Prof John Finney

tel: +44 (0)20 7679 1308
ext: 31308
fax: +44 (0)20 7679 0595


Research interests:

Structures and interactions in aqueous solutions
Enzyme dynamics and function
Structures and ordering in high pressure ices


  • B.A. Natural Sciences (part II Physics), Jesus College, Cambridge, 1964.
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Education, University of Leicester, 1965.
  • Ph.D. Crystallography, Birkbeck College, University of London, 1968.
  • Lecturer (1968), Reader (1977) and Professor (1986-93) of Crystallography, Birkbeck College, University of London
  • Head, Neutron Science Division, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory 1988-93
  • Chief Scientist, ISIS Facility, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory 1990-93
  • Quain Professor of Physics, University College London, 1993-1999
  • Science Coordinator, European Spallation Source, 1993-96
  • Professor of Physics, University College London 1999-to date.

Other activities

My undergraduate teaching interests focus on both communications skills and ethical issues of the scientific process and its applications. I work extensively within the Pugwash movement which is concerned with the role of science in society generally and in international affairs in particular. I am a past Vice-President of the British Crystallographic Association and an honorary Vice-President of Euroscience.


My research interests are centred on liquid, non-crystalline and disordered crystalline systems, with an emphasis on water, aqueous solutions and the role of water in biological processes. Current active projects relate to (a) structure and interactions in aqueous solutions, with particular reference to the understanding of solution processes such as the hydrophobic interaction, salting out, and self-assembly; (b) enzyme dynamics and function (in particular the effect of solvent) and (c) structure and ordering in high pressure ices.

This is a view of ice XII, a metastable phase of ice. Pretty, isn’t it? It was discovered, and its structure solved, by work in the group in UCL in the late 1990s, in collaboration with colleagues in Göttingen. This was the first new phase of ice to be found since the pioneering work of Bridgman in the 1930s. Not satisfied with this, however, we have recently, in collaboration with researchers in Austria and at the ISIS Pulsed Neutron Facility, discovered two further new phases ices XIII and XIV, and in doing so solved one of the outstanding problems relating to how water molecules order at low temperatures. Moreover, understanding these structures helps us to understand the way water molecules interact with each other, information which is important if we are to understand how water is involved in the essential biological processes that are necessary for maintaining life.

Recent Publications

  • “Protein Dynamics and Stability: The Distribution of Atomic Fluctuations in Thermophilic and Mesophilic Dihydrofolate Reductase Derived Using Elastic Incoherent Neutron Scattering”, Lars Meinhold, David Clement, Moeava Tehei, Roy Daniel, John L. Finney and Jeremy C. Smith. Biophysical Journal 94 (2008) 4812–4818.
  • “The Structure of a Supersaturated Solution: A Neutron Scattering Study of Aqueous Urea”, R. C. Burton, E. S. Ferrari, R. J. Davey, J. Hopwood, M. J. Quayle, J. L. Finney, and D. T. Bowron. Crystal Growth & Design 8 (2008) 1559–1565.
  • “A calorimetric study on the low temperature dynamics of doped ice V and its reversible phase transition to hydrogen ordered ice XIII”, Christoph G. Salzmann, Paolo G. Radaelli, John L. Finney and Erwin Mayer. Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 10 (2008) 6313 - 6324
  • "New Phases of Ice", C.G. Salzmann, J.L. Finney, P.G. Radaelli and E. Mayer. Notizario Neutroni e Luce Sincrotrone 14 (1) (2009) 32-33.
  • "Relaxation effects in low density amorphous ice: Two distinct structural states observed by neutron diffraction", K. Winkel, D. T. Bowron, T. Loerting, E. Mayer, and J. L. Finney, J. Chem. Phys. 130 (2009) 204502

Complete publication list: [PDF file]

Research Highlights

As water freezes into ice, its molecules rearrange themselves. Freeze it at higher pressure and the molecular rearrangement...
Tetrahydrofuran (THF) is a small ringshaped molecule consisting of four carbon atoms and an oxygen atom, with two hydrogen...