Group Members

Dr Petr Kilian (Group Leader)


CV Dr P Kilian (pdf file)

Current Group Members


Thomasine Curzon (CRITICAT PhD 09/2016-now)




Hannah Kerr (PhD 09/2018 – now), supervised jointly with Prof A. M. Z. Slawin



Daniel Picthall (PhD 10/2020 – now)

Nikita Demidov (Honours Research Project Student 2020/21)

Alice Martin (Laidlaw Undergraduate Internship 2020-21)

Previous Group Members

Georgina Brown (Honours Research Project Student 2019/20)


Helena Lancaster (Honours Research Project Student 2019/20, supervised jointly with Dr B. A. Chalmers)

Alister Goodfellow (Honours Research Project Student 2019/20, Summer Project Student 2020, both supervised jointly with Professor M. Buehl)

Lu-Tao Zhang (CSC funded PhD 09/2016 – 01/2021), supervised jointly with Prof J. D. Woollins



Bethany Lawson (CRITICAT PhD 09/2015-now, previously Honours Research Project Student 2013/14 and Summer Project student 2014)BLphoto220161207_1113280smallBethany hails from Aberdeen, the city of granite and radioactivity. Perhaps it explains her small stature. She escaped to St Andrews in 2010 to begin her MChem. In her Research Project Bethany was looking into unusual rearrangements of aromatic systems with bulky supermesityl phosphines. When she is not hard at work she likes to otherwise exert herself by going jogging or practising her mad driving skills.


Andrew Montgomery (Honours Research Project Student 2018/19)


Anna Tarcza (Honours Research Project Student 2018/19, supervised jointly with Dr B. A. Chalmers)


Felix Mueller (Overseas MSc Inorganic Project 2018, home institution Munich University, Germany)


Ewan Scougall (Summer Project 2018)


Eden Portman (Honours Research Project Student 2017/18)

Emma Barker (Honours Research Project Student 2017/18)

Boris Bosilkov (Honours Research Project Student 2017/18)

Iris Martyn (Summer Project 2017)


Laurence Taylor (PhD 10/2013 – 09/2017)

LJTphoto1 LJTphoto2Laurence spent his youth in Alton, Hampshire. Moving slightly further north he began his MSci at Cambridge in 2009 and completed it in 2013 before moving even further north to begin PhD work with PK in October 2013. In his own words his PhD is about “phosphorus acenaphthene stuff”. The caffeine junkie can’t even go a single hour without a nice strong cuppa otherwise he starts looking for other adrenaline fuelled activities to keep himself awake such as abseiling, caving, hydrospeeding and canyoning. As well as a crippling addiction to coffee, Laurence has a crippling addiction to progressive rock music and searching the country far and wide to find the finest ale.


Phillip Nejman (PhD 10/2013 – 03/2017) supervised jointly with Prof J. D. Woollins

PNphoto2PNphoto1Phillip (with two L’s) grew up in a tiny little place called Eddleston in the Scottish Borders near Peebles. If you blink, you’d miss it. It’s that tiny! From one tiny place to another Phil came to St Andrew to do his MChem in 2006 which he successfully completed in 2011. With a keen interest in golf, he just couldn’t stay away from St Andrews thus returned to join the PK group in 2013 to begin his PhD in synthesising dithiolato complexes of iridium and rhodium. No one really knows what happened to Phil between 2011 and 2013, I’m sure he doesn’t even know himself. He claims to play football, but he’s really only the goal keeper. If not maintaining his title as “Master of the Wii”, Phil can be found ‘socialising’ in one of the many fine establishments around town. Phil has a keen interest in photography, so with his sharp eye and big lens no wonder he’s a hit with the ladies!


Rachel Doyle (Honours Research Project Student 2016/17)



Zachary Davis (Honours Research Project Student 2016/17)

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Francesca Christie (Honours Research Project Student 2016/17, supervised jointly with Dr B. Chalmers)


Dr Brian Chalmers (EPSRC+ Postdoctoral Research Fellow 2015– 2016, PhD 10/2011 – 04/2015, Honours Research Project student 2010/2011)


Born and raised in Dunfermline, Brian didn’t have to look far to find a home for his chemical intrigue. Although not officially documented, when Brian arrived in St Andrews in September 2006 to start his undergraduate degree, time itself paused momentarily. Since then it has been full steam ahead for Brian who completed his MChem in May 2011 before starting PhD work with PK later that year. As far as Brian is concerned if it doesn’t have a 5 TCA rating, it’s not worth working with so he kept himself busy by synthesising a series of phosphorus, arsenic and antimony peri-substituted acenaphthenes. After many a successful reactions, Brian completed his PhD in April 2015 and immediately began postdoctoral work with PK to build on the impressive series created during his PhD. When not in the lab Brian likes to relax by playing darts with a nice chilled IPA or a scrumptious fruity cider, sometimes even a whisky or a serving of gin (Scottish measures only!). Brian has a keen interest in cooking; he’s like the Gordon Ramsay of the lab. Post relaxation time the dance floor has never seen better moves than when Brian graces it with his presence.


