Group news

Want to do independent research at the School in St Andrews? We are looking for talented future colleagues.

We currently have two fully-funded PhD positions available in collaboration with Syngenta and two other fully-funded positions (EPSRC) in areas of total synthesis/SAR, bioconjugation/peptide chemical biology, Pd/Cu catalysis and organoboron chemistry. Email Allan for informal inquiries! 

Follow us on Twitter @watson_group

July 2024

  • Watsons on tour! John, Marek and Tim are off to Dublin to present their work at the 9th EuChemS Chemistry Congress! Make sure to say hello if you’re in town.

June 2024

May 2024

  • Boron Boii is newly minted Dr. Bastick! We wish Kane the very best as he passes his viva, and is now off to work for Prof. Andrei Yudin in Canada.
  • John and Marek’s BMIDA-[2+2+2] paper is highlighted in OPR&D.
  • Our collaboration with the Burley and Lloyd-Jones groups on the mechanism of Azide-Ynamine click chemistry is published in JACS!
  • Allan tells all about Boron for Pint of Science (with the help of Masha and Tim)
  • Our second ever Watson group retreat takes place at Firbush Point! This year we were joined by some friends in the Johnston group – check out the photos here.
  • Tom and John’s paper on Organogermane CuAAC chemistry appears on ChemRxiv!

April 2024

  • John is away to Germany to work with Prof. Ryan Gilmour, with thanks to the RSC!
  • Dr. Dean Roberts joins the group, having completed his PhD with Dr. Mark McLaughlin at the University of Lancaster. Welcome!
  • Maria presents some of her work at the Edinburgh Science Festival!

March 2024

  • Sara and Jamie complete their time in the lab, good luck writing up your MChem theses!
  • Marek is awarded an RSC BMCS researcher mobility fellowship, he’s off to Sweden in June!
  • John and Marek’s paper on benzoxaboracycles is highlighted in Synfacts!

February 2024

  • Tim’s paper is published in Chemistry: A European Journal!
  • Our collaboration with the Sutherland group at the University of Glasgow is published in Org. Lett.!

January 2024

  • The new year starts with a bang, as Kane says Auf wiedersehen as he joins the group of Dr. John Malloy at the Max Planck Institute in Potsdam for a placement!
  • John and Marek’s [2+2+2]-BOB’s paper is published in ACS catalysis – and is highlighted as Editors choice!
  • The group moves into a shiny new office!

December 2023

  • Marek, Tim, Kane and John present their work at the School of Chemistry Postgraduate Symposium. Special mention to Kane who took away a prize for his presentation!
  • The annual Watson group Christmas party and awards is held! Congrats to all the winners, and to the boss and Tim who jointly won Lab Olympics. Also congrats to Moron: Beyond the Reagent for beating the escape room a whole 6 minutes faster than the Ballooners! Check out the pictures on our page!

November 2023

  • Construction work on our PhD office refurb begins!
  • Tim and Kane present at the RSC New Frontiers in Synthetic Chemistry conference at Burlington house in London!
  • John and Marek’s paper on they synthesis of complex benzoxaboroles appears on ChemRxiv!
  • Tim’s paper on Brønsted acid-catalysed aziridine synthesis appears on ChemRxiv!

October 2023

  • Dr Brals is in the house! Congratulations to Jeremy, who smashed his viva (and a few drinks at the bar afterwards) on 13th October! We wish him all the best for the future, and plenty more trips into the North Sea!
  • Our collaboration with the Burley group in Strathclyde is published in Angewandte!

September 2023

  • MChem students Jamie and Sara join the group, doing magic with MedChem in collaboration with Masha and Marek!
  • Jeremy and MChem student Nick’s paper is published in Synlett! Congratulations guys!
  • Joanna joins the group, starting her PhD playing with Boron!
  • We bid farewell to PDRA, Matt! All the best for the future!

August 2023

  • Jeremy’s paper is accepted into Angewandte Chemie! Congrats Jezzzzzzzz!
  • Kane’s paper is published in Synlett!
  • Kane, Matt and Allan’s Hidden Figures in Chemistry EDI project wins 3 university awards!

