Research in the Cronin Group is motivated by the fascination for complex chemical systems, and the desire to construct complex functional molecular architectures that are not based on biologically derived building blocks.
Prof. Lee Cronin

Prof Leroy (Lee) Cronin
Regius Chair of Chemistry
Cronin Laboratory
School of Chemistry
Joseph Black Building
University of Glasgow
Glasgow G12 8QQ
Tel: +44 141 330 6650
Full Biography
Latest News

May 2021 - Complex molecules hold the secret to finding aliens

In a new paper published in Nature Communications, titled "Identifying molecules as biosignatures with assembly theory and mass spectrometry", Cronin Group researchers describe Assembly Theory, a new way of quantifying molecular complexity, which can be used to determine if a molecule required a biological system to create it. The complexity of molecules was also measured experimentally through mass spectrometry fragmentation, opening the door for the creation of a life detection machine. Since Assembly Theory relies on molecular complexity alone, the life detection process is agnostic, with no assumptions that alien life will be chemically similar to life on Earth.

The paper is open access, and can be accessed on the Nature Communications website

The University has also released a news item which can be accessed here.

Apr 2021 - Lee Cronin Participates in Late-Night Conference

Prof Cronin has features in "Late Night Conference with Wilhelm Huck", described as a "a series of livestreamed themed lectures and interactive discussions for students of science and those with an interest in science in general". In the talk and interview, streamed on 1st April, Prof Cronin discussed his work on inorganic life, alien and artificial lifeforms, and chemical computers.

The full talk/interview can be viewed at

Mar 2021 - Lee Cronin Features on ChemConvos Podcast

Lee Cronin has featured on the ChemConvos podcast, a podcast dedicated to "finding the story behind the scientist". In the episode, hosts Medina Afandiyeva and Cronin Group member Henry Powell-Davies, chatted with Prof Cronin about everything from his research work into automating chemistry and the search for artificial life, to what it’s like managing a large group during a pandemic, and giving advice for new PIs on how to be successful.

The podcast can be found at, or through other podcast outlets.

Feb 2021 - Lee Cronin Features on 'Evolution Soup' podcast

Lee Cronin has featured on the 'Evolution Soup' podcast, in which he discussed how evolution came before biology, and how evolution powers everything.

The full episode can be viewed on YouTube at

Jan 2021 - Cronin Group Member Dr. Hessam Mehr awarded Royal Society of Chemistry Outreach Grant

Congratulations to Dr. Hessam Mehr on his award of a Royal Society of Chemistry Outreach Grant. Dr. Mehr will work with Whitehill Secondary School in Glasgow’s Dennistoun suburb to translate his experience developing the digital chemistry paradigm into a series of hands-on workshops on digital chemistry geared towards high school students.

Dec 2020 - Lee Cronin to Give Lockdown Lecture on 21st Dec at 16:00 GMT

Lee Cronin will give his final 'lockdown lecture' of 2020 'Making a Chemical Brain or Computing with Chemicals' on 21st Dec at 16:00 GMT.

The lecture will be given over zoom and is open to anyone who would like to attend. The zoom link is

Dec 2020 - Lee Cronin to Give Lockdown Lecture on Thursday 10th Dec at 14:30 GMT

Prof Cronin will give another lockdown lecture on Thursday 10th Dec at 14:30 GMT. The lecture, titled 'The Invention of Digital Chemistry. What? Why? How?', will be given over Zoom, and anyone who is interested is welcome to attend.

Zoom link for the lecture:

Nov 2020 - Lee Cronin to give Lockdown Lecture' on 25/11/2020

Prof Cronin will give a "Lockdown Lecture" titled "The RNA world illusion" on 25/11/2020 at 1600 GMT. The lecture is open to anyone who is interested, and will be given over Zoom.

Zoom link for the lecture:

Oct 2020 - Universal Language to Program the Chemputer ‘Chemical Processing Unit: ChemPU’ published in Science

The universal language to program the chemputer ‘Chemical Processing Unit: ChemPU’ has been published in Science. In this paper the team shows how chemical synthesis literature can be automatically translated and run on a robotic platform to synthesise the compound without the need for any manual steps. The expert chemist uses the system to translate the literature to the chemical code (XDL) and then error checks the code before running it on the robots. The system is universal and the software easy to use and available to try at CNBC also covered the digital chemistry breakthrough.

Oct 2020 - Cronin Group Member Jaroslaw Granda Awarded Polish Returns Fellowship

Congratulations to Cronin Group member Dr. Jaroslaw Granda, on his award of a Polish Returns fellowship, a fellowship awarded to outstanding early-career researchers to conduct independent research in Poland. With this award, Jaroslaw will be taking up a young investigator position at the Institute of Organic Chemistry in the Polish Academy of Sciences, with a focus on applying machine learning to catalysis. We wish Jaroslaw all the best in his future career.

Sep 2020 - Lee Cronin Gives Virtual Talk at University of Toronto

Lee Cronin has given a talk as part of the "Lectures at the Leading Edge" seminar series at the University of Toronto, delivered remotely from Glasgow using Zoom. In his talk, titled "Chemical Space: Designed or Discovered", Prof Cronin set out to address three questions: What defines chemical space and how can it be searched or designed from the bottom up? How can discovery be ‘focused’ into a desired property search for the design of novel materials with advanced properties? Is it possible to design the discovery of materials using theory and experiment joined together with autonomous systems? He also discussed how his automated robotic system, "The Chemputer", could be used to help answer these questions and to "brute force" the origin of life.

Aug 2020 - Lee Cronin Features in "Science on the Edge" podcast

Lee Cronin has featured in the "Science on the Edge" podcast, which describes itself as a "Series of podcasts covers topics as divers as genetic engineering, the CRISPR Cas9 gene editing technology (together with other gene editing tools such as retro-viruses, liposomes etc), stem cell research, neuroscience, food supplements (separating the facts from the marketing jargon) and even a little philosophy"

In the podcast, Prof Cronin discusses his work in relation to abiogenesis - the origin of life.

Listen to the podcast here.

Jul 2020 - Cronin Group Work Features in RSC Digital Futures report

Cronin group work on the exploration of chemical space using robots has been featured in the RSC Digital Futures report, which is "the output of a forum that gathered leading experts from different scientific fields and details how the new wave of technologies can turbocharge research speeds to respond to future global challenges".

In a video interview, Prof Cronin describes how we can translate syntheses from chemical literature into code that can be implemented in robots, and how we can automate the exploration of chemical space to discover new molecules, and new insights into the origin of life.

Lee Cronin has featured in Chemistry World's "Chemists amid Coronavirus" series, in which chemists describe how they are working during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the article, Prof Cronin discusses how he is keeping the Cronin Group operating remotely, as well as how he is coping personally, during the lockdown.

The full article can be found on the Chemistry World website.

May 2020 - Lee Cronin Gives Remote Seminar at El Aleph Arts and Science Festival

Lee Cronin has given a remote talk at the El Aleph Arts and Science Festival, on "Using Chemputers for On-Demand Discovery and Manufacture". The festival, which was due to take place in Mexico CIty, was moved online due to the COVID pandemic.

The full talk can be viewed online on the festival website.

Apr 2020 - Lee Cronin to host Zoominar on ‘Building Chemputing Systems to Search Chemical Space’ on Thursday 8th April starting at 15:30 UK time.

What does chemical space look like? Can we use chemputing systems for discovery of new reactivity, reactions, and molecules? How easy is it to build modular chemical robots for chemputing?

This one hour discussion seminar will be held on the 9th April 2020 at 15:30 BST

Zoom ID:

Background reading:

Apr 2020 - Lee Cronin to host Zoominar on ‘Inorganic Biology & Artificial Life’ on Tuesday 7th April starting at 15:30 UK BST

How did life start on Earth? Does alien life exist elsewhere in the Universe? And can we make life in the laboratory that is both chemically and causally separate to the last universal common ancestor on Earth?

In this zoominar I will discuss how my team are trying to make Alien detection systems and create life in the laboratory from scratch.

Zoom ID:
7th April 2020 at 15:30‐17:00 GMT;
7th April 2020 at 15:30‐17:00 GMT

Background reading:
7th April 2020 at 15:30‐17:00 GMT
7th April 2020 at 15:30‐17:00 GMT
7th April 2020 at 15:30‐17:00 GMT

Apr 2020 - Lee Cronin to host Zoominar on ‘Chemical Robots’ on Thursday 2nd April starting at 15:30 UK BST.

Interested in using Chemical Robots to discover new inorganic molecules, nanostructures and soft matter? Want to understand if artificial intelligence systems can be used for discovery? What about making chemical computers?

This one hour discussion seminar will present the concept behind chemical robots and computing and how you can get involved.

Zoom ID:
2nd April 2020 at 15:30‐17:00 GMT


Background reading:

Mar 2020 - Lee Cronin to host Zoominar on '3D Printing for Chemistry & Reactionware' Tuesday 31st March starting at 15:30 UK time

Interested in 3D printing and Chemistry? Can 3D printed reactors help chemists make molecules in a new way? Can plastic reactors really have the potential for chemical synthesis?

