Personal Biography

I came to Corpus in 1983 as only the second Chemistry tutor in the College’s history, having been a Junior Research Fellow at another Oxford college (1982-83) and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Groningen (1980-1982). Before that I studied Chemistry at Oxford (MA and DPhil) and did A-levels at a state school in Cornwall.

Research and Teaching

I give tutorials on the whole of the Part I Physical Chemistry course to Corpus undergraduates. In the Chemistry Department, I have lectured on a variety of topics including thermodynamics and kinetics, and currently give a 3rd year course on the quantum mechanics of NMR spectroscopy. My research group always includes one or two Chemistry Part II students.

Most of my research these days is an attempt to unravel the biophysical mechanism by which migratory songbirds detect the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field as a navigational aid. We believe that the primary sensor is a magnetically sensitive protein called cryptochrome located in the birds’ retinas. Our work is currently funded by a 6-year Synergy Grant from the European Research Council (€8.6M).

Short non-technical articles on our work: 

The Quantum Nature of Bird Migration (Scientific American)

Video of magnetoreception lecture here


Publications, Links and Resources

Chemical compass model of avian magnetoreception.
K. Maeda et al. Nature, 453 (2008) 387-390.

Anthropogenic electromagnetic noise disrupts magnetic compass orientation in a migratory bird.
S. Engels, et al. Nature. 509 (2014) 353-356.

The radical-pair mechanism of magnetoreception.
P. J. Hore & H. Mouritsen. Annu. Rev. Biophys., 45 (2016) 299-344.

The quantum needle of the avian magnetic compass.
H. G. Hiscock, et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 113 (2016) 4634-4639.

Magnetic sensitivity of cryptochrome 4 from a migratory songbird
J. Xu et al. Nature, 594 (2021) 535-540

A complete list can be found here. I have also written two Oxford Chemistry Primers on NMR.