Group Members

Don’t just aspire to make a living. Aspire to make a difference – (D.W.)

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Melissa El Bitar Nehme

PhD Student, since September 2019

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#TriArylAmines #Fundamentals of #SupramolecularOrder

The world of chemistry has attracted my attention ever since I saw the “elephant toothpaste” experiment at a carnival in middle school. It was mind-blowing, and my curiosity increased throughout my high school years, along with my obsession in understanding the structure and ingredient of the matters on my surroundings. This led me to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at the Lebanese University. Fascinated by the field of organic chemistry and compelled to broaden my knowledge, I obtained a full scholarship to pursue my Master’s degree at the American University of Beirut (AUB). Under the supervision of Prof. Tarek Ghaddar, I worked on the synthesis, as well as the optical, electrochemical, and photophysical characterization of novel dyes for Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells. This allowed me to produce my first publication in ACS Applied Energy Materials, as well as two posters, which I presented at the First National Workshop on Innovative Materials and Applications at AUB. I am currently a teaching assistant, and I am working on my second research publication. Deeply intrigued by my graduate research experience and my love for new challenges, I am excited to pursue my PhD studies at the University of Zürich in Dr. Michel Rickhaus’ group.

In my free time, I enjoy reading, writing poems, and hiking.

Joseph F. Woods

PhD Student, since October 2019

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#GuidedSelfAssembly #CurvedPiSurfaces

Joe is a first year PhD student in the Rickhaus group who is originally from the north east of England, just north of Newcastle. Like many who make this region their home he is a passionate football fan and a connoisseur of Greggs. It would not be uncommon to find him with a sausage roll in hand shouting from the terraces although he was disappointed to find that the finest pastry company in England has not yet set up shop in Zurich.

He also eats quite a lot. Joe can quite happily shift three or four times a normal person’s portion at any given meal and is constantly hungry throughout the day. The man’s dream is an all-you-can-eat buffet. You might imagine him to weigh at least 20 stone but rest assured that all of these calories consumed are readily burnt off.

Most of Joe’s time outside the lab is spent running a big number of miles over the course of the week. As he often trains twice a day and enjoys competing over a range of distances from 3000m up to half marathon, Joe is a keen member of the Rickhaus Group Running Team who welcome new members of all abilities.

Joe studied at the University of Oxford for four years in which he completed his undergraduate studies and his Master’s year. His Master’s project was supervised by Professor Harry Anderson and involved much organic synthesis working towards the formation of polyyne rotaxanes using Cobalt masking groups as a model for a theoretical sp allotrope of carbon: carbyne. Michael Jackson and other 80s bangers may be heard in the lab when he is around.

Lucía Gallego Aibar

PhD Student, since January 2020

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#CyclicSystems #CurvedPiSurfaces

My interest in chemistry started almost before even knowing what it was, nearly 10 years ago. The increasing desire to know why things happen the way they do led me to start a Bachelor in Chemistry at the University of Zaragoza. There, I worked with Dr. Santiago Franco on new organic dyes for Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells, which introduced me to aromatic macrocycles and making me realize that I wanted to go deeper into the extraordinary field of Organic Chemistry. Then, I studied a Master in Organic Chemistry at the Autonoma University of Madrid, where I worked in Prof. Torres group with Dr. Mª Victoria Martínez-Díaz on new curved aromatic photosensitizers for Photodynamic Therapy. Finally, and with the purpose of widening my knowledge in aromatic surfaces, I am eager to start my PhD in Dr. Michel Rickhaus group, at the University of Zurich.

Out of chemistry, I really enjoy getting lost around new places, hiking and taking pictures of nearly everything (technique acquired during bachelor's lab courses and perfectioned with my cat). I also love meeting new people and talking (a lot) about anything. You will probably find me reading or listening to music anytime, and of course singing. What makes me most happy? Food, cuddling cats (actually everything related to cats) and spending quality time with my family and friends.