Sara Saez (Visiting postgraduate fellow, March-July 2016, home institution Instituto de Tecnología Química (UPV-CSIC) and Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Spain)

Sara Saez photo 2016


Claire Brodie (Honours Research Project Student 2015/16)CBphoto2


Claire grew up on a little farm in the Scottish Borders before coming to St Andrews in 2011 to start her MChem degree. Claire joins the Kilian group in her final year after spending her placement year “setting things on fire” making flame retardant films with DuPont Teijin Films based in Middlesbrough. Claire is working towards looking at the border between bonding and repulsion in Lewis pairs. Claire is a philanthropist who gets her kicks from organising things such as coffee mornings and charity balls (big shout out to ChemSoc!) She is a keen hillwalker due to years of conditioning from being dragged up many a munro as a small child, by her mother of course.


Philip Pickett (Honours Research Project Student 2015/16)

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Philip (with one L) was born in Nepal, where he lived until moving to Wales in 2005. His mother is American, and father is English) so he doesn’t have much of an idea where he is from. So just to improve his sense of identity he decided to pursue an MChem degree at St Andrews in 2012. Last year Phil did an industrial placement at GSK (Montrose) and is now doing his masters project with PK where he aims to perform synthetic studies on peri-substituted phosphines. Outside of this he enjoys walking the mountains, reading books, and eating food with friends!


Isa Kallweit (Erasmus+ Summer Project 2015, home institution University of Leipzig, Germany)




Aiden Bhakta (Internship for Undergraduate Research Assistants, Summer 2015)
Aiden Bhakta cropped



Sarah Macdonald (Honours Research Project Student 2014/15)


Sarah joined the group for her Masters project as part of her MChem degree aiming to make a new series of peri–substituted phosphine–phosphine complexes. This was a little different from Sarah’s past experiences where she was making opiates as part of her placement year at MacFarlan Smith. When not creating new phosphines, Sarah can be found doing what all Falkirk girls love best, shopping for wine and new Zumba outfits.


Christina Meigh (Honours Research Project Student 2014/15)


Christina, originally from the small town of Kirk Ella in Yorkshire, came to St Andrews in 2012 immediately after she heard the aquarium had a family of meerkats because she thinks “they are so cute”. While she is here she thought it may be a good idea to begin study for a degree. For her 4th year project Christina was looking into tetradentate phosphorus, arsenic and antimony ligands for metal encapsulation. When not studying meerkats or her MChem, she liked to relax with a touch of ice skating, hockey, skiing or selling toasties to the local population.


Peter Coburger (Overseas MSc Diploma Project 2015 jointly supervised with Prof Evamarie Hay-Hawkins, Overseas Summer Project 2014, home institution University of Leipzig, Germany)


Peter is from the tiny town of Greiz, Thuringia (Germany) where he grew up listening to metal and classical music before moving to Leipzig University in 2010 to begin his degree. Peter has spent most of his degree working with phosphorus in some way or another. His Bachelor’s thesis, under the supervision of Prof. Eva Hey-Hawkins was focused on Diels Alder reactions of phospholes and chiral phosphine sulfides which was swiftly followed by another project looking into synthesising chiral phosphanorbornyl ethers. Peter came to the PK group for a short visit in 2014 before returning in 2015 for Diploma Project to investigate the chemistry of restricted diphosphines. Peter enjoys playing guitar and basketball as well as taking photographs.


Jan Bergsch (Overseas MSc Inorganic Project 2015, home institution Munich University, Germany)



Ines Lindner (Overseas Master Project Student 2014, home institution University of Freiburg, Germany)



Mark Carter (Honours Research Project Student 2013/14)


Mark comes from Enfield, North London. He moved to St Andrews in 2010 to begin his MChem. Mark is working towards new efficient methods into synthesising perbromate salts. When it comes to relaxing, Mark likes to consume malted barley based beverages, performing black metal songs and folk dancing; sometimes all at once. 


