Professor Cairns grew up in Northern Ireland and earned both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees (B.Sc. 1977, and Ph.D. 1980) at the Queen's University of Belfast. After postdoctoral research at (The) Ohio State University he joined the Drake faculty in 1986.
Professor Cairns was trained as an inorganic chemist and has a special interest in the broad fields of (1) transition metal bioinorganic chemistry and (2) molecular devices. His research projects are devoted to the synthesis, characterization and applications of transition metal complexes which can act as redox catalysts or that may have useful photophysical properties.
These projects involve all of the traditional subdisciplines of chemistry-inorganic, organic, analytical, physical and biochemistry-and thus are designed to be of interest to students whose own interests lie in any these areas.