Fully funded 48-month PhD studentships available at the EPSRC and SFI CDT in Sustainable Chemistry
at the University of Nottingham

The EPSRC and SFI Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Sustainable Chemistry: Atoms-2-Products, would like to invite suitably qualified and highly motivated applicants to apply for 48-month PhD studentships to work in one of three Research Thematic areas: 

  • Down to Earth: Catalysis using Earth Abundant Metal
  • Psus – A Sustainable Phosphorus Future
  • Plastics from Plants Initiative (PPI)

CDT Training Programme

Our students will undertake a 4-year PhD programme, where the first year offers the opportunity to access a balanced combination of Core and Research Theme training activities. The Core training aims to equip students with knowledge and tools related to the broader aspects of their research such as sustainability, entrepreneurial skills, and responsible research and innovation, and will include a wide range of workshops focusing on professional skills, career development and wellbeing. Research Theme training is focused on the topics specific to each of the three Themes. The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, workshops, group activities and lab sessions.

Over the remaining three years, whilst working on their research projects, students will continue to receive cross-disciplinary training and research, and will be presented with a wide range of additional training opportunities tailored to support them at the different stages of their PhD cycle.

Research Themes for the academic year 2021/22

Down to Earth: Catalysis using Earth Abundant Metals  (one scholarship available)

The overall aim of this Research Theme is the development and understanding of catalysis using earth abundant metals. It will focus on developing sustainable methodologies towards carbon-element bond formation using base metal catalysts, to leverage new reactivity and novel/cleaner production methods. The Theme researchers will investigate the design and synthesis of new catalysts, characterisation and mechanism of catalytic reactions, alternative solvents, theory and modelling of reactions, and scale-up of reactions.

Students will gain experience in a range of areas including:

  • Theory and practical characterisation of catalysts and catalytic reactions
  • Kinetics and mechanism in catalysis
  • Modelling of catalysts and reaction mechanisms
  • Applications, challenges and opportunities for base metal catalysts in industry

Psus – A Sustainable Phosphorus Future  - all scholarships for this Research Theme have been allocated

Phosphorus compounds fulfil essential roles in all aspects of modern life, from fertilisers and fire retardants to catalysts and pharmaceuticals. However, their synthesis currently relies on highly reactive precursors - such as the chemical weapons precursor PCl3 - and produces unacceptable waste streams. The four project areas of this Theme will address major challenges in contemporary phosphorus chemistry:

  • Next-generation ligands from safe, atom-economic building blocks
  • Novel bioisosteres and 3D scaffolds for drug discovery
  • Sustainable, scalable oligonucleotide chemistry for pharmaceutical processes
  • Efficient remediation and revalorisation of phosphorus waste
  • Theme-specific training will include
  • Contemporary synthetic and organophosphorus chemistry
  • Medicinal chemistry and drug design
  • Kinetic analysis, simulation and computation
  • Process chemistry, engineering and life-cycle analysis

Plastics from Plants Initiative (PPI) - all scholarships for this Research Theme have been allocated

Plastics from Plants Initiative (PPI) aims to develop new materials from sustainable plant-derived, non-food sources replacing petrochemical-derived materials in applications ranging from films/packaging through smart coatings to active therapeutics. This will involve:

  • Sustainable Monomer/Polymer/Surfactant Generation: for example the development/exploitation of enzymatic, catalytic, biotechnology methods to produce bespoke sustainable monomers, polymers and surfactants
  • Processing Development: for example additive manufacturing, super-critical carbon dioxide, emulsion/microfluidic/double emulsion, enzymatic and chemical precise post-functionalisation techniques will be used to control   assembly or degradation
  • Exploitation of these new materials in drug delivery, medical devices,  cosmetics, personal care, packaging, adhesives, inks and archaeological preservation

Consequently, each PhD project will be multidisciplinary to link cause and effect when changing the monomer/polymer molecular structure, assessing new materials properties in application-driven screening with both academic and industrial collaborators.

Benefits of studying with us

  • An excellent research environment, with world class facilities
  • Access to an extensive cross-disciplinary training programme
  • Purposefully tailored Research Theme-specific technical/lab training
  • Cohort approach to training with emphasis on collaborative work in smaller teams
  • Access to external training, workshops and conferences
  • Opportunity of external internships with national/international companies or academic/other institutions
  • An annual stipend of £15,285

Application criteria

Ideally, candidates will hold one of the following:

  • A minimum of an upper second-class honours degree from a 4-year undergraduate course, or equivalent in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, Biosciences, Natural Sciences, Biotechnology, Pharmacy or a  closely related subject.
  • A 3-year undergraduate course in one of the above disciplines plus a Masters degree and/or at least one year’s experience in industry.

The Centre would particularly welcome enthusiastic and highly motivated applicants with a strong academic curiosity and strong aptitude for research. Applicants should be committed to working in cross-disciplinary teams and be passionate about working towards a more sustainable future.

Eligibility information

Our studentships are governed by UKRI/EPSRC.
Awards for UK residents cover UK tuition fees and provide a stipend at the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) rate. International students may also apply to this Centre, EU applicants are now classified as international students.

For further details please read the UKRI guidance on EU and international eligibility for UKRI funded studentships.

How to apply

The application process involves two steps:

1) Completion of the CDT application process

Please ensure that we receive all of the following documents:

  • Completed CDT application form
  • CV  (Please make sure that you remove personal information including name, date of birth, contact details, name of your current/most recent institution and final grade/expected final grade.  Please do include the title of your previous and current undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications)
  • Two references 

Please note that at least one of the references should be from an academic in your current/most recent academic institution. The referees should complete and return the forms directly to the email address indicated on the form.All application documents should be emailed to the following email address:

2) University of Nottingham online application

Please ensure that you select ‘references to be submitted separately’ option in the reference information section when completing the online form.

We are accepting applications for Down to Earth: Catalysis using Earth Abundant Metals.  

Application deadline: 11 April 2021

Completion of CDT Form

CDT Application form

Reference form

Completion of University of Nottingham Online Application Form

Apply now


Celebrating Diversity

Celebrating Diversity

18 Mar 2021

The EPSRC CDT in Sustainable Chemistry in collaboration with the School of Psychology held the ‘Let’s Talk About Neurodiversity' event