Dr Sarah Horswell

School of Chemistry
Associate Professor in Physical Chemistry

Contact details

School of Chemistry
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Sarah Horswell is an Associate Professor in Physical Chemistry. She has a range of research interests in the field of Surface Electrochemistry, ranging from biomimetic films to electrocatalysis. Her work has been funded by EPSRC, the Leverhulme Trust and the EU and she is involved in several national and international collaborations.


  • PhD in Chemistry, University of Liverpool
  • MSc in Surface Science and Heterogeneous Catalysis, University of Liverpool
  • BA in Chemistry, Cambridge University 


Sarah Horswell obtained a BA (Hons) from Cambridge University before studying for an MSc in Surface Science and Heterogeneous Catalysis at the University of Liverpool. Following this, Sarah remained at Liverpool and obtained a PhD in Electrochemistry of Nanostructured Systems. Sarah then worked in the area of interfacial electrochemistry and in situ spectroscopy at the University of Guelph, Canada, and moved to the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin, Germany, to work on electrochemical surface science and catalysis. Sarah joined the School of Chemistry in Birmingham as a Lecturer in 2004.


Teaching Programmes

  • BSc/MSci Chemistry

Postgraduate supervision

PhD and (formerly) MRes project supervision in the areas of solid-supported biomimetic membranes and electrocatalysis



Interfacial electrochemistry

Biophysical chemistry


Self assembly


Electrochemical sensing

X-ray and neutron reflectometry


The focus of our research is the application of modern structural techniques in the study of adsorption processes and reactions at interfaces, particularly at electrode surfaces.  Our research interests span a wide range, from understanding biophysical processes through to the design and evaluation of new catalytic materials. Our current interests include investigating lipid monolayers and bilayers and their interactions with peptides, using x-ray and neutron reflectivity and electrochemical infrared spectroscopy. We also study electrocatalytic reactions, such as oxygen reduction and nitrate reduction, using a range of nanoparticle-based catalysts synthesised in our laboratory. Collaborating with colleagues, we apply electrochemical tools to sensing applications.

Classical electrochemical methodology is combined with modern in situ techniques to determine structure of our tailored surfaces and catalysts as well as reaction mechanisms. The underlying theme of our work is to understand interfacial processes at a fundamental level, with a view toward exploiting this information in the development of new materials, sensors or catalysts.

Other activities

Committee Member of RSC Industrial Physical Chemistry Group and Chair of RSC Electrochemistry Group


  • Jemmett, P.N., Milan, D.C., Nichols, R.J., Howitt, T., Martin, A.L., Arnold, T., Rawle, J.L, Nicklin, C.L., Dafforn, T.R., Cox, L.R. and Horswell, S.L.*, (2022), Influence of the lipid backbone on electrochemical phase behavior, Langmuir, 38: 14290-14301.

  • Jemmett, P.N., Milan, D.C., Nichols, R.J., Cox, L.R. and Horswell, S.L.*, (2021), Effect of molecular structure on electrochemical phase behavior of phospholipid bilayers on Au(111), Langmuir, 37: 11887-11899.

  • Wood, M.H.*, Milan, D.C., Nichols, R.J., Casford, M.T.L. and Horswell, S.L.*, (2021), A quantitative determination of bilayer deposition efficiency using AFM,RSC Advances, 11: 19768-19778.

  • Madrid, E. and Horswell, S.L.*, (2017), The electrochemical phase behaviour of chemically asymmetric lipid bilayers supported at Au(111) electrodes, Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, 819: 338-346.

  • de Laune, B.P., Berry, F.J., Marco, J.F., Horswell, S.L. and Greaves, C.*, (2016), The structure, chemistry and magnetic properties of FePbBiO4, Journal of Materials Chemistry C, 4:5320-5325.
  • Duprey, J-L., Carr-Smith, J., Horswell, S.L., Kowalski, J.* and Tucker, J.H.R.*, (2016), Macrocyclic metal complex-DNA conjugates for electrochemical sensing of single nucleobase changes in DNA, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 138:746-749.
  • Madrid, E. and Horswell, S.L.*, (2015), Effect of deuteration on the phase behaviour of supported phospholipid bilayers: a spectroelectrochemical study, Langmuir, 31:12544-12551.
  • Davis, J.B.A.*, Shayeghi, A., Horswell, S.L. and Johnston, R.L.*, (2015), The Birmingham Parallel Genetic Algorithm and its application to the direct DFT global optimisation of IrN (N = 10-20) clusters, Nanoscale, 7:14032-14038.
  • Figliola, C., Male, L., Pitak, M.B., Coles, S.J., Horswell, S.L.* and Grainger, R.S.*, (2014), [Fe-Fe]-hydrogenase synthetic mimics based on peri-substituted dichalcogenides, Organometallics, 33:4449-4460.
  • Madrid E. and Horswell S.L.*, (2014), Effect of electric field on structure and dynamics of bilayers formed from anionic phospholipids, Electrochimica Acta, 146:850-860.
  • Siriwatcharapiboon, W., Kwon Y., Yang J., Chantry R.L., Li, Z., Horswell, S.L* and Koper, M.T.M.*, (2014), Promotion effects of Sn on the electrocatalytic reduction of nitrate at Rh nanoparticles, ChemElectroChem, 1:172-179.
  • Newton, J.E., Preece, J.A., Rees, N.V.* and Horswell, S.L.*, (2014), Nanoparticle catalysts for proton exchange membrane fuel cells: can surfactant effects be beneficial for electrocatalysis? Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 16:11435-11446.
  • Fennell, J., He, D.S., Tanyi, A.M., Logsdail, A.J, Johnston, R.L., Li, Z.Y.* and Horswell, S.L.*, (2013), A selective blocking method to control the overgrowth of Pt on Au nanorods, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 135:6554-6561.
  • Madrid, E. and Horswell, S.L.*, (2013), Effect of headgroup on the physicochemical properties of phospholipid bilayers in electric fields: size matters, Langmuir, 29:1695-1708.
  • Chantry, R.L., Siriwatcharapiboon, W., Horswell, S.L,* Logsdail, A.J., Johnston, R.L. and Li, Z.Y.*, (2012), Overgrowth of rhodium on gold nanorods, Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 116:10312-10317.
  • Nguyen, N.V., Zhao, Z.Y., Sallustrau, A., Horswell, S.L., Male. L., Mulas. A. and Tucker, J.H.R.*, (2012) A ferrocene nucleic acid oligomer as an organometallic structural mimic of DNA, Chemical Communications 48:12165-12167.
  • Hillman, A.R.*, Ryder, K.S., Madrid, E., Burley, A.W., Wiltshire, R.J., Merotra, J., Grau, M., Horswell, S.L.*, Glidle, A., Dalgliesh, R.M., Hughes, A., Cubitt, R. and Wildes, A., (2010), Structure and Dynamics of Phospholipid Bilayer Films under Electrochemical Control, Faraday Discussions, 145: 357-379.

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