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Fully funded 48-month PhD studentships in a range of STEM disciplines available at
the EPSRC and SFI CDT in Sustainable Chemistry

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 from all STEM disciplines to apply for 48-month PhD studentships to work in one of four Research Thematic areas: 

  1. DISRUPT: Disruptive processes for late-stage functionalisation in chemical synthesis
  2. LIFE: Lithium-Free electrochemical Energy
  3. MiSynth: Clean Chemical Synthesis Without Organic Solvents
  4. Sustainable biocatalytic solutions for key chemical transformations

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. Our core training is designed 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 will focus on topics specific to each of the three themes. The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, workshops, group activities and lab sessions.

The first year of this PhD opportunity involves a student-focused and individually tailored programme of technical and laboratory training courses and workshops, designed to provide the students with the skills and confidence required for a successful PhD project. With the support of their academic mentors, the students are also provided with a unique opportunity to design and develop their research projects.

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 2023/24

DISRUPT: Disruptive processes for late-stage functionalisation in chemical synthesis

The pharmaceutical industry is a large contributor to the UK’s carbon footprint. To meet current Net Zero goals, sustainable processes are required for the synthesis of high-value chemicals (pharmaceuticals, materials, etc.). DISRUPT aims to address this challenge by delivering new methodology for late-stage functionalisation of pharmaceutically relevant molecules. Projects will develop new reactions to access target molecules and investigate their application in drug discovery, drug delivery and medical imaging. We will provide research training in synthetic organic chemistry leading to a core PhD in chemistry, but the projects will also provide opportunities to work across disciplinary boundaries with co-investigators from the schools of pharmacy, medicine, engineering and computer science. These posts would ideally suit those with a strong interest in sustainability, organic chemistry and methodology development.

Examples of potential research areas in the theme include:

  • Development of novel photocatalytic reactions for C-H functionalisation of complex molecules (e.g., pharmaceuticals), and prediction of their selectivity.
  • Biocatalytic & enzymatic strategies for the modular chemical modification of drug targets.
  • Transition-metal catalysed isotopic labelling of medical (PET) imaging agents for the diagnosis and treatment of bacterial infections.
  • Selective functionalisation of biocompatible polymers for therapeutic applications, such as non-invasive monitoring of cancer drug delivery in real time.

For more information about the DISRUPT Theme, please contact Dr Miriam O’Duill: miriam.oduill@nottingham.ac.uk 



LIFE: Lithium-Free electrochemical Energy

Li-ion batteries have revolutionised personal electronics and opened the door to electrification of the automotive fleet, but their widespread use has brought significant challenges in terms of sustainability. While existing reserves of Li will likely meet our long-term demands (in contrast to some of the other elements used in Li-ion technologies), Li-mining processes raise significant socioeconomic and environmental issues. Consequently, new energy-storage systems based on abundant and readily available materials are critical for next-generation battery technologies.

Available research areas:

  • Synthesis of Organometallic Mg-ion carriers and solvent formulations
  • Design, demonstration, and evaluation of a non-lithium organic battery
  • Synthesis of hybrid organic/inorganic positive electrodes for organic batteries
  • Development of a Mg2+-conducting interphase at the Mg-battery negative electrode
  • Electrochemical studies of the magnesium battery and its components

Through these projects, students will develop a multi-disciplinary skillset, in an area of key strategic interest to the UK.

For more information about the LIFE Theme, please contact Dr Darren Walsh: darren.walsh@nottingham.ac.uk

 

MiSynth: Clean Chemical Synthesis Without Organic Solvents

Solvents account for around 80% of the total mass of a typical organic reaction and constitute 85% of the waste. Typical organic solvents are derived from crude oil, flammable, toxic, and are incinerated after use. Conventional chemical synthesis with organic solvents is not sustainable and we need to act now to develop alternatives that will lead to more environmentally responsible chemical processes. Water is regarded as a sustainable solvent for organic synthesis, and micelle-forming surfactants can be used to self-assemble nanoreactors for synthetic chemistry that would otherwise not occur in an aqueous environment. This approach to chemical synthesis is very attractive but there are serious challenges to overcome to render it competitive. Addressing these challenges with new science is the overarching goal of the MiSynth project.

