for CP102 Introduction to Chemical Engineering: Fundamentals, Techniques and Tools, and I supervise CP407 design projects, 18350 MEng projects, and Distance Learning MSc projects.


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

High Polymer Research Group
Multiscale modelling of advanced materials and interfacial phenomena
Multiscale modelling of advanced materials and interfacial phenomena
Glasgow Science Festival
Workshop on "Biocomposite Design for Food Packaging"
Global Research and Innovation in Plastics Sustainability

More professional activities


IBioIC CTP PhD studentship
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 - 31-Jan-2023
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
RI@S funded summer project
Johnston, Karen (Principal Investigator) Haw, Mark (Co-investigator) Sefcik, Jan (Co-investigator)
RI@S funded summer project for Mohammad Talha Dar
10-Jan-2019 - 05-Jan-2019

More projects


Chemical and Process Engineering
James Weir Building

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