This one hour discussion seminar will present the concept behind reactionware, and how you can get involved.

Zoom ID:
31stMarch 2020 at 15:30-17:00 GMT

Background reading:

Mar 2020 - Lee Cronin to host Zoominar on Chemputing Wednesday 25th March starting at 14:00 UK time

Can Chemputing replace manual labour on the bench in the chemical laboratory? Why should we think about robotics for synthesis and discovery? What about training the old fashioned way? And is this technology even accessible to the average lab in terms of cost and expertise?

This one hour discussion seminar will present the concept behind chemputing, how this might change the lab, and how YOU can get involved.

Zoom ID:

Lee Cronin has featured in an interview on The Scientists' Channel, a website that "showcases the very best content from the biggest scientific influencers". In the interview, Prof Cronin discusses the aims of the Cronin group, including digitizing chemistry, discovering aliens, and exploring the origin of life using the "Chemputer".

The interview can be found on the Scientists' Channel website.

Feb 2020 - Cronin Group work on random number generation featured in Vice

Jan 2020 - Lee Cronin gives the Beyond Annual Lecture at Arizona State University: ‘Creating life in the lab: playing God or saving humanity??’

Lee Cronin gave the Beyond Annual Lecture at Arizona State University on 23rd January 2020. In his talk, titled "Creating life in the lab: playing God or saving humanity?", Prof Cronin described how his group are trying to navigate through the vastness of chemical space using "the Chemputer", and how this technique can be used not only to find promising cures for diseases, but also to understand the transition from chemistry to biology, and how to create artificial life in the lab.

Dec 2019 - Lee Cronin gives plenary talk at CHAINS meeting

Prof Cronin has given a plenary talk at the CHAINS (CHemistry As INnovating Science) meeting in Veldhoven in the Netherlands. In his talk, Prof Cronin discussed a new mathematical approach to finding complex systems, and how to use this approach to find life in the solar system and beyond.

The teams of Prof Walker from Arizona State University and Prof Cronin from Glasgow University have won a challenge prize for innovative solutions working towards innovation in pain, opioid use disorder and overdose.

The joint team combines expertise in exploring chemical space using statistical methods (ASU) with a programmable chemical robot for molecular discovery and synthesis (GU). Their project proposes a solution called ‘Integrated Discovery Chemputer Toward Addiction Free Opiates (ChemOPs)’.

The challenge solution proposes an integrated solution that leverages the Glasgow-based programmable chemical robot, ‘the Chemputer’ for the design and discovery of new candidate molecules for drug discovery, using network approaches to exploring chemical space devised by the ASU team. The integrated system will link a chemical database with the generation of chemical code that will operate the Chemputer to then make the drug candidates.

The prize announcement can be found at

Sep 2019 - Cronin Group "Chemputer" Technology Features in Technology Today

The Cronin Group "Chemputer" technology has featured in Technology Today in Techdirections, which is described as "a magazine and website for technology, career/technical, and engineering education". In the article, which can be found online, the author compares the chemputer to the replicator from the Star Trek universe. Although materialising objects from energy may still be in the realms of science fiction, the Chemputer represents the first step towards being able to synthesise any chemical on demand, a feat which, until recently, would have been unthinkable.

Aug 2019 - Lee Cronin features in New Scientist Q&A

Lee Cronin features this month in a Q&A in New Scientist. In it, he answers questions on topics ranging from his personal life, to his background in science, and the best piece of advice he has ever been given - "seek criticism widely and address it all".

The full piece can be found on the New Scientist website, and in the New Scientist magazine (issue 56, 17 August 2019).

May 2019 - Lee Cronin Discusses "Programming the Forces of Evolution" in FETFX interview

In an interview for the FETFX website, Prof Cronin discusses creating the world's first evolutionary machines, and using the principles of evolution for materials discovery, along with his collaborators in the EU EVOBLISS project.

The full article can be found on the FETFX website and also on

Apr 2019 - Prof Cronin Featured on theGIST podcast

Prof Cronin has appeared on the podcast for theGIST (Glasgow Insight into Science and Technology), a student science magazine and network based at the University of Glasgow, the University of Strathclyde, and Glasgow Caledonian. On the podcast, Prof Cronin discusses the development of the "Chemputer", the latest work from the Cronin group, and how competition and collaboration have affected his career.

Mar 2019 - Lee Cronin wins the Japan Society of Coordination Chemistry International Award.

Lee Cronin has been awarded Japan Society of Coordination Chemistry International Award. He will deliver his award lecture during the 69th Conference of the Japan Society of Coordination Chemistry, to be held in Nagoya University, Aichi, Japan, in September this year.

Photograph © Nerissa Escanlar

Feb 2019 - Cronin Group Preprints 5 Manuscripts in One Day on ChemRxiv

Jan 2019 - Novelty Algorithm Points the Way for Discovery in Organic Chemistry

In a recent review published in Nature Reviews Chemistry, Cronin group researchers describe how machine learning, coupled with real-time chemistry, is set to change the way chemists discover molecules, reactions and reactivity, as well as removing researcher bias. The systems discussed would remove the need to have an biased human chemist making judgements, in favour of searching chemical space using automation and algorithms. This approach will improve the probability of discovery, and promises to yield not only new molecules but also unpredictable and thus novel reactivity.

Dec 2018 - Cronin Group Builds Chemputer to Chemify Chemical Space

Cronin group researchers have built a "Chemputer" chemical computer system, coupled with a chemical programming language, allowing researchers to reliably and automatically synthesise organic molecules. In the research, published in Science, this approach was used to synthesise three pharmaceutical compounds – Nytol, rufinamide, and sildenafil – without any human interaction, and with yields comparable to or better than those achieved manually. The digital code for these processes can be published, versioned, and transferred flexibly between platforms with no modification, thereby greatly enhancing reproducibility and reliable access to complex molecules.

This research represents a leap forward in the ultimate aim to develop a commercial, universal chemical computer, that could revolutionise chemistry.It has been covered by multiple news sites including Chemistry World and C&EN. Further information and code can be found on the project homepage and on the Chemputer twitter feed.

Click the news item image to see the Chemputer process in action.

Nov 2018 - Prof Lee Cronin gives his 400th Lecture at Oxford University

Prof Cronin has given a lecture at Oxford University, titled “Exploring and Discovering Computation and Chemistry within Chemical Reactions”, as part of his RSC interdisciplinary prize lecture tour. Prof Cronin was awarded the prize earlier this year for his ground-breaking work exploring complex chemical systems and digitising chemistry using artificial intelligence.

This lecture is the 400th that Prof Cronin has given according to his records, which go back to his first talk at the University of Birmingham in 2001, and is his 32nd of 2018. This includes seminars, conference talks and invited lectures in locations throughout the UK, Europe, and internationally.

Oct 2018 - Lee Cronin Warns of Brexit Dangers in the Guardian

Prof Lee Cronin has joined other leading academics to warn of the dangers Brexit poses to science in the UK. In the article, published in the Guardian, Prof Cronin warns that the scientific impact of Brexit is being "drowned out" by other concerns, and that academics may be compelled to move their groups abroad, or face a "politically mandated brain drain" due to restrictions on hiring researchers.

The online version of the article can be viewed on the Guardian website.

Sep 2018 - Lee Cronin Featured in New Scientist Interview

Lee Cronin has been featured in an interview in New Scientist. In the piece, titled "Why creating a chemical brain will be how we understand consciousness" ("I want to make a chemical brain" in the print version), Prof. Cronin discusses his background and research, and his ambitions to create artificial life and a chemical brain.

Online version on new scientist website

Aug 2018 - Cheap networked chemical robots work together collaboratively

Researchers in the Cronin group have developed a cheap, easy to operate liquid handling platform capable of performing a range of chemical reactions. Any number of these platforms can be connected via a shared server to communicate and learn from the other’s results. In this way a large number of reactions can be performed significantly faster by spreading the workload over many platforms. This work, published in Nature Communications, demonstrates that robotic assistance in vastly different chemical processes, from inorganic crystallization to non-equilibrium oscillation manipulation is possible via affordable hardware and clever software.

Aug 2018 - New Polyoxometalate Flow Battery Explores Ultra-Reduced State

In joint work with the Symes group, the Cronin group have discovered that it is possible to reduce the {M18} Dawson cluster reversibly by up to 18 electrons. This ultra-reduced state is not only stable in water, but it is able to be used in a flow battery system demonstrating very high capacity and stability. This means the highly reduced cluster system might lead to new flexible energy systems both for stationary use and electric vehicles. The fact that the energy is carried in an aqueous liquid form might even mean that it would one day be possible to fill up electric cars, powered by such a battery, with the charged liquid.

The research was published in Nature Chemistry, and Prof Cronin has also written a "Behind the Paper" blog post about this work.

