Research Guides

Department of Chemistry University of Oxford

Dr Karl Harrison

My role in the Department of Chemistry is to coordinate the IT support service, provide undergraduate and graduate IT skills training and undertake research to enhance the teaching and learning of chemistry supported by IT. Over the years I have been here, 30 final year Part II students have worked with me to develop learning tools.  

I have a strong research interest in science visualizations, interactive multimedia, metaverses and 3D environments, stereo projections and panoramic photography.

My research investigations focus on the development of teaching software packages to enhance the learning of chemistry. This covers a wide area from: creating new virtual learning environments (VLE) - which are used in the department to manage student practical classes, laboratory practical grades and interviews - c.f. the myDegree area of the chemistry web site; developing online teaching resources using animations, video and interactive 3D models - examples are found on the Virtual Chemistry Laboratory. I have strong collaborations with OUP and provided for a number of years interactive resource materials for their chemistry text  books.


Second Life and OpenSim provide exciting new ways to interactive in 3D environments with chemistry and metaverse collaborative communities. I won the design competition to create the University of Oxford Second Life presence and also host an OpenSim world for chemistry. With the cost and safety of laboratory classrooms an important consideration, virtual reality laboratories offer the opportunity for students to access experiments considered impractical. The teaching of biology with virtual reality frogs and humans has revolutionized that science, and similar advances can be made in the teaching of chemistry.

My interest in virtual worlds has led me into the area of 360 degree panoramic photography, the result is that I have for the last 15 years I have been building a vast online resource with over 3000 interactive panoramas in and around the city of Oxford. This is presented online at the website I frequently give lectures on the work and techniques to photographic societies and camera clubs. 

I work with staff here in Oxford to produce visualizations to help them present their science. Here are a few recent journal covers showing my work.

OBC cover ChemComm cover june 2016 Angewandte Chemie
JOC Cover ChemComm cover


Beyond MeasureMy work has been frequently highlighted both within the University and externally; for example, web stories covering my work have appeared in BBC online, New Scientist, Science, Royal Society of Chemistry, Scientific American, C&EN, the Sunday-Times, The Times, the Independent, the Oxford Mail. The web sites I have developed have been Apple's Hot Pick, in MacUser’sOnline Guru section, as Yell Site of the Week, in ChemWeb’s Alchemy several times, and on many other specialist science web sites. I have won awards from the DTI and have appeared on Sky TV's Dotcom channel twice, as well as on local radio stations - FOX FM, Oxygen and BBC Radio Oxford.

I also produce commissioned work at the interface between art and science, and most recently contributed to the exhibition " beyond measure - conversations across art and science" at the Kettle's Yard Gallery, Cambridge UK.

I recently collaborated with the Science Museum, London to help them produce science inspired gifts. These are on sale in the Science Museum Shop.

As an expert in IT and teaching/learning I was one of the founding members of the University of Oxford’s committee OxTALENT(Oxford Teaching and Learning Enhanced by New Technology), and was its first chair from 1997-1999. I sat on the steering committee for the TLTP Phase 3 project TELRI (Technology Enhanced Learning in Research Institutions) and on the initial steering committee for the formation of the IAUL (Institute for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning) at Oxford. I am a member of the RSC Exemplarchem committee, overseeing an international competition that rewards outstanding web sites about science. I acted as an expert for a collaborative project between the University, the EU and Southern Mediterranean Universities through the UNESCO office; as a result of this role, I have run workshops in Cairo and Jordan and been principal facilitator of IT and teaching projects in An-Najah University, Nablus, Palestine and METU, Ankara, Turkey. 

Science Visualisations - Karl Harrison, Jonathan P. Bowen, Alice M. Bowen Electronic Visualisation in Chemistry: From Alchemy to Art, EVA London 2013 Conference Proceedings, Electronic Workshops in Computing (eWiC), British Computer Society, 29-31 July 2013 arXiv:1307.6360
Grid computing - Davies, E. K.; GlickM.; Harrison, KN.; Richards, W. G., Pattern recognition and massively distributed computing. Journal of Computational Chemistry 2002, 23 (16), 1544-1550; Richards, W. G.; Grant, G. H.; Harrison, KN., Combating bioterrorism with personal computers. Journal of Molecular Graphics & Modelling 2004, 22 (6), 473-478.
Organolanthanide chemistry as a NATO exchange fellow at Northwestern University - Harrison, KN.; Marks, TJ., Organolanthanide-Catalyzed Hydroboration Of Olefins. Journal of the American Chemical Society 1992, 114 (23), 9220-9221.
Bioinorganic chemistry whilst at the University of Hawaii - Wyatt, K. S.; Harrison, KN.; Jensen, CM., Release Of Platinum From Cysteine Residues Induced By N,S-Donor ChelationInorganic Chemistry 1992, 31 (18), 3867-3868.
Platinum chemistry and phosphite ligand design at the University of Bristol - Baker, MJ.; Harrison, KN.; Orpen, A. G.; PringleP. G.; Shaw, G., Chelating Diphosphite Complexes Of Nickel(0) And Platinum(0) - Their Remarkable Stability And Hydrocyanation Activity. Journal of the Chemical Society-Chemical Communications 1991,  (12), 803-804; Baker, MJ.; Harrison, KN.; Orpen, A. G.; PringleP. G.; Shaw, G., 2-Methoxyphenyl Phosphite Complexes Of Platinum(0) And Nickel(0). Journal of the Chemical Society-Dalton Transactions 1992,  (17), 2607-2614; Crispini, A.; Harrison, KN.; Orpen, A. G.; PringleP. G.; WheatcroftJ. R., Tris(2-methoxyphenylphosphite complexes of platinum(II): The cis preference of triaryl phosphite ligands and the effect of oxidation state on metal phosphite bonding. Journal of the Chemical Society-Dalton Transactions 1996,  (6), 1069-1076.