July 2023

  • Matt’s paper is accepted into ACS catalysis! Congratulations, have a read here!
  • We bid farewell to summer student Mhairi, who was working on some bioactive compounds with Maria!

June 2023

  • Matt’s collaboration with Heriot Watt on the mechanism of Cu-catalysed iododeboronation appears on ChemRxiv. Congrats Matt!

May 2023

  • Tim presents a poster at the RSC Heterocyclic conference in Grasmere.
  • Kane’s paper is published in ACS catalysis – great work!
  • The inaugural Watson Group Retreat at the firbush outdoor centre (near Kilin) was held! Lots of interesting talks and activities, even the boss got into/was pushed into the water! Check out the photos here.
  • Jeremy’s paper on Boron photocatalysis appears on ChemRxiv
  • John’s paper on aryl MIDA boronate [2+2+2]’s is published in Chem Communications! Congratulations John!

March 2023

  • JB in the US! Jeremy heads over to Indianapolis to give a talk at the ACS Spring 2023 (Crossroads of Chemistry) conference! Say hi if you visit!
  • Nick and Maddison, our MChem students, absolutely ace their final year presentations!

February 2023

  • John’s paper on the [Rh]-catalysed internal-alkyne problem goes live in ACS catalysis – congratulations John!
  • Kane’s paper on catalytic homologation chemistry appears on Chemrxiv

December 2022

  • The group enjoys our annual Christmas night out – including laser-tag, and the traditional Watson Group Awards! Check out the photos in the tab above.

November 2022

  • Our paper on Chan–Lam Amination and Etherification of Aryl BMIDAs is published in EurJOC. Congrats to John, Eva, Matt West and Julian!

October 2022

  • John and Kane present at the GSK postgraduate symposium in Stevenage.
  • Eva’s work on the synthesis and SAR of Alterneric acid is published in Nature Synthesis!
  • Maria has some of her previous work on atorvastatin derivatives published in RSC Med. Chem.
  • David Cain’s paper on the total synthesis of aspidosperma cores is published in J. Org. Chem!
  • Michaela has some of her master’s work published in Chem. Comm.

September 2022

  • Jeremy presents at the AstraZeneca conference in Macclesfield.
  • Kane presents at the RSC Heterocyclic & Synthesis Group Postgraduate Symposium in Nottingham.
  • George becomes Dr. Bell as he completes his viva!
  • The group welcomes MChem students Nick and Maddison to the lab.
  • The group continues to grow as we welcome 1st year PhDs Maria, Tom and Michaela to the group!

August 2022

  • The group bids farewell to Aitor as he takes on a PostDoc in Austria.
  • The group also says goodbye and good luck to Suzie as she leaves the group to begin her PhD studies at Oxford.

July 2022

  • Eva becomes Dr. Israel! We wish her luck as she begins her postdoc with the Burley Group at the University of Strathclyde.
  • Suzie returns to the lab for a Summer Placement.

June 2022

  • The lab is awarded the AstraZeneca Synthetic Chemistry Award.
  • The group attends the RSC Perkin Meeting with Allan speaking and Eva, John and Kane all presenting posters – Eva wins the overall poster prize!
  • Marek has a collaborative paper accepted into Science from his masters project in Sweden!
  • Kane’s update article on copper (I)/(II) fluoride appears in e-ROS.

May 2022

  • Eva presents at the SCI PG symposium at Queen Mary University London
  • Thomas Doig joins us for a summer placement from St. Andrews Chemistry Dept.

April 2022

  • George, Jamie and Eva’s work on the synthesis of C2-borylated indoles via Pd heteroannulation gets accepted into Org Lett
  • Allan is awarded  Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship – time to get back in the lab!
  • We wave goodbye to our MChem students, Iona – who goes on to do charity work in Zambia – and Suzie, who goes on to a PhD position at Oxford.

