Professor Rachel O'Reilly FRS PhD, FRS, FRSC CChem CSci MA MSci

Professor Rachel O'Reilly

School of Chemistry
Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research)
Professor of Polymer Chemistry

Contact details

School of Chemistry
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Rachel O’Reilly holds a Chair in Chemistry within the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Birmingham. She graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1998 with a BA in Natural Sciences, and in 1999 with an MSc in Chemistry and completed her PhD in 2003 from Imperial College London. She has held a number of prestigious fellowships from the EPSRC, Royal Society and Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.

She has published over 225 research papers in scientific journals as well as reviews and book chapters in the fields of polymer synthesis, self-assembly, catalysis and DNA nanotechnology. She has given over 200 invited lectures and was recognised as one of the Royal Society of Chemistry's 175 faces of Chemistry. She has received major grants and research support from the ERC, BP and EPSRC. She leads a large interdisciplinary team working at the interface of chemistry, materials and biology. Since 2006 she has graduated over 40 PhD students and mentored over 25 postdoctoral researchers.

Rachel was appointed on the EPSRC strategic advisory network (SAN) in 2009 and served for almost 7 years. During this time she most significantly contributed to white papers on developing more flexible support for early career researchers, managing diversity and delivering impact. She holds a position as a review editor for Science and is an associate editor of the leading journal in Chemistry, the Journal of the American Chemical Society,.

Rachel leads the Rachel O'Reilly Group. Her group’s work has received numerous national and international awards for her polymer and material efforts, including, uniquely, four from the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), and, young researcher medals from the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), the world authority on chemical nomenclature and terminology.

Rachel is also part of the Birmingham Plastics Network, an interdisciplinary team of more than 40 academics working together to shape the fate and sustainable future of plastics.  This unique team brings together chemists, environmental scientists, philosophers, linguists, economists, and experts in many other fields, to holistically address the global plastics problem.



Ph.D. in Chemistry, Supervisor: Professor Vernon C. Gibson, FRS
Title : Novel catalyst design for utilisation in controlled radical polymerisations
Imperial College, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2AY, UK


M.Sci. hons, 1st class in Chemistry
B.A. hons, 1st class in Natural Sciences
University of Cambridge, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, CB3 0DG, UK

Other activities

Selected Professional Societies, Activities and Service

  • Member of REF 2021 sub-panel UOA 8, Chemistry
  • Fellow of the European Academy of Sciences, 2021
  • Member of the Novo Nordisk Committee on Interdisciplinary Research, 2021-
  • Member of the Science and Engineering Fellowship Committee for the 1851 Commission, 2019
  • Panel Member of the ERC Advanced Grant program, 2019-
  • Council member of the High Polymer Research Group, 2018-
  • Associate Editor for the ACS journal, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2021-
  • Editorial advisory board member for the ACS journal, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2019-2021
  • Associate Editor for the ACS journal, Macromolecules, 2018-2021

Honours and Awards

  • Awarded the ACS Global Outstanding Mentor Award in Polymer Science and Engineering, 2022
  • Awarded the Macro Macro Group UK Medal, 2021
  • Awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry, Corday-Morgan Prize, 2020
  • Awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry, Polymer Chemistry lectureship, 2020
  • Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists, UK Finalist Chemistry, 2019


Recent publications


Frommer, J, Oppenheimer, R, Allott, BM, Núñez‐Pertíñez, S, Wilks, TR, Cox, LR, Bath, J, O'Reilly, RK & Turberfield, AJ 2024, 'A New Architecture for DNA‐Templated Synthesis in Which Abasic Sites Protect Reactants from Degradation', Angewandte Chemie (International Edition) .

Frommer, J, Oppenheimer, R, Allott, BM, Núñez‐Pertíñez, S, Wilks, TR, Cox, LR, Bath, J, O'Reilly, RK & Turberfield, AJ 2024, 'A New Architecture for DNA‐Templated Synthesis in Which Abasic Sites Protect Reactants from Degradation', Angewandte Chemie.