Jul 2018 - 'Robo-Chemist', controlled by machine learning to explore chemical reactivity, discovers new reactions, molecules, and reactivity

In a paper just published in Nature, a new approach to exploring chemical space following reactivity is presented. By building a robot that is able to screen chemical reactions by combining the reagents together in a reactor and then screening them for reactivity using a combination of NMR, IR, and Mass Spec. The system needs to be trained by the expert chemist, but after that it is able to automatically assign reactivity using machine learning. From the reactivity searching, a range of new reactions and molecules were discovered.

Link to paper

Jun 2018 - Digital Medicines Covered on CNN Biz Frontiers’

Our vision to digitize chemistry and produce molecules from code on demand was recently covered on CNN Biz Frontiers where Lee Cronin described the group's work on Chemputing, Reactionware, and the idea to make a Spotify for molecules and drugs.

Link to video

May 2018 - Lee Cronin Awarded 2018 RSC Interdisciplinary Prize

Lee Cronin has been awarded a 2018 RSC interdisciplinary prize, in recognition of his ground-breaking work exploring complex chemical systems and digitizing chemistry using artificial intelligence. Established in 1986, the RSC Interdisciplinary Prizes are awarded to researchers whose work involves chemistry and another discipline. Three such prizes are awarded annually, and Prof Cronin will complete a UK Lecture tour as part of the award.

Mar 2018 - Cronin Group Member Laurie Points named "Best Postgraduate who Teaches" at GU Student Teaching Awards

Cronin Group member and PhD Student Laurie Points has been named as "best postgraduate who teaches" at the University of Glasgow "Student Teaching Awards" (STA) ceremony. The STAs, hosted by the Student Representative's Council (SRC), are described by the SRC as " a fantastic chance for us to recognise the outstanding work of those members of staff who have gone above and beyond to make our time here at Glasgow the best it can possibly be". Laurie was nominated for the award by undergraduate students in chemistry.

In response to receiving the award, Laurie said "I am very happy to win this award. I was delighted to be nominated and very shocked to win, and it especially means a lot as it was nominated and chosen by students. I have always really enjoyed teaching and it is really satisfying to hear about how my students appreciate the effort I put in. The whole awards ceremony was great, I really enjoyed hearing about all the excellent teaching going on around campus and how our staff really go the extra mile."

Laurie has been in the Cronin Group since he started his PhD in 2014 and is due to defend his thesis later in the year. We are sure this award is the icing on the cake to what will be his final year here at the University. It is a great achievement and should help cement his future career aspirations.

A full listing of winners can be found at

Mar 2018 - Lee Cronin Wins 2018 Inorganic Chemistry Lectureship

Prof Cronin has been awarded 2018 Inorganic Chemistry Lectureship. The lectureship was launched in 2013 by Inorganic Chemistry and ACS division of inorganic chemistry, to "annually recognize an individual who has demonstrated creativity and impact in leading research in inorganic chemistry".

The award is in recognition of the Cronin group's ground-breaking work on polyoxometalate chemistry, including the innovative use of multidisciplinary techniques such as robotics and AI to make new discoveries. As winner of the lectureship, Prof Cronin will present a session in his honour at the 2018 ACS Fall National Meeting in Boston, which will take place in August.

Further details of the award can be found on the ACS website.

Mar 2018 - Mixed Metal Catalyst Tunes Oxygen Evolution

Researchers in the University of Glasgow and the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ) have been able to precisely tune the voltage at which the oxygen evolution reaction happens when electricity is used to power the process. This is important since the oxygen evolution reaction is a key step in photosynthesis, and also in the development of new ways to make solar fuels whereby (renewable) electricity can be used to produce a fuel like hydrogen. The catalyst is a metal oxide cluster and normally combines tungsten and cobalt. However, the researchers found that when replacing some of the tungsten with molybdenum, the properties of the system could be fine tuned and the preparation is very simple, just by mixing different amounts of the metals in water.

Figure: (left) Representation of the Mixed Metal Cluster structure {Co4(H2O)2(PM9O34)2} Mox/Wy (where x + y = 9). (Right): Graph showing the voltage at which the current rises.

Read the full paper here

Feb 2018 - Cronin Group Researchers Discover New Antimicrobials using Machine Learning and Evolutionary Algorithms

Cronin Group researchers have developed a new way to identify effective antibiotics through exploring the sequence space of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) using an evolutionary algorithm. In developing a closed-loop artificial evolution system, and applying it to the exploration of AMPs, they were able to efficiently identify potent new AMP sequences. As well as demonstrating the potential of using algorithmic exploration systems in this way, it is hoped that this work will allow for the rapid development of effective new antibiotics.

Jan 2018 - Chemical MP3 Player Converts Digital Code into Pharmaceuticals

A new method of drug manufacture which uses 3D printers to create pharmaceuticals on demand could lead to a ‘Spotify for chemistry’. In a new paper published January 19th in the journal Science, researchers from the Cronin Group at the University of Glasgow present for the first time a new approach to the manufacture of pharmaceuticals which can be made using a digital code.This code is used by a 3D printer to produce a portable factory, which can then be used to make the drug by adding the chemicals in a pre-defined fail-safe sequence.

This approach could dramatically increase the number of useful drugs available regardless of patent-life, as they will no longer need to be made in a limited number of dedicated manufacturing facilities. In the paper, Cronin Group researchers demonstrate the potential of the system by producing the pharmaceutical Baclofen, a muscle relaxer used to treat muscle symptoms caused by multiple sclerosis, including spasm, pain, and stiffness. The team’s chemical factories are designed using a chemical-to-digital converter to digitise the process so that it can easily be reproduced in a 3D printer, a process which the researchers liken to converting a compact disc to an MP3 file which can then be listened to on any computer or portable music player. With the addition of a simple instruction manual, the drug can be produced when and where it is needed.

University of Glasgow News Story

Link to paper in Science

Video of the process on YouTube

Jan 2018 - Protocells with Unpredictable Complexity Tamed by Artificial Intelligence

In new Cronin Group research published in the journal PNAS, a robot equipped with artificial intelligence was able to build unstable oil-in-water droplets as models for new artificial life forms. It was also able to predict their properties ahead of time even though conventional physical methods failed to do so.

The project is part of a set of experiments to explore the formation of artificial life forms that are based upon new building blocks not found in nature, as well as the development of programmable formulations that could have applications in areas as diverse as drug delivery or new functional materials.

The droplet-robot uses machine learning and evolution and was designed by Prof Cronin and his team to autonomously create a range of oil-in-water droplets and evaluate their behaviour using image recognition. By varying the range of different chemicals making up the oil and water formulations, the droplets could be engineered to have different desirable properties. Once the new properties were discovered they could then be manufactured again, on demand, using a digital code.

Professor Cronin said: “This work is exciting as it shows that we are able to use machine learning and a novel robotic platform to understand the system in ways that cannot be done using conventional laboratory methods, including the discovery of ‘swarm’ like group behaviour of the droplets, akin to flocking birds. Achieving lifelike behaviours such as this are important in our mission to make new lifeforms, and these droplets may be considered ‘protocells’ – simplified models of living cells.”

University of Glasgow press release

Link to Publication

Nov 2017 - Cronin Group Work Features in Theme Issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society

Cronin Group research into the origin of life has been featured in a theme issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, titled "Re-conceptualizing the origins of life". This issue explores new thinking on future directions for origin of life research, and features articles from several researchers at the cutting edge of the field.

The full issue can be found online here, and contains several articles (including the article from the Cronin Group) that are open access.

Oct 2017 - Lee Cronin featured “In situ” in Chemistry World

Lee Cronin has featured in an “In situ” article in RSC Chemistry World, one of a series of articles in which prominent chemists discuss their interests outside of the lab. In the article Lee discusses - amongst other things - wine, exercise, and becoming less annoying.

Full article on Chemistry World website

Sep 2017 - Cronin Group to Host Symposium Celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the Regius Chair of Chemistry

This year, the University of Glasgow celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Regius Chair of Chemistry. In recognition of this milestone the current occupant of the chair, Prof Lee Cronin, will host a symposium for invited delegates, featuring talks by some of today's most innovative and cutting edge scientists.

The Regius Chair of Chemistry, one of 13 Regius Chairs at the University of Glasgow, was founded in 1817 by King George III. It's first occupant, Thomas Thomson, was appointed in 1818, and there have been 12 occupants to date. The current occupant is Prof Leroy (Lee) Cronin, who was appointed to the chair in 2013.

The event will take place on the 25th and 26th September, in the School of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow.

Official Website

Aug 2017 - Autonomous protocell division driven by molecular replication

In the latest development of the Cronin Group's robotics and artificial life research, a paper has been published that links molecular replication to the growth of droplets on the macroscale. The molecules catalyze their own formation which allows the growth of an surfactant which drives growth on the droplet scale. This phenomenon could only be correctly studied by using a chemical robot constructed by the Cronin group.

