Dr. Matthew Lyle

Dr Matthew J. Lyle

Founder & DirectorBSc (Hons) Sydney, PhD Cambridge

Dr Lyle is passionate about the accessibility of high-quality education & founded Sci School in 2011.

As a Cambridge academic, Dr Lyle is at the forefront of research in theoretical quantum physics & his publications feature in leading physics journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Physical Review. He is an Associate of the UK Institute of Physics & the American Physical Society, which includes peer-review of new research papers & delivering engaging lectures at the largest physics conferences in the world.

Dr Lyle is Academic Supervisor for mathematics & science undergraduates at Peterhouse & St Edmund's colleges, Cambridge, where he facilitates weekly tutorials & the setting, invigilating & marking of exams. He was previously a Teaching Fellow at the University of Sydney in the Chemistry & Physics Departments & the principal mathematics tutor for the Commonwealth-funded Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme.

With 10 years teaching experience at the secondary level, Dr Lyle has taught literally hundreds of successful HSC maths & science students. He has also worked with the major O- & A-Level exam boards in the UK, including Edexcel, OCR & AQA.

As the recipient of numerous academic awards & scholarships, Dr Lyle is a prime role model of academic excellence for his students. As a Sydney University Merit Scholar, he excelled in the Dean's Talented Student Program, offered by invitation to the top 1 per cent of students, & scored the top award for his Honours research thesis, which contributed to a full scholarship to Cambridge. Achieving a UAI of 99.70, he was Dux of his high school & recipient of the Premier's Award for All Round Excellence in the HSC.

Selected Publications & Conference Proceedings


Prediction of 10-fold coordinated TiO2 and SiO2 structures at multimegabar pressures
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Pages 6898–6901, Volume 122, 2015

A new dense form of titanium dioxide is discovered to be the most stable form at extreme pressures. Further quantum physics calculations demonstrate this form of titanium dioxide is metallic at such high pressures, due to the compression of electron shells. In Earth sciences, the high-pressure forms of titanium dioxide are known to be mirrored by silica, the major component of the crust of rocky planets. At pressures above 10 terra-Pascals, silica is demonstrated to mirror the new form of titanium dioxide, which means that the cores of large interstellar rocky planets are both denser than previously thought and metallic.

Surface Science

Molecular adsorption and methanol synthesis on the oxidized Cu/ZnO(0001) surface
Surface Science
Pages 97–104, Volume 641, 2015

Copper-doped zinc oxide is the primary catalyst used in the production of methanol, one of the top-10 industrial reactions globally. At the high temperatures achieved during the reaction, the catalyst surface distorts and an atomically-thin copper oxide layer forms. We show how this activated catalyst is highly reactive towards both the reactant and intermediary molecules involved in the reaction. Compared with undoped zinc oxide, the addition of copper significantly improves the energetics of the catalyst towards methanol production.


High-pressure phases of alumina
American Physical Society
2014 March Conference, Denver, USA

Aluminium oxide, the mineral from which ruby and sapphire are comprised, is widely used as a standard to calibrate high-pressure experiments. It is also a major component of the Earth's crust. As such, understanding the behaviour of aluminium oxide at high pressures is of great importance. Here we present a new dense form of aluminium oxide that was discovered to be stable at pressures approaching that of the Earth's core.


Cu/ZnO(0001) under oxidating and reducing conditions: A first-principles survey of surface structures
Physical Review B
Pages 1253111–12531125, Volume 84, 2011

Copper-doped zinc oxide is the primary catalyst used in the production of methanol, one of the top-10 industrial reactions globally. At the high temperatures achieved during the reaction, the catalyst surface distorts and a reconstruction takes place. We show that at in the case of low oxygen concentrations, copper atoms form islands on the surface. In cases where oxygen is in excess, atomically-thin copper oxide layers form, with stoichiometric ratios indicative of available oxygen.


Coverage and charge-state dependent adsorption of carbon monoxide on the zinc oxide (0001) surface
Physical Review B
Pages 1654011–1654019, Volume 82, 2010

Undoped zinc oxide may be used as a catalyst for the production of methanol, though less effective than the copper-doped variety. Zinc oxide is also a catalyst for the hydrogenation of ethylene and for the water-gas-shift reaction. In these reactions the adsorption of carbon monoxide is known to play a rate-determining role, yet the chemical and physical behaviour of the molecule on the surface is far from understood. We show that both the energetics and adsorption geometries of carbon monoxide on the surface strongly depend on the molecular coverage and charge on the molecule.

Selected Awards & Scholarships

2014 Lundgren Research Award $3,000
2013 Gunn Research Award (sole recipient) $2,000
2013 The Sidney Perry Foundation Award $1,500
2011 Gowrie Trust Scholarship (sole recipient) $8,000
2010 Peterhouse Cambridge Graduate Studentship $150,000
2010 University of Sydney, Summer Research Award $3,000
2009 University of Sydney, School of Physics Honours Award $3,000
2009 Monash University, Summer Research Award (sole recipient) $3,000
2008 Charlie Bell School of Management, National Award for Future Leaders (sole recipient) $15,000
2008 University of Sydney, Summer Research Award $3,000
2007 ANZAC Institute of Medicine, Summer Research Award (sole recipient) $3,000
2006 University of Sydney Undergraduate Scholarship $6,000