Balaji, A, Prior, A, O'Reilly, R, Dove, A, Thurecht, K & Bell, CA 2024, 'Biodegradable mPEG-b-poly(MDO-co-vinyl esters) block copolymers as a viable nanocarrier platform with tuneable disassembly', Polymer Chemistry.

Thomas, M, Varlas, S, Wilks, TR, Fielden, SDP & O'Reilly, RK 2024, 'Controlled node growth on the surface of polymersomes†', Chemical Science.

Clamor, C, Beament, J, Wright, PM, Cattoz, BN, O'Reilly, RK & Dove, AP 2024, 'Ring-opening polymerisation of alkyl-substituted ε-caprolactones: kinetic effects of substitution position†', Polymer Chemistry, vol. 2024, no. 15, pp. 1227-1233.

Xie, Y, Tong, Z, Xia, T, Worch, JC, Rho, JY, Dove, AP & O'reilly, RK 2023, '2D Hierarchical Microbarcodes with Expanded Storage Capacity for Optical Multiplex and Information Encryption', Advanced Materials.

Sikder, A, Pearce, AK, Kumar, CMS & O’Reilly, R 2023, 'Correction: Elucidating the role of multivalency, shape, size and functional group density on antibacterial activity of diversified supramolecular nanostructures enabled by templated assembly', Materials Horizons.

Malafronte, A, Scoti, M, Caputo, M, Li, B, O'Reilly, R, Dove, A, Müller, A & De Rosa, C 2023, 'Crystal Structure of Poly(7-heptalactone)', Macromolecules, vol. 56, no. 11, pp. 4153-4162.

Xiao, L, Parkinson, S, Xia, T, Edge, P & O'Reilly, R 2023, 'Enhancing the scalability of crystallization-driven self-assembly using flow reactors', ACS Macro Letters, vol. 12, no. 12, pp. 1636–1641.

Pearce, AK, Parkinson, SJ, Akar, I, Derry, MJ, Topham, PD, Mathers, RT, Stavros, VG & O’reilly, RK 2023, 'Mechanistic Insights into Polymerization-Induced Self-Assembly Using Maleimide-Based Fluorophores', Macromolecules, vol. 56, no. 23, pp. 9443-9454.

Akar, I, Pearce, AK, Kumar, CMS, Ferguson, C & O'Reilly, RK 2023, 'Preparation of functional nanoparticles of mPEG ‐ b ‐ P ( DMA ‐ co ‐ HA ) copolymers via polymerization‐induced thermal self‐assembly', Journal of Polymer Science.

Xie, Y, Yu, W, Xia, T, O’reilly, RK & Dove, AP 2023, 'Stereocomplex-Driven Morphological Transition of Coil–Rod–Coil Poly(lactic acid)-Based Cylindrical Nanoparticles', Macromolecules, vol. 56, no. 19, pp. 7689-7697.

Chaimueangchuen, S, Frommer, J, Ferguson, CTJ & O'Reilly, RK 2023, 'Surface Hybridization Chain Reaction of Binary Mixture DNA-PEG Corona Nanostructures Produced by Low-Volume RAFT-Mediated Photopolymerization-Induced Self-Assembly', Bioconjugate Chemistry, vol. 34, no. 11, pp. 2007-2013.

Caputo, M, Olmos, A, Li, B, Olmedo-Martínez, JL, Malafronte, A, De Rosa, C, Sardon, H, O'Reilly, R, Dove, A & Müller, AJ 2023, 'Synthesis, morphology and crystallization kinetics of Polyheptalactone (PHL)', Biomacromolecules, vol. 24, no. 7, pp. 3256–3267.

Review article

Tungsirisurp, S, O'Reilly, R & Napier, R 2023, 'Nucleic acid aptamers as aptasensors for plant biology', Trends in Plant Science, vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 359-371.

View all publications in research portal