Link to paper in Nature Communications

Lee was interviewed about his life, work, and current big science projects including looking for molecular aliens, the origin of life, & digital drugs.

BBC Radio Good Morning Scotland - Long Interview

Jul 2017 - Robots VS Humans in the search for chemical intelligence

A new paper has just been published by the Cronin group that shows how machine learning can be used to search for new molecules and crystals of those molecules more efficiently that either a human experimenter or a random algorithm. This paper outlines part of the Cronin Group's digital chemistry vision to help human experimenters enhance their work by using machine learning and artificial intelligence combined with chemical search systems.

News articles featuring this work have been published in Chemistry World and at

Jun 2017 - From Autonomous organic reaction searching to time programmable drugs: Cronin group publish two papers on two consecutive days in Nature Communications

Two new papers have been published in Nature Communications from the Cronin group. On June 8th the group published “Time-programmable drug dosing allows the manipulation, suppression and reversal of antibiotic drug resistance in vitro” which shows how combinations of existing drugs, when dosed to the system, can not only manipulate, but suppress and even reverse the emergence of drug resistance by a population of bacteria. On the 9th June the paper “An autonomous organic reaction search engine for chemical reactivity” was published, which describes a ‘reactivity-first’ approach to organic reaction searching.

The Cronin group have developed a new approach to complexity, which could help determine if objects such as molecules or artefacts were created by living systems. By this new approach, that we call ‘pathway-complexity’, it is possible to measure the complexity of an object by determining the minimum number of steps it would take to create the object from its simplest components, in which duplication of intermediate structures is permitted. By using this approach, we aim to set a threshold above which the number of steps required at a minimum would be so high that it would be unlikely or impossible for the object to form in abundance without the assistance of biological functions. The publication can be found on the Arxiv pre-print server

May 2017 - Lee Cronin: Brexit threatens UK's status as a global leader in science

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

Lee Cronin, writing in the evening standard, has described the danger of the current Brexit negotiations harming the UK science base, and damaging its position as a global leader in science. In the article, published on 10th May, Prof Cronin appealed to the government to protect the UK's scientific standing, saying that “urgent action is needed to prevent the coming paralysis that will result from long and complex negotiations" and that "whatever the eventual Brexit outcome, the Government should act now to secure the future of British science as a global force.”

Article in the London Evening Standard

May 2017 - Lee Cronin featured in "The Mind of the Universe" TV series

Lee Cronin was featured in the first episode ‘the creator’ played on the 7th May in a TV series called ‘mind of the Universe’ along with George Church, Harvard, and Hans Clevers, Hubrecht Institute. Lee discussed his ideas for exploring life beyond conventional biology and explained some of the group work exploring complex chemical systems.

The Mind of the Universe: Episode 1

Apr 2017 - Lee Cronin gives Plenary Talk at AbSciCon 2017

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

Lee Cronin gave a plenary talk at AbSciCon 2017 on 25th April, exploring artificial evolution in a chemical robot with configurable environments. As part of a three-part plenary session Lee described work in Glasgow exploring the development of artificial biologies and ecosystems. The lectures were live streamed along with a panel discussion that explore new ways life might be imagined.

AbSciCon, the Astrobiology Science Conference, is an annual conference organised by the astrobiology community, with the 2017 conference being held in Mesa, Arizona.

Feb 2017 - Cronin Group Blasts Experiment into Space

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

The Cronin group have successfully placed a digital chemistry experiment into orbit aboard a DIDO 2 nano-satellite. The experiment extends the groups ground-breaking work in the digitisation of chemistry, exploring the formation of a drug in a microfluidic device. It is hoped that this experiment could pave the way for the development of drug printing devices for space exploration, allowing for the production of drugs on demand from a minimal set of chemicals.

The satellite was launched in partnership with SpacePharma, a company specialising in microgravity experimentation, aboard the Indian Space Research Organisation PSLV-C37. The rocket launched successfully in the early hours of 15th February, and set the record for the most satellites launched on a single mission (104 satellites, the previous record being 37).

University of Glasgow Press Release

BBC news article on the launch

Our partners at SpacePharma

Jan 2017 - Cronin group ‘3D Drugs Printer’ robot paper describes the first digital-code-driven organic synthesis robot as the first step to the digitization of chemistry

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin     Dr. Phil Kitson     Dr. Stefan Glatzel    

An automated synthesis robot was constructed by modifying an open source 3D printing platform. The resulting automated system was used to 3D print reaction vessels (reactionware) of differing internal volumes using polypropylene feedstock via a fused deposition modeling 3D printing approach and subsequently make use of these fabricated vessels to synthesize the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen via a consecutive one-pot three-step approach. The synthesis of ibuprofen could be achieved on different scales simply by adjusting the parameters in the robot control software. The software for controlling the synthesis robot was written in the python programming language and hard-coded for the synthesis of ibuprofen by the method described, opening possibilities for the sharing of validated synthetic ‘programs’ which can run on similar low cost, user-constructed robotic platforms towards an ‘open-source’ regime in the area of chemical synthesis.

Link to full paper (open access)

Dec 2016 - Cronin group researchers discover spontaneously assembled organic-inorganic “DNA”

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin     Dr. Naomi Johnson     Dr. De-Liang Long     Dr. Andrew Surman    

Genetic material in the form of DNA and RNA is essential for life and evolution, but how did it first arise? This is a big mystery and poses a classic ‘chicken and egg’ conundrum: what type of molecule could have determined the sequence of the very molecule in which sequence is encoded? Researchers in the Cronin Group have reported an organic-inorganic compound whose structure closely resembles the naturally occurring Z-form of DNA which forms simply by mixing molybdate with GMP at low pH. It is hoped that the structure could open new avenues in the exploration of the transition between biologically inert matter and living systems.

Link to full paper

Nov 2016 - Cronin Group Digital Chemistry Programme Grant Day

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

Prof Cronin and the Cronin Group were happy to welcome visitors from EPSRC, BAE systems, University of Palermo and University of Bath, as well as academics and researchers from the University of Glasgow, to participate in the annual meeting for Prof Cronin's EPSRC "Digital Synthesis" Programme grant. The day involved several exciting talks and discussion sessions from Cronin Group researchers on work funded by the grant, covering topics such as AI in chemistry, chemical robotics and algorithms.

In the picture (L to R): Bruno Pignataro (Palermo), Paul Raithby (Bath), Lee Cronin (Glasgow), Christina Turner (EPSRC), Nick Colosimo (BAE Systems)

Oct 2016 - New gigantic Palladium macrocycle opens the way to a library of nano-structures

Cronin group researchers have developed a new screening approach to cluster discovery, which could pave the way for developing a new library of nano-structures. By using a new modular approach to construction of the giant Pd84 wheel, other ligands were incorporated and two new macrocycles were discovered. These results show Palladium clusters to be a new class of tunable nanostructures, and it is hoped that the solution screening approach could lead to the discovery of large inorganic nanostructures without the need for crystallisation.

Link to full paper (open access).

Sep 2016 - Cronin Group develop affordable robotic 3D-printed antibiotic testing devices

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin     Dr. Phil Kitson     Dr. Stefan Glatzel     Dr. Piotr Gromski    

Researchers in the Cronin group have demonstrated the development of a cheap 3D-printed device for quickly testing which drugs are most effective at treating a specific bacterial infection. The system is portable and can be used by untrained personnel in hospitals, in the offices of general practitioners, at home, or in the field. It is hoped that devices such as this could be valuable weapons in the war against multidrug-resistant "super bugs".

Link to open-access paper in Chem

Jul 2016 - New Equation Helps Estimate the Probability of Alien Life Elsewhere in the Universe

In a new paper in PNAS, Lee Cronin and Caleb Scharf put forward a new equation that could help predict the likelihood of life arising on other planets in the universe. Inspired by the Drake equation, which was put forward in the 60s to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in the galaxy, the equation developed by Cronin and Scharf incorporates factors such as the potential available chemical building blocks in a planet, and the number of building blocks required for a living system. By examining plausible values for these parameters, the likelihood of origin of life events on different planets could be estimated, giving astronomers additional guidance on where to direct their attention. One particularly interesting observation from this approach has been that the exchange of materials between planets within a solar system, as is known to have happened between Earth and Mars, could significantly accelerate the rate of origin of life events within the system through the exchange of complex materials. This insight could allow astronomers to focus on systems with multiple suitable planets as being of particular interest in the search for alien life.

Link to PNAS Paper

Link to Mail Online Article

Link to Gizmodo Article

Jun 2016 - Lee Cronin and Sara Walker discuss reconceptualising the origin of life in Science

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

In a recent issue of Science, Lee Cronin and Sara Walker discuss a new approach to understanding the transition from non-living to living systems. In the article, “Beyond Prebiotic Chemistry”, they put forward the case for expanding the search beyond the biochemistry of known life, focusing instead on the information and processes that can lead to complex systems. By challenging historical assumptions and taking a multidisciplinary approach, they suggest that researchers could develop a new type of complexity-first based model, expanding the types of chemistries to be explored, which would allow a comprehensive understanding of what it means for a system to be alive.