Dagmar Micikova (IAESTE Summer Placement 2013, home institution Institute of Chemical Technology, Prague)


Brian Surgenor (PhD 10/2008-07/2013, joint supervision with Prof J. D. Woollins)



As a famous Scotsman once said (because they say everything worth saying, invent everything worth inventing, and discover everything worth discovering) ‘Gid apples dinnae fall far fae the tree. ‘ This little saying holds true for Brian, our wee Troon native. Brian finished his undergraduate degree at the University of St Andrews and has continued on to do a PhD with PK. Brian’s main ambition was to be in the heavy weight competitions at the highland games, but when he was mistaken for the caber, he decided to change career paths. As a true Troonie, he was interested in chemistry because he wanted to know how drugs work. Instead of anything to do with drugs, he is trying to make unsymmetrical phosphines containing ferrocene ligands.


Matthew Ray (PhD 02/2010-07/2013)


Matt Ray is a south coast man who made the long trek north via an MSc at Bristol before starting his PhD at St Andrews in 2010. He is trying to make novel phosphorus centred radicals for various applications. He spends his leisure time running, watching Clint Eastwood films and fighting bears. He may also be a spy in his spare time but that information is classified…


Conor Fleming (PhD 10/2008-03/2013)



This Irish, UCD (Dublin) alum is unlike his Leprechaun brothers, who are tiny, spry, cheerful, rich, and follow rainbows. Well, he is cheerful and he did follow the rainbow to the PK group in 2008. Instead of pursuing of his pot o’ gold, he is always hunting for a pot o’ tea. You will never find Conor without a cup, except in the lab, where his only wish is that the Safety Officer would let him have his cuppa in there. This gentle giant always has some dry, witty remark for you or a story for the telling. On the football pitch, he is known as the “Walking Wall” and tackles anyone who comes his way!


Joanna Prentis (Honours Research Project student 2012/2013)


Walker Prentke (Honours Research Project student 2011/2012)


Upulani Somisara (PhD 01/2007-06/2011)

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Upulani Somisara, Ms. Good things come in small packages, joins as the first ever PhD student of Petr Kilian. Oopoo began her chemistry training by completing her MPhil at the University of Birmingham and her BSc at the University of Peradeniya. In the lab, Upsy stands on her special made box so she can reach her newly made phosphorus compounds. In her spare time, she cooks, travels and takes pictures (try sitting in through one of her slideshows). Ups-a-Daisy has also shown us many pictures of her beautiful home town, Kandy, Sri Lanka. As you can tell, she must be the favourite in the lab, because everyone has a different nickname for her, but don’t let her small stature fool you.


Kenneth Armstrong (PhD 10/2007-05/2011)

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“White Phosphorus”, the name alone will strike fear into any man, but with his sleek aluminium coated lab coat, face shield, prescription safety glasses, standard rubber kitchen cleaning gloves, and gallons and gallons of blue copper sulphate solutions, Kenneth M. Armstrong can conquer this nasty chemical, but who is this Ken? Ken joins the Kilian group from the University of York, where he did a Masters degree in Chemistry. Not only is Ken a white phosphorous conqueror, but he is also an avid footballer where he plays right back for Dynamo-Deans Court in the Wednesday night football league. Reports say “He is SOOO fast on the field, it is unbelievable.” When not playing football or taming white phosphorus, Ken enjoys playing cricket (weather permitting) and drinking a Yorkshire Terrier Ale. He used to box, but quit because he ended up blocking too many punches with his face. Ken is a very caring person, evidenced by spending 2 years measuring glucose levels in urine samples from Patch, his diabetic dog. Oh, and “Yes, Pluto should be a planet.”


Michael Gorzkowski (Honours Research Project student 2010/2011)


Amy Looi (Summer project student 2009 and Honours Research Project student 2009/2010)


Liam Bissett (Honours Research Project Student 2009/2010)


Dr Piotr Wawrzyniak (Postdoctoral Research Fellow 2007-2009)


Piotr Wawrzyniak (“Wav- jee-ne- aac”) comes to St Andrews from Skierniewice, Poland. Piotr first dreamt of being an Airforce pilot, and spent 4 years military school before moving on to study Technology of Fine Chemicals at Warsaw Technical University. Piotr next completed a PhD at University of Greifswald, (Germany) in Inorganic Chemistry. Whilst completing his PhD Piotr simultaneously completed a BSc in computer science, (yes we all agree he was showing off). He is now a postdoctoral research fellow in the Kilian group, where he is working on stable phosphorus centred radicals and odd electron bonds. Favourite pass times for this chap are all manly pursuits, such as “drinking beer” “acute media and current affairs observations” (watching TV to the rest of us) and “increasing the universal entropic state”.


Karolina Korzycka (IAESTE Summer Placement 2008)


Jiao Xu (Honours Research Project Student 2007/2008)


David Newton (Honours Research Project Student 2006/2007)