Dr David Nelson

Senior Lecturer

Pure and Applied Chemistry


Personal statement

We conduct research at the intersection of organic and inorganic chemistry, with our primary aim being to discover, develop, and understand metal-catalysed reactions 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
  • Quantifying reactivity and site-selectivity in metal catalysed C-H functionalisation reactions
  • The design of new ligands and quantification of their properties

We are grateful to have received generous funding from organisations including the EPSRC, the Carnegie Trust, GSK, AstraZeneca, Syngenta, the Leverhulme Trust, and the Royal Society.

Our work has been recognised with prizes including a 2020 Thieme Chemistry Journals Award and the 2021 Royal Society of Chemistry Inorganic Reaction Mechanisms ECR Award.

Further details can be found on our website at http://personal.strath.ac.uk/david.nelson/.

In addition to research and teaching, I organise colloquia for research students and staff in the Catalysis & Synthesis section.

I completed a term on the Faculty of Science Resources and Planning Committee (2018-2023). I have been a Faculty Education Liason Advisor since March 2020, a role that involves me attending various recruitment events. As of May 2023, I am the Strathclyde UCU branch health and safety representative on the Statutory Advisory Committee on Safety and Occupational Health.

I have been a member of the Editorial Board of Communications Chemistry since April 2020. This a relatively new open access journal that is published by Springer Nature.

I joined the Royal Society of Chemistry Inorganic Reaction Mechanisms Discussion Group comittee in summer 2023.

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Area of Expertise


  • Catalysis
  • Cross-coupling
  • C-H activation
  • N-Heterocyclic carbenes
  • Organometallic chemistry
  • Physical organic chemistry


  • 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)

Prize And Awards

Outstanding Reviewer for Catalysis Science and Technology (2022)
Outstanding Reviewer for Organic Chemistry Frontiers (2021)
'Digital Innovator' (Strath Union Teaching Excellence Awards 2022)
Royal Society of Chemistry Inorganic Reaction Mechanisms Group - Early Career Award 2021
2020 Thieme Chemistry Journals Award
Outstanding Reviewer for Chemical Communications (2018)

More prizes and awards


Qualifications and Experience

  • Senior Lecturer, University of Strathclyde, 2018 - Present
  • Chancellor's Fellow and Lecturer, University of Strathclyde, 2014 - 2018
  • Research Fellow (with Prof. S. P. Nolan FRSE), University of St Andrews, 2012 - 2014
  • PhD in Pure and Applied Chemistry (with Prof. J. M. Percy), University of Strathclyde, 2008 - 2012
  • MChem in Chemistry with Industrial Experience, University of Edinburgh, 2003 - 2008


  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Member of the Americal Chemical Society
  • Member of the Society of Chemical Industry
  • Member of the Society of Chemical Industry Young Chemists' Panel
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


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A hierarchy of ligands controls formation and reaction of aryl radicals in Pd-catalyzed ground state base-promoted coupling reactions
Clark Kenneth F, Tyerman Seb, Evans Laura, Robertson Craig M, Nelson David J, Kennedy Alan R, Murphy John A
Journal of the American Chemical Society Vol 145, pp. 20849-20858 (2023)
Hexafluoroisopropanol (HFIP) as a multifunctional agent in gold-catalyzed cycloisomerizations and sequential transformations
Tzouras Nikolaos V, Zorba Leandros P, Kaplanai Entzy, Tsoureas Nikolaos, Nelson David J, Nolan Steven P, Vougioukalakis Georgios C
ACS Catalysis Vol 13, pp. 8845–8860 (2023)
Nickel complexes of allyl and vinyldiphenylphosphine
Clapson Marissa L, Nelson David J, Drover Marcus W
ACS Organic & Inorganic Au Vol 3, pp. 217–222 (2023)
Terahertz vibrational modes of sodium magnesium chlorophyllin and chlorophyll in plant leaves
Coquillat Dominique, O'Connor Emma, Brouillet Etienne V, Meriguet Yoann, Bray Cédric, Nelson David J, Faulds Karen, Torres Jeremie, Dyakonova Nina
Journal of Infrared, Millimeter and Terahertz Waves Vol 44, pp. 245–264 (2023)
Temperature-dependent low-frequency vibrational spectra of sodium magnesium chlorophyllin
Coquillat Dominique, Bray Cédric, O'Connor Emma, Brouillet Etienne V, Meriguet Yoann, Consejo Christophe, Ruffenach Sandra, Nelson David J, Faulds Karen, Teppe Frederic, Torres Jeremie, Dyakonova Nina
2022 47th International Conference on Infrared, Millimeter and Terahertz Waves (IRMMW-THz) (2022)
Analysis of sodium copper chlorophyllin and sodium magnesium chlorophyllin by time-domain THz spectroscopy
Bray Cedric, Dyakonova Nina, O'Connor Emma, Brouillet Etienne V, Meriguet Yoann, Nelson David J, Faulds Karen, Torres Jeremie, Coquillat Dominique
2022 47th International Conference on Infrared, Millimeter and Terahertz Waves (IRMMW-THz) (2022)