Link to Science article

May 2016 - Lee Cronin “Searching for Complexity” feature profile in Chemistry World

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

Lee Cronin and Cronin Group Research has been featured in an article in RSC Chemistry World. In “Searching for Complexity”, the article discusses Lee’ s work, research group, and personal background, including input from Lee, the Cronin group, colleagues and collaborators.

The full article can be found on the Chemistry World website.

May 2016 - Cronin Group Member Lorna Christie in Nature Chemistry's News and Views

Featured Member(s):     Lorna Christie    

Lorna Christie has written an article for the May 2016 edition of Nature Chemistry. The News and Views piece entitled ‘Captivating COFs’ summarises a recent JACS paper, discussing the synthesis of a new covalent organic framework (COF) which can detect and remove mercury ions from solution.
The article was produced during a week of work experience at Nature Publishing Group where she gained a valuable insight into the process of academic publishing and got the chance to try her hand at editing.

The full article can be found here

Apr 2016 - 3D printing of versatile reactionware for chemical synthesis brings digitalization of chemistry a step closer

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin     Dr. Phil Kitson    

A new paper by the Cronin group has been published in Nature Protocols describing methods for the 3D printing of reactionware for chemical synthesis. The team show how the Cronin group invention of 3D printed reactionware can lead to a general approach for the production of bespoke chemical reactors. The protocol describes the combination of reactionware with embedded catalysts, fluidic control and also in-built purification as well as the development of electrochemical cells. The steps of the process describe the design and preparation of a 3D digital model of the desired reactionware device and the preparation of this model for use with fused deposition modeling (FDM) type 3D printers.

Mar 2016 - Autonomous chemical synthesis seen as a game-changing technology for food production

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

Cronin Group technology being developed towards the digitization of chemical space has been highlighted as a potential game-changer for global food production. The ability for farmers to produce essential chemicals such as pesticides and veterinary medicines on demand has the potential to revolutionise agriculture, according to a report published by Global Food Security (GFS). The report highlights a number of ways that cutting-edge technology could be used to meet increasing demands on global food supplies.

Read the full article on the GFS website

Feb 2016 - Lee Cronin in Brainwaves transmission

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

Prof Cronin has appeared on the BBC Radio Scotland "Brainwaves" program, in which he discusses his work, the origin of life, and his development as a scientist.

Link to programme on BBC iPlayer (available for a limited time)

Jan 2016 - Cronin Lab hosts one-day PRESTO symposium

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

Researchers at the Cronin Lab welcomed four young Japanese Academics - Associate Prof. Sayaka Uchida (University of Tokyo), Dr Yasuhide Inokuma (Fujita Group, University of Tokyo), Dr Masakazu Higuchi (Katagawa Group, Kyoto University), and Dr Tomoki Ogoshi (Kanazawa University) - for a fascinating symposium on supramolecular materials chemistry. The presentations sparked many positive discussions and exchanges of ideas, which should enable meaningful collaborations in the future.

Nov 2015 - Cronin Group member Jonathan Grizou awarded prestigious prize

Featured Member(s):     Dr. Jonathan Grizou    

Jonathan Grizou has been awarded the “Prix Le Monde de la Recherche Universitaire” for his doctoral thesis. This prize is awarded to 5 young French scientists across all scientific fields and emphasises work with both a scientific and societal impact. This year Cedric Villani chaired the jury.

Jonathan's thesis was in the field of robotics and machine learning and was related to building calibration-free interactive systems. His work lead to practical applications in brain-computer interaction and allows interacting with such system without an explicit phase of calibration.

Oct 2015 - Digitalization of Chemistry

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

Prof Lee Cronin has featured on the Thomson Reuters “State of Innovation” website, where he discusses 3D-printing medicine and the development of the “chemical internet”.

The vision is to develop cheap, universal, and accessible chemical robots that will allow the Design, Discovery and Digitization of Chemical Space. One of the things that made the internet possible was that html, the standard language to create web pages, was very cheap and easy. In the same way, the Cronin Group is focused on developing cheap and easy-to-use robots that can do chemistry. “If the robots are too complicated they will fail and no one will use them,” Cronin pointed out.

The digitalization of the chemical space may represent a major change in the discovery process in chemistry. In the future, it might be possible to develop an application for a robot to create a molecule and do design according to a specification. Once a discovery is made, the coordinates of the new molecule in the chemical space could be stored as a code, making reproducibility cheap and easy, and hence changing the manufacturing process as we know it. The code could be used again and again. The potential of this system in the pharmaceutical industry is massive. Complicated drug manufacturing processes could be simplified and done at once. Drug discovery and formulation is a very complex process that demands a significant investment in effort, time and money. By using inexpensive robotics and improving reproducibility, the cost of either drug discovery, formulation or manufacture could be greatly reduced.

Full Article

Oct 2015 - Cronin Group Develop Chemical Search Engine to search for the simplest routes to life

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin     Marc Rodriguez     Irene Suarez Marina     Dr. Andrew Surman    

In a paper published in Nature Communication, researchers from the Cronin Group have unveiled a new approach to synthesising complex peptides by using a robotic "search engine" to search through chemical space.

Professor Cronin said: “Proteins are some of the basic building blocks of life, and we’ve long known that they make up the working machinery of living cells. However, we’re still struggling to determine whether proteins came first or if the genetic machinery of DNA or RNA did.

“Our research aimed to help answer this question by creating a robot capable of creating many different random combinations of conditions, and them focusing in on the promising ones. Very quickly, we found that it was possible to assemble the building blocks just like the way we find them in modern proteins. Our chemical search engine is able to search large amounts of chemical space, similar to how systems like Google search the internet. Instead of reading HTML, however, the system performs chemical reactions.”

Article on RSC Chemistry World website

Article on University of Glasgow website

Aug 2015 - The ultimate answer to the ultimate question is... 42

Featured Member(s):     Dr. Vincenza Dragone    

Congratulations to Vincenza Dragone, who has successfully completed her PhD in the Cronin Group. This takes the total number of completed PhDs within the Cronin Group up to 42, and with 24 remaining PhD students, and more starting in October, we should see many more successes in the years to come.

Jul 2015 - Lee Cronin in "People Behind the Science"

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

Prof Cronin has appeared on the "People Behind the Science" podcast, where he shared his views on the Origin of Life, and on how chemistry gets complicated, as well as discussing his life as a scientist.

The full podcast can be found at

Jul 2015 - Congratulations to Cronin Group member Christoph Busche on being awarded a prestigious RSE fellowship

Featured Member(s):     Dr. Christoph Busche    

Dr Christoph Busche has been awarded a prestigious Royal Society of Edinburgh Personal Research Fellowship founded by the Scottish Government, which is tenable for 5 years and commences in October 2015. The RSE Personal Research Fellowship Scheme aims to provide outstanding researchers, who have the potential to become leaders in their chosen field, with the opportunity to build an independent research career.

The project is entitled “Incorporation of magnetically and redox active molecules in complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) devices”. Molecular electronics is set to revolutionise device manufacture in the coming decade and will lead to a dramatic increase in data storage capacity. This research will focus on designing molecules, which can be incorporated and used to improve existing electronic devices and develop new nano-electronic devices to overcome many of the problems associated with current molecular electronics. Due to the nature of the proposed compounds, these themselves are of great interest in the interdisciplinary area of molecular magnetism, with possible applications in quantum informatics.

Jul 2015 - Lee Cronin Awarded 2.5 M Euro Advanced European Research Council grant

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

The European Research Council (ERC) has announced the award of its prestigious Advanced Grants to 190 senior researchers. The funding, worth in total €445 million, will enable the researchers and their teams to pursue ground-breaking ideas. These are the first ERC Advanced Grants awarded under the 'excellent science' pillar of Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation programme launched in 2014. This year’s competition was particularly fierce with only 7.9% of applicants in Physical Sciences being funded. Lee’s ERC grant is titled: SMART-POM: Artificial-Intelligence Driven Discovery and Synthesis of Polyoxometalate Clusters, and will focus on the use of AI to understand and control chemical systems, with a particular focus on mechanism and fundamental understanding of how algorithms can be used to explore complexity in chemistry.

ERC Press Release

Jun 2015 - Congratulations to Cronin Group member Laia Vilà-Nadal for being named ´Vallenc of the Year´

Featured Member(s):     Dr. Laia Vilà-Nadal    

Laia Vilà-Nadal has been awarded the ´Vallenc of the Year´ award at the 32nd Awards Night of Valls. This is the most prestigious award given in the city of Valls, Spain, and was awarded in recognition of her work within the Cronin Group in discovering a molecule capable of improving flash memory devices, which was published in Nature.

