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School of Physical and Chemical Sciences

Dr Omar Rifaie Graham


Lecturer in Chemistry

Room Number: Joseph Priestley Building, Room G.04


  • Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Chemistry, Queen Mary University of London (UK), Sep 2023 – Present
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Imperial College London (UK), 02/2019 – 08/2023
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Adolphe Merkle Institute – University of Fribourg (Switzerland), 08/2018 – 01/2019
  • PhD in Chemistry, Adolphe Merkle Institute – University of Fribourg (Switzerland), 08/2014 – 07/2018
  • Research Assistant, University College London (UK), 02/2013 – 07/2013
  • Licenciado in Pharmacy (BSc+MSc), Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain), 09/2008 – 03/2014


  • 2023: ACS PMSE Future Faculty Award
  • 2021: Swiss Nanoscience Institute “Best paper in nanoscience and nanotechnology”
  • 2019: Best PhD thesis in Experimental Sciences Faculty of Science and Medicine, University of Fribourg, Switzerland.
  • 2019: 3rd Ypsomed Innovation Prize.
  • 2018: Top 3 PhD thesis in Switzerland, DCPI Swiss Chemical Society.
  • 2017: SCS/SCNAT Chemistry travel award.
  • 2016: Top 10 business idea prize on “”

My PhD was supervised by Prof Nico Bruns at the Adolphe Merkle Institute, University of Fribourg, Switzerland. My work focussed on the fabrication of cell inspired polymer nanocontainers that displayed ON-OFF biocatalytic activity in presence of external stimuli such as light or hydromechanical stress as well as polymerisation-based diagnostics for blood borne diseases. Moreover, a diagnostics company was spun-out from my PhD receiving over 1M USD in funding.

I joined the group of Prof Molly Stevens at Imperial College London as a Postdoctoral Fellow (Swiss National Science Foundation Early Postdoc Mobility Fellowship and Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions Individual Fellowship) to study the implementation of life-like properties to a family of aqueous polymer and enzyme ensembles through non-equilibrium feedback communication processes.

In September 2023, I joined the Department of Chemistry at Queen Mary University of London as Lecturer, where I lead a research group focussing on the synthesis of polymer-based artificial cells as experimental models to understand physicochemical parameters that underpin biological phenomena and to achieve novel technologies at the Living/Non-Living Interface.


Pharmaceutical Chemistry (CHE206)


Research Interests:

One of the most intriguing questions at the interface between chemistry and biology is “how did inert matter transition into living matter?” Though life on Earth is mainly composed of lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids it is possible that in other parts of the universe –which harbour very different physicochemical conditions– life could be composed of different building blocks. For example, Titan –which is one of the moons of Saturn– presents very similar properties to Earth: it presents seas, lakes, and rivers although instead of being composed of water, they are composed of liquid ethane and methane, which are carbon sources. This poses another intriguing question for synthetic biologists: “can we synthesise living matter from alternative building blocks to Earth life (lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids)? Or at least, “can we make artificial ensembles that display life-like properties?” These systems would have to be dynamic in nature and be capable of harvesting energy from the environment to display vital functions such as metabolism, growth, replication, or even (chemical) cognition.

By combining expertise in polymer chemistry, enzymology, nanotechnology, and organic synthesis our group is investigating the synthesis of artificial cells that display life-like functions which will provide understanding of physicochemical parameters that are required for life, insights into the origins of life on Earth – and maybe some other parts of the universe–, and to provide novel tools for living cell manipulation. The technologies can also be applied for drug delivery, controlled catalysis, and novel diagnostics platforms.


  1. Rifaie-Graham, O.; Yeow, J.; Najer, A.; Wang, R.; Sun, R.; Zhou, K.; Dell, T.N.; Adrianus, C.; Thanapongpibul, C.; Chami, M.; Mann, S.; Read de Alaniz, J.; Stevens, M.M., “Photoswitchable gating of non-equilibrium enzymatic feedback in chemically communicating polymersome nanoreactors”, Nature Chemistry, 2023, 15 (1), 110-118.
  2. Rifaie-Graham, O.; Galensowske, N.F.B.; Dean, C.; Pollard, J.; Balog, S.; Gouveia, M.G.; Chami, M.; Vian, A.; Amstad, E.; Lattuada, M.; Bruns, N., “Shear Stress‐Responsive Polymersome Nanoreactors Inspired by the Marine Bioluminescence of Dinoflagellates”, Angewandte Chemie, 2021, 133, 917-922.
  3. Rifaie-Graham, O.; Pollard, J.; Raccio, S.; Balog, S.; Rusch, S.; Hernández-Castañeda, M.A.; Mantel, P-Y.; Beck, H-P.; Bruns, N., “Hemozoin-catalyzed precipitation polymerization as an assay for malaria diagnosis”, Nature Communications, 2019,
  4. Rifaie-Graham, O.; Ulrich, S.; Galensowske, N.F.B.; Hemmer, J.R.; Balog, S.; Chami, M.; Rentsch, D.; Read de Alaniz, J.; Boesel, L.F.; Bruns, N., “Wavelength selective light responsive DASA-functionalised polymersome nanoreactors”, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2018, 140, 8027−8036.

Rifaie-Graham, O.; Apebende, E.A.; Bast, L.K.; Bruns, N., “Self-reporting fibre-reinforced composites: learning from nature to create materials with the ability to sense and report damage", Advanced Materials, 2017, 1705483

  • Rifaie‐Graham O (2024). Emergence of Cell Behavior Through Feedback Control of Polymersome Membrane Transport. nameOfConference

    QMRO: qmroHref
  • Clerc M, Sandlass S, Rifaie-Graham O et al. (2023). Visible light-responsive materials: the (photo)chemistry and applications of donor–acceptor Stenhouse adducts in polymer science. nameOfConference

    QMRO: qmroHref
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