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Dr David Nelson

Strathclyde Chancellor'S Fellow

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 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

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

Further details can be found on our website at

In addition to research and teaching, I organise Synthesis colloquia for research students and staff in the Catalysis & Synthesis and Chemical Biology & Medicinal Chemistry sections.


Has expertise in:


    • 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)


Steric effects determine the mechanisms of reactions between bis(N-heterocyclic carbene)-nickel(0) complexes and aryl halides
Nelson David J., Maseras Feliu
Chemical Communications, pp. 1-3, (2018)
Insights into mechanism and selectivity in ruthenium(II)-catalysed ortho-arylation reactions directed by Lewis basic groups
McIntyre Jamie, Mayoral-Soler Irene, Salvador Sedano Pedro, Poater Albert, Nelson David James
Catalysis Science and Technology, (2018)
Coinage metal complexes of selenoureas derived from N-heterocyclic carbenes
Nahra Fady, Van Hecke Kristof, Kennedy Alan, Nelson David James
Dalton Transactions, (2018)
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)

more publications


Undergraduate Courses

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

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.

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] 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.


Postgraduate Courses

CH721: Well defined complexes of gold: synthesis, properties and homogeneous catalysis. [2014/15, 2016/17] 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 (

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

Nickel(0) Complexes and Aryl Halides: Reaction Mechanisms and Structure/Reactivity Relationships
Keynote speaker
Dialing Molecules with Nickel Catalysis: Understanding Oxidative Addition to Nickel(0) Complexes Relevant to Cross-Coupling
Understanding Oxidative Addition to Nickel(0)
45th Scottish Regional Meeting of the RSC Organic Division
Meeting of Inorganic Chemists Recently Appointed
EaStCHEM Conference for Early Career Researchers
Keynote/plenary speaker

more professional activities


AstraZeneca ICASE
Nelson, David (Principal Investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2017 - 30-Sep-2021
Defining, Quantifying, and Understanding Selectivity Paradigms in Iridium-Cataly
Nelson, David (Principal Investigator) Kerr, William (Co-investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2018 - 30-Sep-2021
Industrial CASE Account - University of Strathclyde 2017 | Greaves, Megan
Nelson, David (Principal Investigator) Murphy, John (Co-investigator) Greaves, Megan (Research Co-investigator)
Period 01-Oct-2017 - 01-Oct-2021
Industrial Case Account 2016 | Cooper, Alasdair
Nelson, David (Principal Investigator) Tomkinson, Nicholas (Co-investigator) Cooper, Alasdair (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

more projects


Pure and Applied Chemistry
Thomas Graham Building

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