This year for the first time in its history the prize has been shared between two people.
Laia Vilà Nadal and Josep Maria Poblet Rius. They both appeared on stage at the ceremony to collect the award from the mayor of Valls, Albert Batet, and the government delegate in Tarragona, Joaquin Nin. On receiving the award, Laia Vilà said "We must reclaim science as a cultural activity," while Josep Maria Poblet stressed that the awards "are a good way to find the contact with civil society".

Jun 2015 - Lee Cronin in Disruptive intervew

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

In an interview for the 3D printing magazine "Disruptive", Lee Cronin discusses his approach of using 3D printing technology for drug discovery and pharmaceuticals, and the digitalisation of the chemical world.

Full Interview

May 2015 - Cronin Group Goes Through the Wormhole

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

Lee Cronin and Cronin group research were featured on the latest episode of Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. Lee explained his theory of chemical evolution that pre-dates biological evolution without genes. The episode was broadcast on the Science Channel, and the Cronin Group research can be seen in the first section of the 1-hour episode.

May 2015 - Prof Cronin wins prestigious RSC Tilden prize

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

Prof Lee Cronin has won a prestigious Tilden prize, awarded by the Royal Society of Chemistry for advances in chemistry. The prize, named after British chemist Sir William Augustus Tilden, is awarded to chemists who have excelled in areas such as originality and impact of research, quality of publications, and innovation. The prize was awarded to Prof Cronin for his work on the synthesis and understanding of the self-assembly, electronic structure and nanotechnology device applications of polyoxometalate architectures. Three Tilden prizes are awarded each year.

Further details from the RSC website

Apr 2015 - Prof Cronin lecture tour in April from Energy, to Complex Chemical Systems and Theories of Chemical Evolution.

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

On the 20th April Lee gave the RSE / BP Hutton Prize lecture for Energy Innovation at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. This was a public lecture where he spoke about “Removing the fossil from the fuel” which aims to develop a closed-carbon-cycle that works using renewables and therefore can effectively limit or even reverse atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. On 23rd April he gave the 70th Inaugural Lecture of the Chemical Society at University College Dublin, where he spoke about Cronin group work “towards a new theory for chemical evolution” explaining how chemistry pre-dated biology and used this to define a new series of experimental approaches to understanding the emergence of biology or biologies. Finally, on the 27th April, Cronin gave the prestigious 1st Annual Pearlman Lecture at the Weizmann institute, where he spoke about “Exploring complex chemical systems”. As part of the invitation he spent two days at the Institute speaking with faculty and students.

Apr 2015 - Joint Padgett-Cronin Mini-Maker 3D printer system published in Scientific Reports

Featured Member(s):     Dr. Geoff Cooper     Prof. Lee Cronin    

Researchers in the Cronin Chemistry and Padgett Optics group have worked together to design, build, and test a new type of high resolution 3D printer system. This uses stereo-lithography ‘light printing’ and large build areas at micron resolution are possible due to the ability to ‘stitch’ sections together. The system is cheap, flexible, and modular. Right now the teams are developing this for microfluidics and optics applications.

Link to Open Access Article

Mar 2015 - Lee Cronin features in EPSRC Rise video

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

Prof Cronin has featured as EPSRC Rise leader in a video produced for the EPSRC Rise Awards. He is featured alongside EPSRC Rising Star Oren Scherman and industry champion Dave Allen, Senior Vice President of respiratory research at GSK.

Full video on YouTube

Feb 2015 - Why the Terminator Is Not Coming Any Time Soon

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin    

In his latest blog entry for the Huffington Post, Prof Cronin discusses spontaneous novelty and the origins of life. Is artificial intelligence really a threat to our continued existence? Read the full blog entry on the Huffington Post website.

Dec 2014 - Cronin Group take robotic steps towards “Artificial Chemical Evolution”

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin     Dr. Juan Manuel Parrilla Gutierrez     Dr. James Taylor    

In a breakthrough published in Nature Communications, Prof Cronin and his group have described the robotically-facilitated evolution of oil droplets. The group used a custom built robot based on a RepRap 3D printer which generates the droplets, measures their fitness against a fitness function, and then uses a genetic algorithm to generate a new population. By demonstrating that these could be viable “chemical protocell models” as they can be evolved yet are based upon simple chemical ingredients, Prof Cronin hopes that we can start to answer some important questions about the origin of life.

Open Access paper in Nature Communicatsions

News item on University of Glasgow website

Article in Wired

Article at

Article in Nature Chemistry News and Views

Dec 2014 - Cronin Group in Dial-a-Molecule advance

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin     Dr. Vincenza Dragone     Luzian Porwol    

A news article in Chemistry World has highlighted the recent work of the Cronin Group in development of a self-optimising flow system using NMR. The article describes the feedback and real-time adjustment of the system as being a “key requirement in the concept of dial-a-molecule synthesis” and states that thanks to this research, flow reactors are “edging towards self-regulation”.

Nov 2014 - Cronin Group in Molecular Flash Memory Breakthrough

Featured Member(s):     Prof. Lee Cronin     Dr. De-Liang Long     Dr. Haralampos Miras     Dr. Laia Vilà-Nadal     Dr. Christoph Busche    

In the latest issue of Nature, the Cronin group have described a new molecule with unprecedented characteristics that could revolutionise flash memory storage. This breakthrough has the potential to bust Moore’s law, and allow for ground-breaking improvements in storage technology, potentially resulting in multiple bits of storage on a single molecule.

The team, led by Prof Cronin, also included researchers from the University of Glasgow School of Engineering and Rovira i Virgili University in Spain. This work has been reported in several major media outlets, including the BBC, the Hindu, RTVE, and Wired.

Link to journal article at

News item in the Hindu

News item on

News item on the BBC Website

Nov 2014 - Nature Chemistry News and Views: 3D-Printed hydrothermal reactionware

The Cronin Group's work on 3D Printed hydrothermal reaction vessels is featured in Nature Chemistry's "News and Views" sections for November 2014. The manufacture of the low-cost 3D-Printed chambers is described as a "potentially exciting development for many researchers, including those working on high-temperature crystallizations of MOFs". Compared to the traditional stainless steel vessels, 3D-Printed reactionware could offer great advantages in terms of cost-effectiveness and flexibility.

Oct 2014 - Lee Cronin Discusses Cybernetic Synthetic Biology in New Huffington Post Blog

In his first blog post for the Huffington Post website, Lee Cronin discusses "Cybernetic Synthetic Biology", and the emergence of living technology.

Lee Cronin's blog page on

Sep 2014 - Lee Cronin Discusses Chemputing with Naked Scientists

Lee Cronin has appeared in the Naked Scientists podcast to describe the Cronin Group's work on Chemputing, aiming at developing a new paradigm in synthetic chemistry using 3D printing and configurable robotics

Naked Scientists Podcast

Naked Scientists Interview

Sep 2014 - Cronin Group in Hydrogen Production Breakthrough

The production of hydrogen via the electrolysis of water is the subject of considerable research activity as, coupled with renewable sources of electricity, it can provide a route to “green” hydrogen but the high cost, the need for precious metals, and extra infrastructure to cope with fluctuating power supplies are all important problems that need to be solved. Writing in this week’s issue of Science, researchers in the Cronin group report on a new way to split water using a redox mediator that allows the one-step electrolysis of water with an electrical input, followed by the on demand release of hydrogen simply by adding a catalyst after the redox mediator has been reduced, and oxygen evolved. This process not only allows the amount of precious metals to be reduced, or the speed of hydrogen production to be increased, but also gives a new route to the temporal and spatial split of the water splitting reaction providing new fundamental insights and new potential electrolyser systems for hydrogen.

BBC News Story

Full paper in Science

Jul 2014 - 3D-Printed Electrolyser breakthrough for Cronin Group

Researchers from the Cronin group have succeeded in making the world’s first 3D printed electrochemical device, having successfully printed and tested an electrolyser for the production of hydrogen. The electrolyser was printed from polypropylene and the conductive areas were electrocoated with silver to provide a suitably conductive surface. The ability to 3D print such devices has the potential to revolutionise the prototyping, manufacture and deployment of the electrolysers, fuel cells and flow batteries that are essential in ushering in a new era of renewable energy and energy storage.

RSC Chemistry World story

Jun 2014 - Prof Cronin attends RISE reception at House of Commons

Prof Cronin has attended an evening reception at the House of Commons to celebrate the winners of the EPSRC RISE awards. Prof Cronin was named as an EPSRC RISE Leader in April, one of 10 scientists shortlisted for their inspirational work. The evening was attended by Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee, and by Philip Nelson, CEO of EPSRC.

Apr 2014 - Cronin Group member Dr. Victor Sans appointed to Lectureship at the University of Nottingham

Congratulations to Dr. Victor Sans for being appointed to a Lectureship in Chemical Engineering at the University of Nottingham.

Apr 2014 - Prof Lee Cronin named as one of UK's most inspirational scientists

Prof Lee Cronin is one of 10 the UK’s most inspirational scientists and engineers named as RISE Leaders for 2014 by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Their contribution to science covers a broad range of disciplines and highlights the diversity and impact of the engineering and physical sciences.

