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:



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 (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 UV 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, pp. 1-14 (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)
Comparing and quantifying the efficiency of cocrystal screening methods for Praziquantel
Charpentier Maxime D, Devogelaer Jan-Joris, Tijink Arnoud, Meekes Hugo, Tinnemans Paul, Vlieg Elias, de Gelder René, Johnston Karen, ter Horst Joop H
Crystal Growth and Design Vol 22, pp. 5511-5525 (2022)
Multi-scale study of the mechanism of crystallization and polymorphism
Mohammadpour Mozhdeh, Sefcik Jan, Christie Mark, Faulds (She/Her) Karen, Johnston Karen
Psi-K Conference (2022)

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

Material Modelling Symposium
CCP5 Annual General Meeting
High Polymer Research Group
Global Research & Innovation in Plastics Sustainability
Multiscale modelling of advanced materials and interfacial phenomena
Multiscale modelling of advanced materials and interfacial phenomena

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 - 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

More projects