School of Chemistry & Physics

Prof Matthew P Akerman

Associate Professor


Prof Akerman has worked at UKZN for 10 years engaging in both teaching and research. His primary research areas are the applications of metals in medicine and using single crystal X-ray diffraction to rationalize the chemical structures of chemotherapeutics. Lead drug candidates are developed into radiopharmaceuticals. He has more than 75 publications and one patent and is an NRF Y-rated researcher. He was the recipient of the School distinguished teacher award in 2017 and the UKZN young researcher award in 2017 and 2018. He was the head of Teaching and Learning for the School from 2016 to 2018.

Research interests

  • X-ray Crystallography
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Metallodrugs
  • Molecular Simulations
  • Supramolecular Chemistry
  • Member of both the South African Chemical Institute, The American Chemical Society and the International Union of Crystallographers.

Research profiles

Research overview

Prof Ackerman’s Work revolves around the structure/activity relationships of novel metallodrugs, which have been designed to control the proliferation of neoplastic tissue, with various biological targets. This work covers a broad spectrum of inorganic chemistry beginning with molecule design and synthesis followed by X-ray crystallographic studies and then in vitro tumour cell screening. Once lead compounds are identified through their cytotoxicity profile, their mechanism of action is further studied using gelelectrophoresis. Where applicable, radio labelling is used to determine biodistribution and tumour up take in vivo.

Current projects

Prof Ackerman’s current projects revolve around the synthesis of novel metallodrugs; these are mostly based on copper(II). These compounds have a unique mechanism of action and have in some cases shown selective uptake by neoplastic tissue in xenograft models. Many of the projects are carried out in collaboration with the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa. This allows for the unique opportunities to radiolabel selected compounds for in vivo tumour cell studies. These projects have various spin-offs, which are also further studied. These include the study of supramolecular compounds and their association in solution as well as the solid state. These studies are further bolstered by molecular simulations. Working in my research group, you will be exposed to abroad range of chemical techniques including X-ray crystallography, NMR, EPR, IR and UV-visible spectroscopy as well as mass spectrometry and molecular simulations and in some case radiochemistry. 


  • South African Nuclear Energy Corporation
  • Prof Neerish Revaprasadu (SARCHi chair in nanotechnology)
  • Prof Orde Munro (SAARCHi chair in bioinirganic chemistry)