March 2022

  • George, Jamie and Eva’s work on the synthesis of C2-borylated indoles via Pd heteroannulation appears on Chemrxiv

February 2022

  • Liam, Matt and Jamie’s paper on asymmetric synthesis of chiral aziridines and chloroamines is published in Chem Eur J (previously out on Chemrxiv)

December 2021

  • Eva makes it two for two with the first prize for her presentation at the Syngenta Collaborative Research Conference, then the joint-first prize at the RSC-St Andrews Postgraduate Symposium!

October 2021

  • We welcome a second new PDRA, Aitor, who joins us from Spain and will be in collaboration with the Burley Group

September 2021

  • Liam’s book chapter on 4-membered rings containing boron is published in Comprehensive Heterocyclic Chemistry
  • Tim returns to the group to begin his PhD alongside Marek (previously at Edinburgh) as the group also welcomes final year project students Iona and Suzi
  • The group continues its tradition of welcoming many Matts as Matthew Andrews joins us as a PDRA from Herriot Watt
  • Liam, Matt and Jamie’s latest work on CPA-catalyzed AP reactions to access chiral chloroamines and aziridines appears on Chemrxiv

August 2021

  • Liam’s EurJOC on the preparation of CPA catalysts for AP reactions is published – congratulations, Liam!
  • Some collaborative work with the Burley Group is published in ChemMedChem
  • Eva returns from her 3-month placement with the Ritter Lab, welcome back to sunny Scotland!
  • Allan is promoted to Professor of Organic Chemistry! We are grateful to collaborators and supporters, past and present, of the Watson Group as we begin a new chapter.

July 2021

  • Dr Matthew Coles completes his PhD viva and the beach run! Check out the group twitter for an action shot. We wish him the best of luck at Pharmaron.
  • The group bids farewell to our masters student, William, and summer student, Nick.
  • We wish Liam good luck as he begins a 3 month secondment  in the Teskey Lab at RWTH Aachen University with an Advanced Research Opportunities Program scholarship.

June 2021

  • The group welcomes third-year undergraduate, Nick D’Arcy Evans, for a summer placement funded by the RSC.
  • Eva and Jamie’s book chapter on Boron Complexes in Organic Synthesis is published in Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering.
  • Tim is awarded the prize for Best Undergraduate Organic Chemistry Project – Congrats!
  • Nick wins three awards for outstanding academic performance (Elizabeth Soutar, Dr Margaret Robson Wright and F. D. Gunstone prizes) – a future chemistry superstar for sure!

May 2021

  • We bid farewell to Jamie as he begins his new role at Dundee’s Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) as a medicinal chemist.

April 2021

  • We wish Eva luck as she begins a 3 month secondment in the Ritter Lab at the Max-Planck-Institute für Kohlenforschung.

March 2021

  • The group says goodbye and good luck to our final year students Tim and Charlotte.

February 2021

  • Some of our collaborative work with GlaxoSmithKline is published in Bioconjugate Chemistry.

January 2021

  • New year = new students! We welcome William to the group for his MRes year.
  • Our work on Copper mediated ionising cross-coupling is published in Angewandte Chemie. Congratulations to all involved!

December 2020

  • Nicola, Chao, Julien, Jamie and Jeremy’s work on strange Cu(OTf)2 reactions is now available on ChemRXiv.
  • A big congratulations to Dr David Cain who not only passed his viva but started a new post-viva tradition (see our Twitter for pictures)! We wish David the best of luck as he moves on to his new role with Sygnature Discovery in Nottingham.

November 2020

  • We move into our shiny new lab space which will be shared with Dr Craig Johnston’s group.

September 2020

  • We welcome new PhD students Kane and John, along with Final Year project students Charlotte and Tim, to the group.

August 2020

  • Allan’s perspective article on our Pd based research is featured on the Front Cover of Synlett Issue 13.

June 2020

  • We’re back!! Following a long and frustrating lockdown the group finally returns to the lab.
  • Massive congratulations to Dr Eilidh Sood who completes the groups second virtual viva! Eilidh is off to undertake a Postgrad in Teaching at University of Strathclyde. Good luck Eilidh!
  • Matt’s work on CPA mediated synthesis of heterocyclic vicinal fluoroamines is published in Chemistry A European Journal. Congratulations Matt!

