Queen's University

Dr. Hugh Horton

Professor, Department of Chemistry
LinkedIn profile for Dr. Hugh Horton

Vice-Provost and Executive Director, Bader International Study Centre (BISC)


I am currently the Vice-Provost and Executive Director of the Queen's campus in the United Kingdom, the Bader International Study Centre at Hestmonceaux Castle, Sussex, England.  I hold a BSc from York University in Toronto, and a PhD from the University of Cambridge where I was a Commonwealth Scholar. I subsequently held an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship at Western University, and held a Commonweath Fellowship at the University of St. Andrews in 2005.  I have been a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at Queen's since 1997, and Full Professor since 2012. I am an active member of the Chemical Institute of Canada, having been elected to the Board of Directors as Treasurer in 2017.  I was previously the chemistry society's Director of Accreditation for undergraduate chemistry programs.

While I spend much time in England, I still maintain an active research group onsite in Kingston: we do group meetings by teleconference every week, and group members make periodic visits with me to the Canadian Light Source synchotron in Saskatoon.  My research is in the field of surface chemistry, where my research group's main focus is an exploration of the forces controlling the interaction of small molecules with surfaces. My students and I have worked on developing new scanning probe microscope techniques for the measurement of nanoscale forces. More recently, I have been exploring the formation of a new class of materials based on N-heterocyclic carbenes – these unusual molecules, which are are usually highly unstable, can be used to form very strong carbon-metal bonds to metal surfaces, creating an extraordinary stable organic-metal junction with applications in nanoscale electronics and biosensing.


In addition to standard chemical synthesis and materials preparation facilities, students have access to modern atomic force microscope (AFM), and to an X-ray photoelectron spectrometer (XPS) for surface imaging and chemical analysis.  The Department of Chemistry also provides access to a full suite of materials characterization tools (NMR, IR, XRD and mass spectrometry).  Recently,  our group partnered with other researchers at Queen’s in obtaining an $8.8 million grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which will upgrade our infrastructure, with both a new AFM and XPS facility, and the installation of a surface plasmon resonance instrument (SPR) for studying the adsorption of biomolecules on surfaces, which we expect to arrive in 2016.


The research group consists of both PhD and MSc students.  We often host an undergraduate student in the summer or in a fourth year research project.  It is a very international group, and at one point or another has included students from:  Canada, China, Malaysia, the UK, Bangladesh, Romania, Kuwait and Egypt.  Students have gone on to many interesting and exciting jobs, including faculty and teaching positions in several countries; research scientist or technician roles in both government and industry; and careers outside chemistry, including medicine, law, financial management and the civil service.   We are always on the lookout for good students to join the research group.  To find out more information, you can contact me directly, or review the information on graduate admission at the chemistry department website.

C.M. Crudden, J.H. Horton, O.V. Zenkina, I.I. Ebralidze, C. Smith "Carbene functionalized composite materials." WIPO Patent Application WO/2015/024120, Filed August 19, 2014.
C.M. Crudden, J. Hugh Horton, Iraklii I. Ebralidze, O.V. Zenkina, A.B. McLean, B. Drevniok, Z. She, H.-B. Kraatz, N. Mosey, T. Seki, E. Keske, J. Leake, A. Rousina-Webb, and Gang Wu, "Ultra Stable Self-Assembled Monolayers of N-Heterocyclic Carbenes on Gold", Nature Chemistry, 6, 409-414 (2014). Full Text via DOI
M.A. Hanif, I.I. Ebralidze, and J.H. Horton, “Pd and S binding energies and Auger parameters on a model silica-supported Suzuki-Miyaura catalyst:  insights into catalyst activation” Appl. Surf. Sci., 280, 836-44 (2013). Full Text via DOI
R. Arjumand, I. Ebralidze, M. Ashtari, J. Stryuk, N.M. Cann, and J.H. Horton, “The Chiral Discrimination of a Proline-Based Stationary Phase: Adhesion Forces and Calculated Selectivity Factors” J. Phys. Chem. C, 117, 4131-40 (2013). Full Text via DOI
P. Sun and J.H. Horton, “Perfluorinated poly(dimethylsiloxane) via the covalent attachment of perfluoroalkylsilanes on the oxidized surface: effects on zeta-potential values” Appl. Surf. Sci., APSUSC-D-12-05575, accepted for publication, January 2013. Full Text via DOI
A. Azmi, I. Ebralidze, and J.H. Horton, “Characterization of hydroxyphenol-terminated alkanethiol self-assembled monolayers: interactions with phosphates by chemical force spectrometry” J. Coll. Interface Sci. 393, 352-360 (2013). Full Text via DOI
C.-S.Chen, Y.Y. Lau, S.M. Mercer, T. Robert, J.H. Horton, and P.G. Jessop, “The effect of switchable water additives on clay settling” ChemSusChem 6, 132-140 (2013). Full Text via DOI
M.D. Douma, L. Brown, T. Koerner, J.H. Horton and R. D. Oleschuk, “Non-denaturing low-temperature bonding of patterned poly(methyl methacrylate) enzymatic microreactors” Microfluidics and Nanofluidics 14, 133-143 (2013). Full Text via DOI
I. Ebralidze, M. Hanif, R. Arjumand, A. Azmi, S. Dixon, N. Cann, C.M. Crudden, and J. Hugh Horton "Solvent induced adhesion interactions between dichlorotriazine films" J. Phys. Chem. C, 116, 4217-4223 (2012) Full Text via DOI

See earlier publications

Most Recent Project

Interactions of chiral molecules at surfaces

Chiral molecules are those which come in two forms that are mirror images of one another.  They are all around us:  in particular, our bodies are made up of chiral molecules:  amino acids (a constituent of protein), sugars and DNA are all chiral.  While a pair of chiral molecules have the same physical properties (melting point, density, etc.) and are hence hard to separate, then can have dramatically different effects when they react with biochemical systems.  

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