Save this page
Save this page

My Saved Pages

  • Saved page.

My Saved Courses

  • Saved page.

Recently visited

  • Saved page.

Dr David Nelson

Strathclyde Chancellor'S Fellow

Pure and Applied Chemistry

Personal statement

  • Chancellor's Fellow and Lecturer, University of Strathclyde, 2014 - Present
  • Research Fellow with S. P. Nolan, University of St Andrews, 2012 - 2014
  • PhD in Pure and Applied Chemistry with J. M. Percy, University of Strathclyde, 2008 - 2012
  • MChem Chemistry with Industrial Experience, University of Edinburgh, September 2003 - 2008

My research group conducts research at the intersection of organic and inorganic chemistry, and primarily with a view to applications in catalysis for organic synthesis. We use the tools of physical organic chemistry, organic and organometallic synthesis, and spectroscopy to achieve our aims. Ongoing projects include:

  • Understanding structure/reactivity relationships in nickel catalysed reactions of organo (pseudo)halides
  • Quantifying reactivity and site-selectivity in metal catalysed C-H functionalisation reactions
  • The design of new ligands and quantification of their properties
  • Understanding the mechanisms of the reactions of electrophilic fluorinating reagents

Further details can be found on our website at

Details of my teaching duties can be found under the appropriate tab. In addition to research and teaching, I also carry out a number of administrative roles within the Department, including organising colloquia within the Catalysis and Synthesis section.


Has expertise in:


    • Catalysis
    • N-Heterocyclic Carbenes
    • Organometallic Chemistry
    • Cross-coupling
    • C-H Activation


    • Organometallic and organic synthesis
    • Handling of air- and moisture-sensitive compounds
    • NMR and UV/visible spectroscopies
    • Reaction kinetics
    • Reaction simulation using numerical integration software
    • Density functional theory (DFT)


Interrogating Pd(II) anion metathesis using a bifunctional chemical probe : a transmetalation switch
Molloy John J, Seath Ciaran P., West Matthew J, McLaughlin Calum, Fazakerley Neal J., Kennedy Alan R., Nelson David James, Watson Allan J. B.
Journal of American Chemical Society, (2017)
Halide abstraction competes with oxidative addition in the reactions of aryl halides with [Ni(PMenPh(3-n))4]
Funes-Ardoiz Ignacio, Nelson David J., Maseras Feliu
Chemistry - A European Journal Vol 23, pp. 16728-16733, (2017)
Oxidative addition of aryl halides and phenol derivatives to a prototypical nickel(0) complex
Bajo Velazquez Sonia, Laidlaw Gillian, Kennedy Alan, Sproules Stephen, Nelson David
EuCheMS Organometallic Chemistry Conference, (2017)
The preference for dual-gold(I) catalysis in the hydro(alkoxylation vs phenoxylation) of alkynes
Casals-Cruañas Èric, Gonzalez-Belman Oscar F., Besalú-Sala Pau, Nelson David James, Poater Albert
Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry, pp. 1-10, (2017)
Oxidative addition of aryl halides and phenol derivatives to a prototypical nickel(0) complex
Bajo Velazquez Sonia, Laidlaw Gillian, Kennedy Alan, Sproules Stephen, Nelson David
Supporting Synthesis and Self-Assembly, (2017)
Oxidative addition of aryl halides and phenol derivatives to a prototypical nickel(0) complex
Bajo Velazquez Sonia, Laidlaw Gillian, Kennedy Alan, Sproules Stephen, Nelson David
RSC ISACS: Challenges in Inorganic Chemistry, (2017)

more publications


Undergraduate Courses

CH107 Chemistry: Principles and Practice 2 - Organic Chemistry. [2016 - Present] This first year course provides students with the understanding of key reactions, concepts, and principles that are relevant to the study and use of organic chemistry. These include: nucleophiles, electrophiles, and radicals; alkenes and their reactions; epoxides and their reactions; carbonyl compounds and their oxidation, reduction, and reactions.

CH450/8 Distance Learning Course - Reaction Mechanisms. [2015 - Present] This distance learning course is completed by MChem students on placement. The aims of the course are to: develop knowledge and understanding of reaction mechanisms, particularly in organic chemistry; develop skills in analysing reaction mechanisms, and the ability to write appropriate equations for equilibrium constants and reaction rates; extend powers of analysis and deduction, and relate these to the choice of appropriate experiments in the study of reaction mechanisms; and show how knowledge of reaction mechanisms is related to synthetic chemistry and the understanding of processes both in the laboratory or production plant and in living systems.