May 2020

  • The group continues working from home as part of the COVID-19 lockdown. No practical chemistry but plenty of writing and ideas for when we do get back in the lab!

April 2020

  • Huge congratulations to Dr Matthew West for not only completing his PhD viva, but doing so remotely for the first time! Matt moves on to a Process Chemistry role at Almac in Belfast. All the best Matt!
  • Allan’s perspective article on our Pd based research is accepted in Synlett.
  • Eva returns to the group from Syngenta, but sadly remains isolated from us. We look forward to getting the band back together in the lab as soon as possible.

March 2020

  • The lab sadly shuts down due to a pesky virus outbreak. We’ll be back.
  • George, Eva, and Matt (with help from colleagues from the Smith group) present at the 6th National Retrosynthesis Competition in London.
  • Matt’s work on CPA mediated synthesis of heterocyclic vicinal fluoroamines is now available on ChemRxiv.

February 2020

  • Eilidh’s study on deoxyfluorination using CuF2 is published in Angewantde Chemie. Congratulations Eilidh!

January 2020

  • David presents a poster at the 48th RSC Scottish Organic Division (Perkin) Meeting and wins the prize for best poster. Congrats David!
  • Eva starts a 3 month industrial placement at Syngenta.

December 2019

  • Matt A presents a poster at the RSC Organic Division Poster Symposium in London.
  • David and Matt A present their work at the annual St Andrews Chemistry Postgraduate Symposium. Eva also presents a poster. Well done to all!

November 2019

  • Matt W, Brodie, and Juliens paper is published in Asian JOC. Congrats all! Link in our publication section.
  • Matt W, Jamie, Julien, and Allan’s review on the development of the Chan-Lam reaction is published in Chemical Reviews. Well done team!

October 2019

  • Welcome to our new postdoc Liam.

September 2019

  • Matthew A presents at the RSC Heterocycle and Synthesis Group meeting.
  • Welcome to Boyang and Erin who join us for their final year projects.
  • Eilidh presents at the Charles River poster day in Cambridge.
  • Welcome to our new PhD student Jeremy.

August 2019

  • We say goodbye to our Summer student Eggy. It has been great working with you!
  • We also say goodbye to our MSc student George. All the best in the future.
  • Allan presents at BMS NJ and GeneTech.
  • Eilidh, Matt W, and Allan all present at the ACS San Diego.

July 2019

  • Welcome to our Summer student Eggy who will be working on natural product targets with Eva.
  • Monica returns back to Canada. We all wish you the best of luck.

June 2019

  • Our group twitter is launched. Feel free to follow us for all our latest updates. [link]
  • The group and the Watson family enjoy a day out at the beach with frisbee and sausages galore!
  • Welcome to our catalysis MSc student George who will be with us for 3 months.

May 2019

  • Jamie re-joins the group. Welcome back!
  • Allan wins the RSC Hickinbottom Award for developing approaches to understand mechanisms of catalytic reactions and to generate new approaches to make C-X bonds.
  • Eva, George, and David attend the 3rd Chem Cell Press conference in Norwich where David presents his published Synlett work.

April 2019

  • Eilidh and Matthew A attend the 19th RSC Fluorine Symposium in Southampton. Eilidh wins best talk! Congrats to Eilidh!
  • Eilidh attends SCI Organic Symposium in Glasgow and wins best talk! Congrats again to Eilidh…she is on a roll!
  • Eva presents her research to date at the St Andrews postgraduate symposium talks. Well done!
  • Our study on Ni vs. Pd in the Suzuki–Miyaura sp2–sp2 cross-coupling is accepted in OBC. Well done Matt W! [link]
  • Nicola leaves for her new job in the Cronin lab. We all wish you the best of luck.

March 2019

  • Our collaborative study with the Sutherland group at the University of Glasgow is published in Organic Letters. Congrats to the whole team! [link]

  • Eilidh wins a poster prize at the SCI Women in Chemistry event in Nottingham. Congrats Eilidh!

