Professor Paul Kelly

  • Head of Department (Chemistry)
  • Associate Dean (Enterprise)
  • Professor of Inorganic Chemistry
  • BSc (1984) and PhD (1987) Imperial College
  • Temporary Teaching Fellow (1993-94) University of Southampton
  • Appointed Lecturer at Loughborough in 1994
  • Appointed Reader 2008
  • Deputy Head of Department 2012-2021 and on a number of occasions acting as interim HOD during that time
  • Appointed Associate Dean (Enterprise) 2021
  • Appointed Professor 2021

Earlier work here at Loughborough concentrated on main group chemistry, winning EPSRC support for a number of studies including working on sulfimide systems, macrocycles and chalcogen nitrides.

Over the last 10 years we have developed close links to agencies and companies as a result of our work in the area of forensic science. These include DSTL, the Home Office, Foster&Freeman Ltd and Historic England, as well as various police forces and other university departments as close collaborators.


Research areas

Research interests fall under two broad banners:

Novel forensic techniques

Examples of our work include:

  • The Recover fingerprint development system. Discovered in our group at  Loughborough, developed and refined in collaboration with DSTL and the Home Office, and now commercialised with Foster & Freeman Ltd, this system revolutionises the process of retrieving prints from metal surfaces that have been subject to stress (e.g. ammunition casings, IED fragments) or washing.

Find out more about Recover on the Foster & Freeman website.

  • Heritage Crime prevention, in collaboration with colleague Louise Nicholas from Social Sciences. This includes working closely with bodies such as Historic England in the area of combatting theft of metal or stone.

Read the full press release about heritage crime prevention.

  • Working with colleagues in our analytical chemistry section in order to utilise their unrivalled capabilities in the area of mass spectrometry. New approaches stemming from this include crime scene evaluation and ageing of bodily fluids, detection of improvised explosives and determination of the positive effects of fish oil supplementation on night vision (see link below) and the dark adaptation abilities of forensic investigators.

Read the press release about fish oil supplementation and night vision.

  • Generation of a range of new fingerprint development techniques.  These include a means of retrieval of prints (and lost data)  from age-bleached till receipts and the first study on print retrieval from UK’s new plastic notes (involving working with the Bank of England prior to the notes being released).

Main group synthesis.

Over the years we have looked at a range of systems typically based on (often explosive) combinations of nitrogen with sulfur or selenium. Examples of systems involved, and results obtained, include:

  • The formation of self-assembled MOFs and systems with multiple polymorphs, all hinging on the coordination properties of the sulfimide Ph2SNH.
  • The first glimpses of a free selenimide, Ph2SeNH, and of the long sought-after four membered ring Se2N2.
  • The first indication of polymerisation of S2N2 with zeolitic channels; this work also generated a fully characterised template free silica sodalite for the first time.
  • The first examples of macrocyclic crown eithers being linked via sulfimide bonds to give “sandwich” systems capable of binding to cations (this work was in close collaboration with Gill Reid at Southampton).
  • The first examples of the use of explosive S5N6 and Se4N4 as a synthon and the development of methods of 15N labelling systems such as this.
  • The use of metal centres to catalyse the addition of sulfimides and phosphorus imines to nitriles.
  • The preparation of new heterocycles and bridged macrocyles through sulfimidation.

Our work has attracted much interest from the press and broadcast media and has resulted in students garnering a number of awards.

For example in 2018 Stephanie Rankin-Turner won the British Mass Spectrometry Society’s Bordoli Prize.

While in 2019 Beth McMurchie was awarded the Chartered Society of Forensic Science’s  Haque & Bose Award

In July 2015 Roberto King and Richard Wilson demonstrated the techniques developed to counter metal theft live on BBC’s Crimewatch Roadshow Live, while in 2016 we were part of the invited team presenting at Historic England’s Heritage Crime Workshop on new ideas in countering metal theft, which was part of the kick-off stage of Operation Crucible, a country-wide initiative:

Work on obtaining prints from the new plastic banknotes and on fish-oil supplementation featured local radio interviews while many web-sites round the world have picked up on aspects of our recent work.

Examples of reporting on our work include:

New Technology Recovers Fingerprints From IEDs And Fired Ammunition” (Forces network)

New Technique May Identify Stolen Stones" (Archaeology)

Plastic banknotes—new fingerprint technique means criminals can't avoid capture” (

Fish oil supplements can improve ‘night vision’, study shows” (News Medical)

We are always pleased to consider applications from potential PhD students who can self-fund projects. There are plenty of possible projects we can think about, either within forensic or synthetic chemistry; there would also be the opportunity to work alongside co-supervisors from the analytical section to build on our recent successful collaborations and get experience of cutting edge technology associated with mass spectrometry etc. Anyone interested is encouraged to get in touch with me in the first instance.