Kai Zhang

PhD Student, from November 2020

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#TriArylAmines #ContoredPis

I was attracted by chemistry when I first saw the brilliant color changes of the B-Z Oscillating-Reaction at the age of 16. My interest led me to choose chemistry as my major; I obtained my bachelor and master degree in chemistry at Huazhong University of Science and Technology. At the beginning of my undergraduate studies, I was fascinated by supramolecular chemistry and molecular machines. I became even more enthusiastic about supramolecular chemistry, when the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to molecular machines. Thus, I joined the group of Prof. Quan Gan who studies aromatic helical foldamers and metal-organic cages , initially for my bachelor thesis and then later for my master project on the design and synthesis of high-order helical foldamers. During my master's studies, I felt the joy of research, so I want to keep engaging in scientific research. I am excited to start my PhD in Dr. Michel Rickhaus' group at University of Zurich

In my spare time, I enjoy watching E-sport gaming and cooking. Also I am a tea lover, you can find all kinds of tea here (yellow tea, black tea, Oolong…), and I like to drink a cup of tea or coffee when I am reading or writing.

Dr. Thomas Kader

PostDoc, from October 2020

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#NewTools #PolyaromaticSystems

My fascination with natural sciences, which I developed during my school days, led me to start a bachelor study in Technical Chemistry in Vienna at TU Wien. At that time, during different lab courses and lectures, I grew a strong interest in organic chemistry. Therefore, I conducted my bachelor thesis in the group of Prof. Johannes Fröhlich, working on the utilization of azide-alkyne cycloadditions for the formation of conjugated materials for organic electronics. I continued this path with my master’s degree with specialization in synthesis, followed by my PhD studies in the same group, investigating new building blocks for materials applied in organic light emitting diodes. This work involved the systematic introduction of nitrogen atoms into planar triarylamines, as well as improving the solubility by alkylation to enable solution processing of such planar systems. After finishing my PhD studies recently, I am excited to join the Rickhaus group at University of Zurich as a PostDoc; after working long time on planar systems to bring some curvature to my target molecules.

Besides the time in the lab, I enjoy all kind of sports and outdoor activities, ranging from flag football and beach volleyball to obstacle course races, or simply hiking in the mountains, always being curious about trying something new.

Dr. Philip A. Hope

PostDoc, from January 2022

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#CurvedPiSurfaces #PolyaromaticSystems

Having grown up in the north east of England (non geordie) I moved to Manchester to study chemistry. This was the start of a love–hate relationship which took me to Paris for a year with an industrial placement, to the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology for my masters with Dr Simon Webb and then to Billingham in Teeside as a speciality chemicals and oils analyst. Following this I decided to join Durham University to gain my PhD under Alyssa-Jennifer Avestro and Paul McGonical where I developed a strong interest in functional π-systems and supramolecular assembly. Following this, I did a short, but productive, post doc with Patrick Steele where I worked on the synthesis of a small family of benzodiazepines for bio activity against leishmaniasis. I then joined the Rickhaus group where I hope to develop novel self-assembling aromatic molecules!

In my spare time/anytime I’m not in work, I can usually be found either in the pub, watching football or cooking up something good.

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Former Team-Mates

Delia Meier (BSc Student)

BSc Student, July – August 2020

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#CyclicSystems #CurvedPiSurfaces

The world of chemistry has fascinated me, before even knowing what it was. My increasing desire to understand why things happen the way they do, led me to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry here at the University of Zurich. After my first introduction to the wonders of organic chemistry, I knew I had to learn more: Driven by a craving for understanding the structure and functionality of organic molecules, I am excited to join Dr. Michel Rickhaus’ group.

In my free time, I enjoy a good book and long conversations with passionate people.

Jaclyn Parris (MSc Student)

MSc Rotation Student, November 2019 – February 2020


#GuidedSelfAssembly #CurvedPiSurfaces

My interest in chemistry began in my high school chemistry classes, where we broke the world down into elements, bonds, energies, and formulas. Following my first introduction to chemistry, I knew I had to learn more. This drive has led me to pursue a master’s degree, here at UZH, in chemistry and crystallography. In June, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany. During this time, I worked in an inorganic lab of Prof. Dr. Ulrich Kortz, researching polyoxometalates. My thesis work was the synthesis and characterization of star-type lanthanide containing polyoxopalladates.

