Research Guides

Department of Chemistry University of Oxford

Professor Matthew Langton

Associate Professor
Royal Society University Research Fellow
Inorganic Chemistry
Fellow and Tutor, Balliol College 
Chemistry Research Laboratory,
12 Mansfield Road,
Tel: +44 (0) 1865 (2)75645

Langton group website


Two funded DPhil studentships in synthetic supramolecular chemistry available to start October 2021! For full details and how to apply see here. Studentships will cover stipend and fees at the Home rate, deadline for applications will be 22nd January 2021.

The projects aim to explore a range of approaches to design and synthesise stimuli-responsive supramolecular systems that function within lipid bilayer membranes, with the aim of controlling chemical reactivity, transmembrane transport and molecular signalling in artificial cells.

Our research interests are at the interface of synthetic supramolecular chemistry, biological chemistry and nanotechnology. 

Supramolecular chemistry is the field of chemistry that concerns intermolecular interactions: the study of these non-covalent interactions is crucial to understanding many biological processes, whilst controlling them in artificial systems enables new self-assembled systems, responsive molecular devices and nano-scale architectures to be engineered for a wide range of applications. In our group we seek in particular to design, synthesise and study functional supramolecular devices which can interface with biological systems.

Molecular devices for responsive lipid bilayer membranes

We are designing responsive supramolecular systems that operate in lipid bilayer membranes and can be “remote-controlled” by an external stimulus (chemical, light, pH etc.). These systems are embedded into the membrane of artificial cell-like compartments and used as chemical tools to control a range of different functions, including transduction and amplification of chemical signals, catalysis of reactions at the membrane interface and transport of molecular cargo across the membrane. 

Molecular machines

We are also interested in designing synthetic molecular machines which act as switches, motors and sensors. Molecular machines are molecules, or discrete assemblies of molecules, in which nano-mechanical motion can be controlled and exploited to carry out a specific task. We are developing artificial molecular machines as new stimuli-responsive components for applications in synthetic biology.


Join our group

Our work is highly interdisciplinary, and we use a wide range of techniques to prepare and study our systems. These range from multi-step organic synthesis and characterisation, to fabrication of nano-scale membrane-bound compartments, quantification of thermodynamic and kinetic processes, and imaging techniques. 

If you are interested in joining our group, as a Part II, PhD/DPhil, PDRA or visitor, please get in touch by email. We are always keen to support those who are interested in applying for external funding to join the group. Specific vacancies will be advertised as they become available.


Selected Publications

-Engineering of stimuli-responsive lipid-bilayer membranes using supramolecular systems. M. J. Langton Nat Rev Chem (2020).

- Reversible photo-control over transmembrane anion transport using visible-light responsive supramolecular carriers; A. Kerckhoffs and M. J. Langton, Chem. Sci., 2020, 11, 6325–6331

-Transmembrane anion transport mediated by halogen bonding and hydrogen bonding triazole anionophores; L. E. Bickerton, A. J. Sterling, P. D. Beer, F. Duarte, M. J. Langton, Chem. Sci., 2020, 11, 4722–4729

-Triggered release from lipid bilayer vesicles by an artificial transmembrane signal transduction system; M. J. Langton, L. M. Scriven, N. H. Williams and C. A. Hunter, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2017, 139, 15768–15773

- Recognition-controlled membrane translocation for signal transduction across lipid bilayers; M. J. Langton, N. H. Williams and C. A. Hunter, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2017, 139, 6461–6466

- Controlled membrane translocation provides a mechanism for signal transduction and amplification; M. J. Langton, F. Keymeulen, M. Ciaccia, N. H. Williams and C. A. Hunter, Nat. Chem.2017, 9, 426-430.