The RISE campaign, in partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering, was launched by the Science Minister David Willetts in November 2013 to mark the 20th anniversary of EPSRC.

For more information see the University of Glasgow press release, and the EPSRC RISE awards announcement page.

Jan 2014 - Lee Cronin featured in the "100 leading UK practising scientists" list published by the Science Council

Lee Cronin featured in the top 100 practising UK Scientists list published by the Science Council. To identify its list of 100 , the Science Council organised a competition around 10 different ‘types’ of scientist roles. The list of 100 has 10 different examples of each of the 10 types and gives a broad picture of the many different ways people work with science, making valuable contributions across UK society and the economy. Lee is listed as a science explorer along with 9 others including two recent Nobel Prize winners.

Dec 2013 - Lee Cronin awarded RSE/BP Hutton Prize in Energy innovation

Lee Cronin has been awarded the 2013 RSE/BP Hutton Prize in Energy Innovation by the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The £10,000 award is in recognition of the Cronin Group's work in developing PROMISE: A Fuel-Cell-Electrolyzer Platform for Sustainable Energy Storage Realized via renewable “Inorganic Fuel”.

Nov 2013 - Lee Cronin in Wired Magazine December edition (UK)

The Cronin Group's work on 3D printing drugs and creating artificial life is featured in the December 2013 issue of Wired Magazine.

Sep 2013 - Great PROMISE from the Cronin Group (Programmable RedOx Materials for Inorganic Sustainable Energy), £0.5M Scottish Enterprise Award

Professor Lee Cronin and Dr Mark Symes recently published the results of a revolutionary new route to the splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen. This novel technology utilises an inorganic material known as an Electron Coupled Proton Buffer (ECPB) to capture the hydrogen in its intermediate state of separated protons and electrons and stores them in a stable form for later release (read more in this BBC news item)

Jul 2013 - Three more completed PhDs in the Cronin Group

Congratulations to Antoine Boulay, Tommy Boyd, and Pedro Molina Sanchez for successfully completing their PhDs in the Cronin Group.

Jun 2013 - Professor Lee Cronin appointed Regius Chair of Chemistry

Professor Lee Cronin has been appointed as the Regius Chair of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow. The Chair is one of 13 Regius Professorships at Glasgow, and was founded in 1817 by King George III. A copy of the Royal Warrant confirming the appointment, signed the Queen and First Minister Alex Salmond, can be found here.

Notice in the Edinburgh Gazette

University News Item

Apr 2013 - Cronin Group researchers use plants to provide blueprint for cheap, green energy

In a new paper in the journal Nature Chemistry published today (Monday 14 April), Professor Lee Cronin and Dr Mark Symes of the University of Glasgow outline how they have managed to replicate for the first time plants’ ability to decouple the production of hydrogen and oxygen from water using what they call an electron-coupled proton buffer (ECPB).

Read more on the University of Glasgow website, or see coverage in The Independent or The Scotsman.

Feb 2013 - Cronin Group 3d printing technology featured in Discover Magazine 'Top 100 Stories of 2012'

The pioneering work of the Cronin Group in developing 3d printing technology for assembling chemical compounds has been featured in Discover Magazine as part of 100 top stories of 2012 (number 19). The article can be found on the discover magazine website.

Feb 2013 - Cronin group research Highlighted in 'Chemistry & Industry'

The Cronin Group's research into the use of 3D printing techniques to create bespoke 'reactionware' has been highlighted in the Society of Chemical Industry's magazine "Chemistry & Industry". Entitled 'Print Your Own Lab', the article looks at the leading role the Cronin Group is playing in the development of 3D printing techniques applied to the field of chemical research. The full article can be read online here and in pdf format here.

Dec 2012 - Two Cronin group polyoxometalate articles back-to-back in Angewandte Chemie

Two papers from the group appeared in the latest issue of Angewandte Chemie covering very different approaches to polyoxometalate chemistry. In "Directed Assembly of Inorganic Polyoxometalate-based Micrometer-Scale Tubular Architectures by Using Optical Control", laser-induced flow patterns are used to direct the self-assembly of dissolved inorganic polyoxometalate clusters into robust, hollow tubular networks and micro-materials in real time. This technique where tubes 'go with the flow' allows development of devices in which the self-assembled tubes act as microscopic flow channels. This work is also featured on the cover of the journal. A few pages later, in "Assembly of a Gigantic Polyoxometalate Cluster {W200Co8O660} in a Networked Reactor System", a networked reactor system is used for the first time for the discovery and synthesis of new polyoxometalates, including a gigantic {W200} tungstate. The system comprising three interlinked reactors was used to screen multiple one-pot reactions and reaction variables to discover conditions for cluster synthesis in an automated way.

Nov 2012 - Cronin Group featured on Beilstein TV

Prof Cronin and several of his key researchers have described the revolutionary potential of 3D printing in two videos produced by Beilstein TV, an project funded by the Beilstein Institute for the Advancement of Chemical Sciences. In the video Prof. Cronin and his team describe the process of using 3D printing technology to design and fabricate millifluidic reactionware which can be easily interfaced with an array of analytical techniques. The video demonstrates how this process can provide devices which prove to be powerful and convenient tools for both synthetic and analytical applications. The
first video
and the
second video
can both be found on the Beilstein TV website.

Sep 2012 - Cronin group involved in major EU project to make smart chemo-robots!

The EU project, named MICREAgents (EU contribution €3.4 M), plans to build autonomous self-assembling electronic micro-reagents that are almost as small as cells. These micro-reagents will exchange chemical and electronic information to jointly direct complex chemical reactions and analyses in the solutions they are poured into. Together with teams from Germany, Denmark, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Israel and New Zealand, the MICREAgents project heralds a major step beyond Lab-on-a-Chip devices towards the integration of chemistry and information technology.

See more on the main project website

Aug 2012 - 3D-printed Miniaturised Fluidic Devices

The Cronin Group's 3D Printing techniques have been featured in 'RSC Chemistry World'. The full article can be found here.

Jul 2012 - Lee Cronin featured in 'The Observer' newspaper

In an article published in The Obsever, Lee Cronin shared his vision of a "personal chemputer" for printing prescription drugs. See the full article on the Observer website.

Jun 2012 - Lee Cronin speaks about 3D printers and chemistry at TED Global 2012

The TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences are world renowned for bringing together great thinkers. The force behind TED is in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives, and ultimately the world. Last year Lee spoke to the TED Global conference on the Cronin group's work on inorganic biology. This Year Lee has given a short talk about the Group's work in developing 3D printing technologies for use with chemistry, asking “Could we make a really cool universal chemistry set? Could we ‘app’ chemistry?”.

Read more about Lee's talk at the TED blog

Jun 2012 - Cronin Group in 2012 Nobel Campus

Two Cronin group PhD students invited to present at the 2012 CEICS Nobel Campus in Tarragona (Catalonia, Spain). Miss Hong-Ying Zang and Mr Andreu Ruiz have both been selected to take part in this prestigious student Nobel Campus and both students will be presenting their work to Nobel Prize winners.

May 2012 - The 81st Joseph Henry Lecture by Lee Cronin

Lee Cronin gives the 81st Joseph Henry Lecture at the Philosophical Society of Washington on the 25th May 2012. This prestigious lecture, given every year since 1931 (except 1943), was given by Lee with the title ‘Synthesizing Life’ in which he described our efforts to explore complex chemical systems beyond ‘organic-biology’ to set up inorganic-chemical-systems capable of Darwinian evolution. Lee was also made a member of the society which is the oldest scientific society in Washington, being established in 1871.

May 2012 - Lee Cronin wins a RSC-2012 Corday Morgan Prize!

First awarded in 1949, this prestigious prize is awarded annually to the best chemist under the age of 40 and several Nobel Prize winners including Derek Barton and Frederick Sanger were awarded the prize in the past and Cronin is the first Chemist at Glasgow to win the award in 35 years.

The citation for Cronin’s prize reads “Cronin is recognized for his pioneering and creative studies in the field of inorganic chemistry, specifically the self-assembly and self-organization of inorganic molecules and the engineering of complex systems leading to the emergence of system-level behaviours.”

May 2012 - Downloadable Drugs

Cronin group ‘reactionware’ research, featured on the front cover of Nature Chemistry in May 2012 has caught the imagination. Covered all round the world, on the BBC, in BBC Click and numerous online, TV, and newspapers the story went global in just a few days. Such was the interest a two page news item was published in NewScientist on 21st April 2012, p8-9 and the work was again described in the editorial on page 5 of the same issue entitled ‘Aps beyond the digital’ with the strap line ‘Chemicals on demand from 3d printers are an exciting prospect’.

Apr 2012 - Cronin Group Nature Chemistry Article on 3D Printed Reactionware Highlighted.