Also, in my undergraduate degree, I attend a course on supramolecular chemistry, which quickly became my favorite subject. This interest has led me to join Dr. Michel Rickhaus’ lab group from which I am excited to learn.

When I am not studying or working in the lab, I enjoy spending time with friends, doing just about anything, be it exploring new cities, hiking in the alps, or baking together.

Elie Benchimol (Research Intern)

Research-Intern (MSc-Level), from September 2020

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#NewTools #FragmentsOfGraphene

A few years ago, I left my hometown Toulouse, in the south of France, to pursue my studies in Paris. I did a Bachelor and a first year of Master at University Paris-Saclay, in the lovely forest of Orsay, studying physical Chemistry. Attracted by organic chemistry and DNA I joined the group of Dr. Granzhan at Institut Curie to work on azacryptands and macrocycles for the stabilization of the DNA three-way junction. I was immediately fascinated by Supramolecular Chemistry and Life Sciences. Thus, I went to Paris Sciences and Letters (PSL) University to continue my second year of Master and go deeper into these topics. I obtained a scholarship to join the University of Cambridge for my Master’s Thesis where I worked in the group of Pr. Jonathan Nitschke on metal-organic cages, self-assembly and transformation networks. Before starting my PhD I wanted to broaden my knowledge in Supramolecular Chemistry and acquire more experience, therefore I’m happy to join the Rickhaus group at the University of Zurich!

When I’m not in the lab, you can find me walking randomly in the streets of any cities, doing any kind of sports or watching Rugby wearing the black and red colors of Stade Toulousain! I am also an amateur of all type of new cuisines.

Pauline Pfister (Research Intern)

Research-Intern (MSc-Level), from March 2021

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#CarbonArchitectures #Materials

I’ve always been interested in sciences, but the idea to study chemistry was rather spontaneous. I started to do my bachelor in chemistry at the University Würzburg (Germany) and since I was already in the flow I continued with my master right away. During my master's degree, I got some insights into the exciting field of supramolecular chemistry which fascinates me very much. At some point, the need to get to know new people, new working methods, new input, new research areas and a new city became so great that I started looking for other universities for an exchange. And now I am here in Zurich and found exactly what I was searching for. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming months here.

In my spare time I'll probably be out somewhere looking for an adventure. Alternatively, I enjoy having the mountains right around the corner or making music with friends, which always makes me happy.

Rachele Butti (BSc Student)

Research-Intern (BSc-Level), from March 2021

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#Rings #LightHarvesters

I have been fascinated by the art of chemistry since I was a child. I still remember the evenings spent with my grandfather while listening to him reading “Story of a carbon atom” by the chemist Primo Levi. The novel tells the story of the exciting life of a carbon atom. It was at that moment I realized chemistry would have been part of my life. Not surprisingly, after achieving my high school graduation, I decided to start a Bachelor of Sciences in Chemistry at the University of Zurich in 2018. After having completed the practical course of Organic Chemistry in 2020, I understood that this matter would have been my path. For this reason, I requested Dr. Michel Rickhaus to join his research group to enhance my knowledge of aromatic surfaces as planned for my Bachelor project.

Besides the desire of synthesizing caffeine molecules, I really enjoy listening to old- school hip-hop music and spending quality time with my family and friends. Photography and cinema have always been two of my main interests without missing the reading of a good book.

Lorena Casasola (BSc Student)

Research-Intern (BSc-Level), from March 2021

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#Self-Assembly #HollowStacks

I have always been interested in knowing how and why things happen, even as a little child. Therefore it is not surprising that I was most interested in natural sciences during my school days. I gained a huge interest in chemistry, which lead me to sign up for a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at the University of Zurich. During the organic chemistry practical course I learned to love organic chemistry, which is why I requested Dr. Michel Rickhaus to join his group. I am very happy to be given the opportunity to work in the Rickhaus group and I hope to learn lots of new, interesting things about organic, aromatic molecules, especially curved π-systems.

Besides chemistry my interests include playing the guitar (although I wish I could be better at it), trying all kinds of foods, spending some quality time with my friends and family or simply reading a book by the lake.