Research Guides

Department of Chemistry University of Oxford

Professor Stephen P. Fletcher

We have funding for new DPhil student (EU passport) to work on a project on autocatalytic reactions. 

We are a synthetic chemistry group with varied interests. We develop new catalytic asymmetric methods for synthesis and design systems to study and understand important processes in chemistry and biology.  Our current efforts can be roughly divided into the following areas.  

1. Asymmetric catalysis

We are developing methods for catalytic asymmetric C-C bond formation.  There is a real need to develop new methods that use simple and readily available starting materials to make complex molecules.  The emphasis of these studies is on developing new, efficient / powerful methods as well as mechanistic studies and applications of the method to important molecules such as clinically used medicines or natural products.

2. Origins of life

The origins of life are not well understood and this is one of the great questions in contemporary science. We are designing self-replicating systems and autocatalytic reaction networks that may be relevant to prebiotic chemistry.

3. Conversion of light into energy

The molecular prerequisites governing the conversion of light into mechanical energy are poorly understood.  How to control this energy, and what it can be used for are also poorly understood. 



​Visualisation of the spontaneous emergence of a complex, dynamic and autocatalytic system. J. Ortega-Arroyo, A. J. Bissette, P. Kukura and S. P. Fletcher. ​Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2016, 113, 11122-11126. 

Rhodium-catalysed asymmetric allylic arylation of racemic halides with arylboronic acids. M. Sidera and S. P. Fletcher. Nature Chem. 20157, 935-939. 

Barrierless photoisomerization of 11-cis retinal protonated Schiff base in solution. G. Bassolino, T. Sovdat, A. Soares Duarte, J.-M. Lim, C. Schnedermann, M. Liebel, B. Odell, T. D. W. Claridge, S. P. Fletcher and P. Kukura. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015137, 12434–12437. 

Non-stabilized nucleophiles in Cu-catalysed dynamic kinetic asymmetric allylic alkylation. H. You, E. Rideau, M. Sidera and S. P. Fletcher. Nature 2015517, 351–355. 

Physical autocatalysis driven by a bond-forming thiol-ene reaction. A. J. Bissette, B. Odell and S. P. Fletcher. Nature Comm2014, 5, 4607.

Conversion of light into macroscopic helical motion. S. Iamsaard, S. J. Aβhoff, B. Matt, T. Kudernac, J. J. L. M. Cornelissen, S. P. Fletcher and N. Katsonis. Nature Chem. 2014, 6, 229-235.

Synthetic control of retinal photochemistry and photophysics in solution. G. Bassolino, T. Sovdat, M. Liebel, C. Schnedermann, B. Odell, T. D. W. Claridge, P. Kukura and S. P. Fletcher. J. Am. Chem. Soc2014, 136, 2650-2658. 

Mechanisms of autocatalysis.  A. J. Bissette and S. P. Fletcher. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 201352, 12800–12826.  

Formation of quaternary centers by copper-catalyzed asymmetric conjugate addition of alkylzirconium reagents.  M. Sidera, P. M. C. Roth, R. M. Maksymowicz and S. P. Fletcher. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 201352, 7995–7999.

Catalytic asymmetric carbon-carbon bond formation using alkenes as alkylmetal equivalents.  R. M. Maksymowicz, P. M. C. Roth and S. P. Fletcher. Nature Chem20124​, 649–654.

Backbone modification of retinal induces protein-like excited state dynamics in solution.  T. Sovdat, G. Bassolino, M. Liebel, C. Schnedermann, S. P. Fletcher and P. Kukura.  J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 8318-8320.