Edinburgh Research Explorer

Prof Michael Shaver

(Former employee or visitor)

Profile photo

Willingness to take PhD students: Yes

Projects available in (a) developing new sustainable catalysts for ring-opening and controlled radical polymerizations, (b) developing novel tunable biodegradable materials through control of both polymer microstructure and macrostructure, and (c) developing new-to-the-world functional materials for applications in bioscience, smart materials and commodity elastomers.

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of British Columbia
Small Molecule Activation by Diamidophosphine Complexes of Vanadium, Niobium and Tantalum
Bachelor of Science, Mount Allison University
Hydroboration of Alkenylamine and Alkenylpyridine Complexes of Platinum

Professional Qualifications

Member of the EPSRC College of Reviewers
Member of the Royal Society for Chemistry, MRSC
Member of the American Chemical Society, MACS
Member of the Canadian Society for Chemistry, MCSC


Dr. Michael Shaver completed his BSc (First Class Honours) degree in chemistry at Mount Allison University in Canada, working on metal-mediated hydroborations and hydroaminations under the direction of Prof. Steve Westcott. He next worked with Prof. Mike Fryzuk at the University of British Columbia on ligand design and small molecule activation, completing his PhD in 2005. Awarded NSERC Post-doctoral and Millennium Canada/UK Fellowships, he travelled across the Atlantic Ocean to join the polymer research group of Prof. Vernon Gibson at Imperial College London. He was then recruited back to Canada to start his independent research career at the University of Prince Edward Island. At this predominantly undergraduate institution Dr. Shaver grew a vibrant research program with a particular focus on green materials. The pull of real ale, damp weather and one of the UK's best schools proved too much to resist, and another cross-Atlantic journey brought him to the University of Edinburgh as a Chancellor's Fellow. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Green Materials and the Head of the Graduate School for the School of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh.

Research Interests

The Shaver group’s research interests bridge a number of disciplines within chemistry, incorporating aspects of green chemistry, organometallics, materials science and organic synthesis to the field of polymer chemistry. Our group’s focus is on controlling the synthesis of polymers in order to tune the properties of the resultant materials. To do this we depend upon metal complexes to mediate controlled radical polymerizations and ring opening polymerization. Unifying these projects is the theme of catalyst design. Ligand frameworks allow us to design metal complexes that are able to control various aspects of polymerization reactions including molecular weight, polydispersity, stereospecificity and structure. These molecular properties impart control over the materials properties, allowing us to tune our polymers to specific applications. Our current group focus lies in three areas:

  1. IRON IN ATRP. We have developed a new family of iron complexes for the atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) of an array of monomers. These catalysts are the fastest iron-based system for controlled radical polymerization and rival some of the top copper catalysts reported and importantly produce brilliant white plastics using a benign catalyst.
  2. MICROSTRUCTURE AND MACROSTRUCUTRE CONTROL. We have recognized that, while the stereocontrolled synthesis of linear aliphatic polyesters is well studied, we can use stereochemistry to tune the properties of larger macrostructures, altering their thermal properties (Tg, Tc, Tm, Td), degradation and gelation.
  3. NEW POLYMER SYNTHESIS. We design catalysts to control ring-opening polymerizations and use these to prepare homo and copolymers of a variety of cyclic ester monomers. Catalyst design influences rates, relative reactivities and polymer tacticity as well as opening up immortal polymerization mechanisms. We design monomers and post-polymerisation modification strategies to impart functionality into these green materials with current applications in anti-microbials, high-refractive index polymers and additive manufacturing.


My research in a nutshell

We develop sustainable materials, from improving their properties by controlling synthesis to developing novel catalysts to making new-to-the-world functional materials.

Administrative Roles

Editor-in-chief of the journal Green Materials.

Head of the School of Graduate Studies within the School of Chemistry.

Collaborative Activity

Our international collaborations include:

Rinaldo Poli, University of Toulouse, Polymerization mechanism.

Michael Buback, Goettingen University, Polymerization mechanism.

Holger Frey, Mainz University, Junction-functionalized block copolymers.

Tim Storr, Simon Fraser University, Non-innocent ligands

Chris Kozak, Memorial University, Iron catalysts

Bruce Grindley, Dalhousie University, Dendritic cores

Rob Singer, St. Mary’s University, Ionic liquid-based catalysts

Glen Briand, Mt. Allison, Indium catalysts

Russ Kerr, UPEI, Tuberculosis drug-polymer conjugates

Jason Pearson, UPEI, Computational investigations of non-innocence

Brian Wagner, UPEI, Fluorescent drug delivery systems

Here at the University of Edinburgh we collaborate with:

Philip Hands, School of Engineering

Stephen Thomas, School of Chemistry

Vasileios Koutsos, School of Engineering

ID: 4830379