January 2019

  • We welcome our CDT students Dominic, Macieji, and Virginie into the group for their miniprojects.
  • Julia’s review of biocatalytic aminoacid preparation is published in Journal of Biotechnology. Congrats Julia! [link]

December 2018

  • Nicola gives a talk and Matt West presents a poster at the Perkin Meeting at Strathclyde.
  • Matt Ashford wins the runner up poster prize at the St Andrews Postgraduate Symposium. Congrats Matt!
  • David presents a poster at the RSC Organic Meeting in Burlington House.
  • Eilidh and Matt West present posters at the SCI Modern Developments in Organic Synthesis meeting and Eilidh wins the runner up poster prize. Congrats Eilidh!

October 2018

  • David’s paper is highlighted in Thieme. [link]
  • Our flow paper with the Burley group ( has been highlighted in Nature Communications. [link]
  • Our collaborative study with the Burley group ( on flow-based CuAAC bioconjugation is published in Nature Communications. Congrats Marine! [link]

  • Our study on the use of vinyl Bpin as a bifunctional reagent is accepted in Synlett. Congrats David! [link]

  • Welcome to our new project students Brodie and Daniel.

September 2018

  • Our collaborative study on the Chan-Lam reaction of N-aryl sulfonamides is published in ACS Catalysis. Congrats Julien! [link]

  • Our study on the use of DMI in cross-coupling reactions is accepted in Synlett. Congrats Kirsty! [link to follow]

August 2018

  • Welcome to our new PhD student Eva Israel.
  • Our collaborative biocatalysis paper is published in ACIE. Congrats Julia + team! [link]

July 2018

  • Welcome to our new postdoc Dr Nicola Bell.

June 2018

  • Our first asymmetric catalysis study is published in ACIE! Congrats Chao! [link]

  • The group say good bye and good luck to Dr Chao Xu and Dr John Molloy.
  • Our Pd anion metathesis paper is highlighted in SynFacts [link]

May 2018

  • Allan gives talks at GSK UP, Universities of Ottawa/Carelton, Queens Ontario, Alberta, and at the 2018 CSC in Edmonton.

April 2018

  • Some of the group’s Green Chem work is highlighted in the ACS Med Chem Tips and Tricks.
  • Our collaborative study with the Gilmour Group at Münster on photochemical isomerization of styrenyl organoborons is highlighted in C&EN.
  • Joe passes his PhD viva with Prof Paul Stevenson as examiner. Congratulations Dr Dixon!
  • John passes his PhD viva with Prof Ian Fairlamb as examiner. Congratulations Dr Molloy!
  • Allan talks at the Chem Symposium at UEA.
  • Our collaborative paper on selective bromodomain inhibitors is published in J. Med. Chem. Congrats to the team! J. Med. Chem. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jmedchem.7b01666.

March 2018

  • Our paper on the use of Cyrene in amidation reactions is accepted for publication in OBC. Congrats Kirsty! Org. Biomol. Chem. DOI: 10.1039/C8OB00653A.

  • Our total synthesis/SAR study of coronatine is published in Nature Communications. Congratulations Mairi! Nat. Comm. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03443-1.

  • Kirsty, Marine, and Allan will be presenting in various forms at the ACS in NOLA.
  • Julien passes his PhD viva! Congratulations Dr Vantourout! Thanks to Prof David Procter for doing the honours.

February 2018

January 2018

  • Our collaborative study with the Gilmour Group at Münster on photochemical isomerization of styrenyl organoborons is published in ACIE. Congrats John, Jan, and Constantin! Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2018, 57, 3186–3172.

  • Julien wins a poster prize at the 1st Alpine Winter Conference on Medicinal and Synthetic Chemistry. Congrats Julien!
  • Our study of Pd(II) anion metathesis is published in JACS. Congrats, John, Ciaran, and Matt! Interrogating Pd(II) Anion Metathesis Using a Bifunctional Chemical Probe: A Transmetalation Switch, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 126−130.

  • The group moves to St. Andrews!