Department of Materials


Dr Helen Willcock MChem, PhD Chemistry

Photo of Dr Helen Willcock

Senior Lecturer

Materials Undergraduate Programme Director

Part C and D Tutor

Disabilities Coordinator


Helen completed her Master’s degree in Chemistry at the University of Liverpool in 2003 and after a brief period working in a chemical catalogue company, returned to Liverpool to obtain her PhD in 2008, studying the control of the solution properties of dendrimers by varying surface functionality, under the supervision of Professor Steve Rannard and Professor Andy Cooper. She then undertook a short Post-Doctoral position with Unilever studying the incorporation of fluorescent tags into dendronised polymers as probes for porous media.

Helen moved to the University of Warwick in 2009 to work as a Research Fellow with Professor Rachel O’Reilly and worked on projects including the control of end group functionality and the synthesis of polymer particles using RAFT polymerisation. She was promoted to Senior Research Fellow in 2015.

Helen joined the Department of Materials in March 2015 as a Lecturer in Polymer Science. Her research is focused on the tailoring of polymer properties by control over their architecture and the synthesis of stimuli-responsive polymer particles for biomedical applications.


  • MChem, University of Liverpool, 2003
  • Ph.D. in Chemistry, University of Liverpool, 2008


Outline of main research interests:

  • Stimuli responsive polymers for biomedical applications
  • Tailoring polymer properties by controlling architecture
  • Solution based polymer and particle characterisation
  • Synthesis of polymers from renewable resources

For more information on Dr Willcock's research, please go to the following webpage: 

Willcock group webpages


Current teaching responsibilities:

  • MPD103 Tomorrow’s Materials

Recent publications: 

  • Complementary light scattering and synchrotron small angle X-ray scattering studies of the micelle-to-unimer transition of polysulfobetaines. Kay E. B. Doncom, Anaïs Pitto-Barry, Helen Willcock, Annhelen Lu, Beulah E. McKenzie, Nigel Kirby and Rachel K. O’Reilly. Soft Matter, Accepted Mar 2015.
  • Exploiting nucleobase-containing materials – from monomers to complex morphologies using RAFT dispersion polymerization. Yan Kang, Anaïs Pitto-Barry, Helen Willcock, Wen-Dong Quan, Nigel Kirby, Ana M. Sanchez and Rachel K. O'Reilly. Polym. Chem., 20156, 106. DOI: 10.1039/c4py01074d.
  • Dual effect of thiol addition on fluorescent polymeric micelles: ON-to-OFF emissive switch and morphology transition, A. B. Mabire, M.P. Robin, H. Willcock, A. Pitto-Barry, N Kirby and R.K. O'Reilly, Chem. Commun201450, 11492. DOI: 10.1039/c4cc04713c.
  • A multifunctional azobenzene-based polymeric adsorbent for effective water remediation. Decheng Wan, Feng Chen, Qingrui Geng, Hang Lu, Helen Willcock, Kaidian Zou, Ming Jin, Hongting Pu and Jianzhong Du. Scientific Reports, 2014, 4, Article number: 7296, DOI:10.1038/srep07296.

Selected publications:

  • One-pot synthesis of responsive sulfobetaine nanoparticles by RAFT polymerisation: the effect of branching on the UCST cloud point. H. Willcock, A. Lu, C.F. Hansell, E. Chapman, I.R. Collins and R.K. O’Reilly. Polym. Chem.  2014, 5(3), 1023. DOI:10.1039/c3py00998j.
  • Atom Transfer Cyclization with CuSO4/KBH4: a formal AGET process also applicable to ATRP, A. J. Clark, A. E. Collis, D. A. Fox, L. Hepple, N. James, J. P. McDonagh, R.K. O’Reilly, H. Parekh, A. Ross, A.B. Sellars, H. Willcock and P. Wilson. J. Org. Chem201217, 6778. DOI:10.1021/jo301429a. Highlighted as a VIP article
  • Self-assembly of hydrophilic homopolymers: A matter of end groups, J. Du, H. Willcock, J.P. Patterson, R. K. O'Reilly. Small20117, 2070. DOI:10.1002/smll.201100382. Highlighted as Editors' choice in Science, July 2011
  • End group removal and modification of RAFT polymers, H. Willcock and R.K. O'Reilly. Polym. Chem20101, 149. DOI:10.1039/b9py00340a. Polymer Chemistry’s most highly cited article co-authored by an editor in 2010

 View central publications database



External Collaborators: 

  • University of Warwick
  • University of Nottingham

External roles and appointments:

  • Recent Appointees in Polymer Science (RAPS) committee member
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Ambassador 

Professional affiliations:

  • Member, Royal Society of Chemistry