More publications

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Current Teaching

CH212 Physical Chemistry 1 - Kinetics [2020/21 - Present] This lecture course addresses the fundamentals of the kinetics of chemical reactions and covers the core and underpinning topics that allow students to develop a full understanding of what influences the rates of chemical reactions and how (and why) we study this.

CH450/8 Distance Learning Course - Reaction Mechanisms. [2014/15 - 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; 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.

CH508/9 Advanced and Modern Methods in Organic Synthesis. [2017/18 - Present] This course covers a range of state-of-the-art techniques in organic synthesis, including: palladium, copper, iridium, ruthenium, and gold-catalysis, organocatalysis, and asymmetric synthesis. Several lectures are devoted to the study of physical organic chemistry in the understanding of these reactions.


Previous Teaching Activities

CH107 Chemistry: Principles and Practice 2 - Organic Chemistry. [2016/17, 2017/18] This first year undergraduate 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.

CH208 Fundamental Organic Chemistry - Aromatic Chemistry. [2016/17] This second year course provides students with the understanding of aromatic molecules and their reactivity, including: identifying aromatic molecules; electrophilic and nucleophilic aromatic substitution; and the generation and reactions of benzyne.

CH538: Molecular Catalysis. [2019/20] This course covers various topics in homogeneous catalysis, including the use of organometallic complexes, enzymes, and main group complexes. Students learn about applications, underlying mechanisms, techniques for interrogating reactions, and techniques for catalyst separation and recycling.

CH721: Well defined complexes of gold: synthesis, properties and homogeneous catalysis. [2014/15, 2016/17, 2018/19] This course for MPhil and PhD students 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.



Winner of the 'Digital Innovator' category at the Strath Union Teaching Excellence Awards 2022.

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Research Interests

Many 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; The Leverhulme Trust; The Royal Society.

Detailed Summary: A detailed summary can be found on our group website (http://personal.strath.ac.uk/david.nelson/).

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; cyclic voltammetry.

Professional Activities

PhD Thesis, University of Ghent (Public Defence)
Royal Society of Chemistry Inorganic Reaction Mechanisms Discussion Group (External organisation)
PhD Thesis, University of Ghent (Private Defence)
Understanding Reactions of Nickel(0) Relevant to Cross-Coupling Catalysis
PhD Thesis, University of Cardiff
Nickel Catalysis: Assumptions, Disagreements, and Mistakes

More professional activities


Nickel Catalysis in Flow (Eli Lilly 2023)
Nelson, David (Principal Investigator) Brown, Cameron (Co-investigator)
12-Jan-2024 - 11-Jan-2026
Sustainable, Tuneable, and Effective Nickel Catalysts for the Agrochemicals and Pharmaceuticals Industries
Johnson Humphrey, Elliot (Principal Investigator) Nelson, David (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2023 - 30-Jan-2024
DTP 2224 University of Strathclyde | Donnachie, Kristin
Reid, Marc (Principal Investigator) Nelson, David (Co-investigator) Donnachie, Kristin (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2023 - 01-Jan-2027
Computer Vision for Analytical Chemistry (CVAC): Scalable Productivity for Chemical Manufacturing- UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship | Donnachie, Kristin
Reid, Marc (Principal Investigator) Nelson, David (Co-investigator) Donnachie, Kristin (Research Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2023 - 01-Jan-2027
Catalytek: A New Company to Enable Industry Access to Novel Catalysts for the Efficient and Sustainable Synthesis of Molecules and Materials (SE HGSP OQ)
Nelson, David (Principal Investigator) Johnson Humphrey, Elliot (Co-investigator)
27-Jan-2022 - 26-Jan-2023
Investigating Nickel-Catalysed C-P Cross-Coupling (UKRI-MITACS (Redpath) Global Research Placement)
Nelson, David (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2022 - 29-Jan-2024

More projects

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Dr David Nelson
Senior Lecturer
Pure and Applied Chemistry

Email: david.nelson@strath.ac.uk
Tel: 548 4383