Brianna Heazlewood


I’m Australian and completed both my undergraduate degree and PhD at the University of Sydney.  I came to Oxford in 2012 to work with Professor Tim Softley.

I’ve previously held a Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Research Fellowship in the Department of Chemistry. I currently hold a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship in the Department of Chemistry.

I’m interested in one of the most fundamental questions in physical chemistry: how do reactions occur?  To try and understand more about the reaction process, it is helpful to study reactions at very low temperatures.  At the lowest temperatures, ≤ 1 Kelvin, we can remove thermal averaging, effectively cleaning up the chemistry that occurs at higher temperatures.  With state-selected reactants and an ability to control the energy of reactive collisions, we are starting to probe how reactions occur.  We employ techniques including laser cooling, ion trapping, electrostatic guiding, buffer-gas cooling, and Stark deceleration to achieve this control over ion-molecule reaction processes.  We are looking to calculate the influence that parameters such as collision energy, internal energy, and orientation of the reactants have on the reaction rate, and on the properties of the products that are subsequently formed.

There is a lot more to chemistry than people in white lab coats mixing beakers of brightly coloured liquids!  To try and explain a little bit about what I do to a non-expert audience – and to introduce the unique experimental apparatus we have built in order to undertake this research – I’ve contributed a short podcast to the “Incredible Machines” series.