CH509 Advanced Organic Chemistry: Physical Organic Chemistry. [from 2018] This new course will take case studies from the primary literature and use them to show how we can use tools, methods, and techniques from physical organic chemistry to understand reaction mechanisms and develop new chemical reactions.


Postgraduate Courses

CH721: Well defined complexes of gold: synthesis, properties and homogeneous catalysis. [2015 - Present] This course for MPhil and PhD students is delivered in January/February of odd-numbered years. The course covers a range of organic and organometallic chemistry, with a special focus on catalysis, including: the history of gold catalysis; the properties of gold including favoured oxidation states, ligands and geometries; fundamental reactivity of organogold complexes; the synthesis of modern gold complexes as homogeneous catalysts (Au(I) and Au(III)); synthesis of related gold complexes, such as hydroxides, peroxides, di-, tri- and poly-gold complexes; and C-H activation/functionalisation and cross-coupling with gold.

Research interests

Many of the most important reactions in industry today are catalysed by transition metal complexes. Our research focusses on the design, discovery, understanding and optimisation of selective and economical processes, with a specific focus on developing reactions to the point that they can be deployed on scale in industry.

Key Phrases: Catalysis; Organometallic Chemistry; Physical Organic Chemistry; Organic Synthesis

Funding: We are grateful to have received funding and support from the following organisations: Johnson-Matthey/Alfa Aesar; Fluorochem; The Carnegie Trust; The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC); Syngenta; AstraZeneca; GlaxoSmithKline.

Detailed Summary: A detailed summary can be found on our group website (

Lay Summary: Our research concerns the study of catalysis; we study and explore how we can make transition metal atoms (particularly ruthenium and nickel) perform chemical reactions that make and break bonds in the appropriate order to prepare interesting new molecules. These processes are heavily used in industry, particularly for the synthesis of pharmaceuticals and high-value fine chemicals. These industries require cost-effective chemical reactions that reduce the amount of catalyst required and that are selective, so that the pure desired product is obtained. We achieve this by studying the rates at which different fundamental processes occur in these reactions, and how we might tune these rates by changing the catalyst structure, the starting materials, or the reaction conditions (temperature, solvent, etc.).

Training: Students within the research group gain training and experience in the synthesis, isolation, characterisation, and study of interesting organic and organometallic compounds. We use a variety of tools and techniques to achieve our aims, including: Schlenk techniques; inert atmosphere gloveboxes; NMR, UV/visible, and IR spectroscopy; GC and GC/mass spectrometry.

Professional activities

45th Scottish Regional Meeting of the RSC Organic Division
Meeting of Inorganic Chemists Recently Appointed
EaStCHEM Conference for Early Career Researchers
Keynote/plenary speaker
XXVII International Conference on Organometallic Chemistry (ICOMC2016)
Structure/Activity Relationships in Catalytic C-H and C-X Functionalisation Reactions
Invited speaker
Structure/Activity Relationships in Catalytic C-H and C-X Functionalisation Reactions
Invited speaker

more professional activities


Industrial CASE Account - University of Strathclyde 2017 | Greaves, Megan
Nelson, David (Principal Investigator) Watson, Allan (Co-investigator) Greaves, Megan (Research Co-investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2017 - 01-Oct-2021
Industrial Case Account 2016 | Cooper, Alasdair Ker
Nelson, David (Principal Investigator) Tomkinson, Nicholas (Co-investigator) Cooper, Alasdair Ker (Research Co-investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2016 - 01-Oct-2020
Industrial Case Account 2015 | Curle, Jonathan
Tomkinson, Nicholas (Principal Investigator) Nelson, David (Co-investigator) Curle, Jonathan (Research Co-investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2016 - 01-Oct-2020
Industrial Case Account 2015 | Smith, Andrew
Murphy, John (Principal Investigator) Nelson, David (Co-investigator) Smith, Andrew (Research Co-investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2015 - 01-Oct-2019
Nickel Complexes with Bisoxazoline-Derived Ligands: Coordination Chemistry and Reactivity
Nelson, David (Principal Investigator)
Period 01-Mar-2017 - 28-Feb-2018
Industrial Case Account 2016 / S160595-109
Nelson, David (Principal Investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2016 - 30-Sep-2021

more projects


Pure and Applied Chemistry
Thomas Graham Building

Location Map

View University of Strathclyde in a larger map