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Department of Chemistry

Portrait of ch664

Herchel Smith Professor of Organic Chemistry


Weak intermolecular forces provide the key to understanding the relationship between structure and function in chemistry, biology and materials science. Through the study of synthetic supramolecular systems, we are developing a quantitative description of the chemistry of weak non-covalent interactions.

  • Physical Organic Chemistry of Non-Covalent Interactions. Fundamental investigations of the nature of intermolecular interactions will establish a sound quantitative basis for predicting the thermodynamic contributions of the many different factors that influence the behaviour of complex systems. The synthetic supramolecular systems and double mutant cycle approaches that we have developed provide the ideal vehicle for the systematic study and quantitative determination of the thermodynamic properties of non-covalent interactions.
  • Functional Supramolecular Assemblies. Nature has long inspired chemists with glimpses of the spectacular levels of sophistication and functionality that are possible with well-organised molecular systems. The development of quantitative non-covalent chemistry provides the supramolecular design tools required to tackle synthetic systems with comparable properties: current projects focus on new classes of evolvable synthetic polymers for recognition, sensing and catalysis.
  • Solvation Systems Chemistry. Understanding solvent effects is one of the great unsolved problems in chemistry, and our combined experimental and theoretical approach is developing a conceptual framework for a general quantitative understanding of molecular recognition in different solvent environments. We are developing new supramolecular approaches to studying solvation phenomena and their role in determining the properties of molecular systems in solution.
  • Modeling Biomolecular Interactions. We use energy calculations in conjunction with experimental data such as crystallographic databases to investigate the factors that determine the relationship between chemical structure, three-dimensional structure and the organisation of complex systems. The development of these models will provide tools for understanding the properties and function of a wide range of molecular systems, from the solvation of small molecules to the programming of molecular organisation in the nucleus by DNA sequence.

Techniques involved in our research include organic synthesis, coordination chemistry, NMR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, X-ray crystallography, high-throughput physical organic chemistry, structural and thermodynamic characterisation of intermolecular complexes, molecular design, molecular modelling, biophysics, bioinformatics and computer programming.


I was born in New Zealand in 1965 and moved to Northern Ireland with my parents in 1969.  My early education was at Portstewart Primary School and Coleraine Academical Institution. Following an undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences at Churchill College (1983-1986), I stayed at the University of Cambridge for a PhD with Professor Jeremy Sanders in the University Chemical Laboratory (1986-1989). I was appointed to a Lecturership at the University of Otago in New Zealand in 1989. I moved to the University of Sheffield in 1991 and was promoted to Professor of Chemistry in 1997. In 2014, I returned to the University of Cambridge as the Herchel Smith Professor of Organic Chemistry and Fellow of Emmanuel College.


RSC Meldola Medal (1992); Lister Institute Research Fellow (1994-1999); Zeneca Research Award in Organic Chemistry (1995); RSC Corday-Morgan Medal (1999); EPSRC Senior Research Fellow (2005-2010); RSC Tilden Prize (2009); RSC Physical Organic Chemistry Award (2011)


For details of PhD studentships and post-doctoral vacancies go to the Hunter research group website.

Recent Highlights

  • "Quantification of the effect of conformational restriction on supramolecular effective molarities" Adams, H.; Chekmeneva, E.; Hunter, C. A.; Misuraca, M. C.; Navarro, C.; Turega, S. M. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135, 1853-1863. doi: 10.1021/ja310221t
  • "A surface site interaction model for the properties of liquids at equilibrium" Hunter, C. A. Chem. Sci. 2013, 4, 1687-1700. doi: 10.1039/c3sc22124e
  • "Structure-based identification of new high-affinity nucleosome binding sequences" Battistini, F.; Hunter, C. A.; Moore, I. K.; Widom, J. J. Mol. Biol. 2012, 420, 8-16. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2012.03.026
  • "Contact mechanics of nanometer-scale molecular contacts: correlation between adhesion, friction, and hydrogen bond thermodynamics" Busuttil, K.; Geoghegan, M.; Hunter, C. A.; Leggett, G. J. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011, 133, 8625-8632. doi: 10.1021/ja2011143
  • "Virtual cocrystal screening" Musumeci, D.; Hunter, C. A.; Prohens, R.; Scuderi, S.; McCabe, J. F. Chem. Sci. 2011, 2, 883-890. doi: 10.1039/c0sc00555j


Two-component assembly of recognition-encoded oligomers that form stable H-bonded duplexes
L Gabrielli, D Núñez-Villanueva, CA Hunter
– Chemical Science
A Synthetic Vesicle-to-Vesicle Communication System.
Y Ding, NH Williams, CA Hunter
– J Am Chem Soc
Molecular replication using covalent base-pairs with traceless linkers.
D Núñez-Villanueva, CA Hunter
– Org Biomol Chem
An activatable, cancer-targeted, hydrogen peroxide probe for photoacoustic and fluorescence imaging.
J Weber, L Bollepalli, AM Belenguer, MD Antonio, N De Mitri, J Joseph, S Balasubramanian, CA Hunter, SE Bohndiek
– Cancer Res
Molecular Transformer: A Model for Uncertainty-Calibrated Chemical Reaction Prediction.
P Schwaller, T Laino, T Gaudin, P Bolgar, CA Hunter, C Bekas, AA Lee
– ACS Cent Sci
Cap control: Cyclic: versus linear oligomerisation in covalent template-directed synthesis
D Núñez-Villanueva, M Ciaccia, CA Hunter
– RSC Advances: an international journal to further the chemical sciences
Capping Strategies for Covalent Template-Directed Synthesis of Linear Oligomers Using CuAAC.
M Ciaccia, D Núñez-Villanueva, CA Hunter
– Journal of the American Chemical Society
Triaminopyrimidine derivatives as transmembrane HCl transporters
P Motloch, A Guerreiro, CQ Azeredo, GJL Bernardes, CA Hunter, I Kocsis
– Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry
Emergent Supramolecular Assembly Properties of a Recognition-Encoded Oligoester
FT Szczypiński, L Gabrielli, CA Hunter
– Chemical Science
Sequence information transfer using covalent template-directed synthesis.
D Núñez-Villanueva, M Ciaccia, G Iadevaia, E Sanna, CA Hunter
– Chemical Science
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Research Group

Research Interest Group

Telephone number

01223 336710