The Group

Ortu Group – Autumn 2022

From left to right: Alex Bowles, Yu Liu, Becky Sheppard, Elias Alexopoulos, Ajay Khela, Matthew Stevens and Fabrizio Ortu.

Postdoctoral Researchers

Yu ‘Archie’ Liu (2022-present)
Yu Liu (Archie) is from Xi’an, an ancient capital city, in middle of P. R. China. He studied chemistry at Northwest University and graduated in 2013. He then undertook his postgraduate studies at both Northwest University and the University of Nottingham, obtaining master degree in 2015. He then joined Prof. Deborah Kays group as a Ph.D. student, focusing on the synthesis, characterisation and reactivity of low-coordinate first row transition metal complexes. Currently, he is working on the stabilisation of subvalent Group 2 complexes and low-oxidation lanthanide complexes in the Ortu Group.

Archie is a keen cyclist and his lifetime ambition is to join the Tour de France cycling race (without taking any performance enhancing drugs). He also likes to go to Germany to visit his family.

PhD students

Elias Alexopoulos (2022-2026)
Elias came to the UK from Athens, Greece. He obtained his undergraduate degree at Cardiff University and started venturing in inorganic chemistry looking into homogeneous copper catalysis for his BSc project. He then spent a year doing an MRes at the University of York, where worked with Dr Luke Wilkinson on developing novel Mo2 paddlewheel complexes by performing reactions at the ligand periphery. He then arrived here at Leicester for his Ph.D., where he is looking into constructing novel rare earth complexes and applying them towards FLP chemistry. He hopes to contribute to the lab by providing good music and by not complaining when his experiments are acting up.

Outside of the lab, Elias enjoys running, cooking, reading (mostly non-fiction) and watching professional tennis, usually cheering for Stefanos Tsitsipas (or shouting at him for yet another 20 minute toilet break in between sets). As if Greek wasn’t complicated enough as a native tongue, he is also trying to get closer to his Italian background by practicing the language.

Yuqing ‘Alex’ Shao (2021-2025)
Yuqing (Alex) hails from Shenyang, northeast China. She gained her master’s degree in physical chemistry in 2021 from the Dalian University of Technology, where she mainly focused on the design and functionalization of metal-organic amine catalysts and their photocatalytic application in small molecule reduction. Before that, she studied polymer science as an undergraduate at Northeast Forestry University in Harbin. She joined the group in 2021 to study Ce photocatalysis funded through a Dalian-Leicester CSC scholarship.

In her spare time, Alex likes playing badminton and climbing sometimes. She also pretends to love skateboard but still can’t do any cool tricks other than sliding. Her other hobbies include planting avocados and watching Modern Family over and over again.

Alex Bowles (2020-2024)
Alex carried out his final year MChem project in the group and graduated from the University of Leicester in 2020. He then returned for his PhD studies to work on low oxidation state alkaline earth and lanthanide chemistry. Alex’s main goal of his project is to maximise his contributions to the group, even if that is just showing the others the best pubs in town.

Alex hails from Baldock in North Hertforshire. Away from the lab, Alex has been a keen rugby player since a young age, formerly playing for the University on a Wednesday and still watching Tigers lose on a Saturday. Alex is also an enthusiastic home-brewer and brings a bit of chemistry into his kitchen at home for his weekend brews, thus making him a very popular addition to the group.

Matthew Stevens (2019-2023)
Matthew was born and bred in the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames, part of Greater London. He studied chemistry at the University of York, graduating in 2019. He moved to Leicester for his PhD studies in synergic main group/lanthanide chemistry, which brings things to the present day. 

Matthew has a keen interest in all chemical synthesis, and has been known to dabble in hobby chemistry since starting secondary school. Achievements in this regard include preparing crude potassium cuprate(III) and extracting vanadium metal from its ore. Away from the academic front, Matthew enjoys Marvel films and reading sci-fi books, but also hiking on the Yorkshire moors or North Downs.

MChem Students

Rebecca Sheppard (2022-2023)
Becky from Newbury spent last summer working with the group on an RSC summer internship bursary. She obviously enjoyed it so much that she came back for her 4th year MChem project, where she will be working alongside Alex on cationic Group 2 complexes. Whilst learning a lot, her contribution to the lab includes trying to teach Matthew about popular music (and a bit of good chemistry work!). During her free time, Becky enjoys all the social aspects of university life as well as being a keen cook and musician.

Ajay Khela (2022-2023)
Ajay is in his fourth year of his chemistry degree at Leicester, currently working with Archie on the use of sterically demanding monodentate amide ligands for the synthesis of homoleptic lanthanide complexes. Born and raised in Coventry, Ajay has been a lifelong Coventry City FC fan (#PUSB), much to his own distress. He also closely follows other sports such as rugby, hockey, basketball, and F1. In his spare time, Ajay enjoys cooking, walking, and going out with friends

Group Alumni

Kale Cooke – MChem student (2021/22)

Hannah Redmill – MChem student (2021/22) (now PhD student with Prof. David Mills, University of Manchester)

Emily Spray – MChem student (2020/21)

Sara Pischedda – Erasmus+ visiting student (2020)

Group pictures

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