Chris Kelly

Chemistry, University of Glasgow

Tenure since 2016

Plasmonic polarimetry: A unique tool for mapping the mesoscale structural landscape

There exists a length scale at which information is difficult to gather – between that of discrete molecules and macroscopic materials. This range is called the mesoscale and consists of complex molecular assemblies typical of biological systems. Traditional methods of probing these structures, both spectroscopic and otherwise, are limited in what knowledge they can provide.

My research seeks to demonstrate that an alternative method called plasmonic polarimetry can give structural information about mesoscale biological materials such as plant viruses – a Chris Kellydetermination of their size and shape which enables them to be distinguishable. This method differs from optical spectroscopy as that rather than with light, the sample is probed with chiral electromagnetic fields, so shaped owing to the properties of the carefully engineered biosensor.

The power of spectroscopic methods lies in the ability to correlate a spectroscopic response to structural properties (symmetry/size). The derived relationships between symmetry and optical response are used to produce selection rules which enable a spectrum to be used to fingerprint structure.  I will use a novel chiral plasmonic metamaterial as a biosensor in this project, and will interpret the coupling of chiral EM fields to mesostructured chiral dielectrics (i.e. viruses) which these sensors demonstrate with symmetry analysis. 

Following the investigation into structural influences on the plasmonic polarimetry fingerprints, I will evaluate the potential of this technique as a biosensing platform. The object will be to attempt to identify viruses in a biofluid, and even discriminate between several in a multi-component sample.


Chris graduated from the University of Glasgow with a First Class Honours degree in MSci Chemical Physics with Work Placement in July 2016. He was awarded the George Roger Muirhead prize in his 1st year in recognition of being the most distinguished student in the Ordinary class of Chemistry, as well as the award for best in Physical Chemistry in 3rd year.

In his 4th year, Chris undertook a 9 month placement at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland with the Bionanophotonic Systems laboratory (BIOS). There he worked on developing a biosensing technology for infrared detection of lipids and proteins using the surface enhanced infrared absorption (SEIRA) technique.

Most recently Chris worked with Dr. Malcolm Kadodwala and his group at the University of Glasgow on his Masters project, in which the link between magnetic optical activity and the optical activity of superchiral fields from chiral nanostructures was investigated. 

Current Carnegie-Caledonian Scholars

The full list of current Carnegie-Caledonian scholars is available here.

Carnegie PhD Scholarships

The next deadline for applications is 28th February 2017.

To learn more about this scheme and how to apply, please visit Carnegie PhD Scholarships.