The Cronin Group’s article published this week in nature chemistry has been highlighted around the media. This ground-breaking article develops the concept of 3D printed reactionware, where chemical reactors can be printed ‘on-demand’ for specific chemical tasks, such as catalysis or spectroscopy. These reactors incorporate chemically active elements into the very structure of the reaction vessel itself providing flexible and easily reconfigurable reactor architectures for chemical synthesis. The article has attracted much attention for this emerging field and the potential implications of this work for chemical industries and society as a whole.

As well as being highlighted in a News & Views article in Nature Chemistry itself, the work has been featured in the prestigious science journal Nature as well as in publications such as the RSC’s Chemistry world and the ACS’s Chemical & Engineering News.

Outside the Scientific community the article has been featured in the popular science magazine New Scientist and on the BBC news technology website. The Authors discussed this pioneering work and its implications on the BBC’s current affairs programme Newsnight Scotland(available here until Tuesday the 24th April for viewers inside the UK) and on the BBC Scotland news website.

Apr 2012 - Lee Cronin Delivers Lecture on “New Formats for Molecular Discovery and Complex Chemical Systems” At RSC Dalton meeting.

On 11th April, Professor Cronin Delivered a lecture entitled “New Formats for Molecular Discovery and Complex Chemical Systems” at the latest meeting of the Scottish division of the RSC Dalton division held in University of Strathclyde. The lecture highlighted the advantages of new flow setups and 3D printing for discovery of complex chemical systems.

For more information, please visit our 3D printing page.

Feb 2012 - Lee Cronin Discusses the group's work on Solar Fuel production and storage on BBC News

The work of the Cronin Group in collaboration with the Glasgow Solar Fuels team of researchers has been featured on Scottish current affairs programme Newsnight Scotland. The article features a report on the work of the Glasgow Solar Fuels team with Co-Directors Lee Cronin and Prof. Richard Cogdell, and a live discussion with Lee Cronin about the work. The BBC's report can be found on the BBC News website.

Jan 2012 - Cronin Group paper featured as a 'Hot Article' in the current issue of Dalton Transactions

The RSC journal Dalton Transactions has chosen a Cronin Group publication as one of its featured 'Hot Articles', meaning that access to the article is free until 31 January 2012.

The article by Laia Vilà-Nadal, Scott G. Mitchell, De-Liang Long, Antonio Rodríguez-Fortea, Xavier López, Josep M. Poblet and Leroy Cronin combines the Group's expertise in both theoretical investigation and ESI Mass spectrometry to investigate the rotational isomerism of non-classical Wells-Dawson POMs. The article can be found on the Dalton Transactions website.

Jan 2012 - Cronin Group comes of age with our 21st successful PhD student!

Congratulations to Dr. Feng Xu who has become the 21st successful PhD candidate to graduate from the Cronin Group. Dr. Xu is moving on to a post-doctoral position with Professor Yufei Song at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology.

Dec 2011 - Lee Cronin to Deliver the 2011 Bob Hay Lecture at MASC 2011

The Bob Hay Lectureship is awarded at the RSC Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry Group annual meeting.

This prestigious lecture is given annually by a younger chemist working in the area of macrocyclic and/or supramolecular chemistry in its widest sense.

The award lecture is given in memory of Professor Bob Hay, one of the pioneers of macrocyclic chemistry in the UK.

Professor Cronin's Lecture will be titled "Creationism in Inorganic and Supramolecular Chemistry".

More info:

Oct 2011 - Lee Cronin Featured on Dr. Kiki's Science Hour

Prof. Lee Cronin recently appeared on the popular American science program 'Dr. Kiki's Science Hour' to talk about his research. In an episode entitled "The Living Dead" Prof. Cronin talks about inorganic chemistry and his research. Also available on YouTube.

Oct 2011 - Lee Cronin featured in an 'Author Profile' appearing in Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

To recognise the publication of Lee Cronin's 25th article appearing in Angewandte Chemie since 2000, the prestigious chemistry journal has published a profile of professor Cronin in which he discusses his motivations as a scientist and the nature of the Cronin Group's research. For the full profile visit the article at Angewandte Chemie here

Sep 2011 - Lee Cronin's TED Global 2011 Talk Available Free Online

The TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences are world renowned for bringing together great thinkers. The force behind TED is in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives, and ultimately the world. Lee spoke in the first session at TED Global “The Stuff of Life” entitled “beginnings” on the Cronin group work on inorganic biology. To view the talk for free online, please visit the TED Global 2011 site.

Sep 2011 - Cronin Group Work on Inorganic Chemical Cells Published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition

The paper entitled ‘Modular Redox Active Inorganic Chemical Cells: iCHELLs’ by Geoffrey J. T. Cooper, Philip J. Kitson, Ross Winter, Michele Zagnoni, De-Liang Long & Leroy Cronin will appear in the online issue of Angewandte Chemie International Edition today and will also be featured on the back cover of the printed issue. Interfacial membrane formation by cation exchange of polyoxometalates produces modular inorganic chemical cells with tunable morphology, properties, and composition. These inorganic chemical cells or iCHELLs, which show redox activity, chirality, as well as selective permeability towards small molecules, can be nested within one another potentially allowing stepwise reactions to occur in sequence within the cell. These are the first demonstration of modular fictionalization and application of Traube-like inorganic precipitation membranes since their discovery in 1867.

Aug 2011 - Lee Cronin Interviewed in UK newspaper 'The Observer'

Lee Cronin has been interviewed for in the UK sunday newspaper The Observer as part of their Science and Technology series 'My Bright Idea' in which leading scientists and researchers discuss the driving ideas behind their work. The full article can be accessed on the Observer website here

Jul 2011 - CAS & SciFinder Student Information Exchange Program

Cronin group member Thomas Boyd has been selected to attend the forthcoming information exchange meeting in Columbus, Ohio on August 16-20. The program will give an opportunity for students to exchange ideas and experiences with CAS staff on the subject of chemical information and informatics. In addition, attendees will tour local research facilities such as Battelle Memorial Institute and the Ohio State University James Cancer Research Facility before travelling to Boston for the Fall 2010 American Chemical Society National Meeting on August 22-26.

Jul 2011 - PDRA awarded prestigious RSE Fellowship

Dr Haralampos (Harry) N. Miras has been awarded a prestigious Royal Society of Edinburgh RSE/Scottish Government Personal Research Fellowship that he will take up in the group later this year. The competition for these Fellowships is intense and gaining this award is a great achievement. This fellowship, co-funded by Marie Curie actions, supports Dr Miras' project on "Non Equilibrium Engineering Methods of Assembling Functional Metal Oxides"

Jun 2011 - Cronin Group research highlighted in Chemistry World Magazine

Research from the Cronin group has been highlighted by Philip Ball in his popular column 'The Crucible' In the RSC's chemistry magazine 'Chemistry World'.Discussing the fascinating processes in the crystal garden phenomenon, Ball discusses some of the Groups work on emergent mesoscale structures: “Cronin hopes to see whether such structures can be developed into inorganic proto-cells with life-like characteristics - one might say, with a vegetative soul”. The full article can be read here.

Jun 2011 - Lee Cronin to speak at TED Global 2011

The TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences are world renowned for bringing together great thinkers. The force behind TED is in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives, and ultimately the world. Lee will be speaking in the first session at TED Global “The Stuff of Life” entitled “beginnings” on the Cronin group work on inorganic biology. For a list of speakers at the event please visit the TED Global 2011 site.

Jan 2011 - Cronin Group research featured in "New Scientist" magazine

The Cronin Group's research has been featured in a recent edition of the popular science magazine "New Scientist". In an in-depth article Prof. Cronin discusses the group's interest in the development of complex chemical systems and the possibility of evolving inorganic systems.

Jan 2011 - Cronin Group Hosts EPSRC sponsored "WetFAB" workshop

The Cronin Group Has recently hosted an EPSRC sponsored workshop which brought together chemists, engineers, artists and architects amongst others to explore the use of 3D fabrication equipment in a research chemistry environemnent. For more information on the participants and concepts examined, see the workshop programme

May 2010 - Cronin Group Work Published in the First Issue of Chemical Science

The paper entitled 'Following the self assembly of supramolecular MOFs using X-ray crystallography and cryospray mass spectrometry' by Georg Seeber, Geoffrey J. T. Cooper, Graham N. Newton, Mali H. Rosnes, De-Liang Long, Benson M. Kariuki, Paul Kögerler and Leroy Cronin will appear in the first issue of Chemical Science, the new flagship journal from the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Link to Journal

The manuscript can already be viewed online by following the above link - watch out for the fully animated graphical abstract!

Jan 2010 - Cover of Science

Latest issue of Science features on the cover:

Crystal structure of a molybdenum oxide nanowheel, 2.6 nanometers in diameter, around a smaller molybdenum oxide cluster.

Miras et al. used a controlled-flow reactor to show that the central core serves as a transient template for the self-assembly of the nanowheel and is ultimately ejected to yield a hollow finished product.

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