Available research areas:

  • Micelle catalysis – new metal-based and organocatalytic chemistry for the construction of carbon-carbon and carbon-heteroatom bonds with stereocontrol.
  • Computational models for the optimisation and prediction of micelle properties and the design of novel nanoreactors.
  • Fundamental mechanistic studies of micelle-based catalysis using fluorescent probes.
  • Development of flow-mode micelle synthesis methods and membrane-based separation technology to support recycling, extraction, and purification.

Each of these will be supported by cutting-edge characterisation techniques such as cryo-TEM, DFT and COSMO-RS modelling.

For more information about the MiSynth Theme, please contact Prof Ross Denton: ross.denton@exmail.nottingham.ac.uk

Sustainable biocatalytic solutions for key chemical transformations

Green catalysis plays a central role in the global transition to a more sustainable future. The development of synthetic catalysts that facilitate greener chemistry, and which are themselves produced sustainably, is extremely challenging, yet nature uses proteins (enzymes) as powerful and versatile catalysts to drive a remarkable range of reactions on incredibly diverse substrates. These biocatalysts are made from renewable resources, they work efficiently at room temperature in water and in neoteric solvents and can therefore offer process engineering and sustainability advantages. Exploiting protein scaffolds to develop catalysts that can be tailored to a broad range of specific applications would offer huge benefits in terms of advancing sustainable processes. The realisation of the significant promise held by biocatalysis on a broader portfolio of substrates and reactions would have a global impact on chemical production.

This theme will explore and further expand the biocatalytic toolkit available to address a broad remit of applications that meet both academic and industrial needs. Our cohort-based approach will identify novel biocatalysts, and further repurpose existing options, to build a library of biocatalytic solutions to a variety of unmet challenges across the healthcare and materials industries.

Available research areas:

  • Amide bond formation and the site-selective modification of peptides and proteins
  • The glycosylation of versatile scaffolds for improved biocompatibility/stability
  • Combinatorial synthetic biology for evolution of enzymes and whole-cell biocatalysts
  • Biocatalysis for sustainable polymer synthesis/functionalisation

For more information about the Sustainable biocatalytic solutions for key chemical transformations them, please contact Dr Nicholas Mitchell: nicolas.mitchell@nottingham.ac.uk

Benefits of joining our CDT

  • 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 training activities facilitated by BiOrbic, University College Dublin
  • Access to external training, workshops and conferences
  • Excellent professional skills training package
  • Opportunity of fully funded external internships with national/international companies or academic/other institutions
  • An annual stipend of £17,668

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, Physics,  Material Science, Natural Sciences, Biotechnology, Pharmacy, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Pharmacy, Synthetic Biology, Computational Biology/Chemistry or a related subject
  • A 3-year undergraduate course in one of the above disciplines plus a Master’s 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.

If English is not your first language

If English isn't your first language, you will also need to meet the relevant English language requirements. An IELTS score of 6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element) is required, although we also accept alternative qualifications.

Eligibility information

Fully funded scholarships at the EPSRC and SFI CDT in Sustainable Chemistry are open to home and international students.  In line with UKRI funding guidance, we are able to recruit a limited number of international postgraduate students, however due to funding restrictions we are unable to guarantee places to all international applicants. 

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

The University of Nottingham and our CDT are committed to providing an inclusive study environment for all students. We welcome applications from candidates from different backgrounds and protected characteristics, including those from BAME backgrounds.

We offer flexibility in provision of student support including disability support plans and mechanisms to accommodate those with caring responsibilities including maternity and paternity leave. To veiw our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Statement, plese click here.

How to apply  

 

The application process involves two steps:

1) University of Nottingham form 

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

2) Completion of 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). Please note that we are only able to accept fully anonymised applications, further information on how to anonymise your application is available in the Application Guide document. 
  • 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:  cdt-suschem@nottingham.ac.uk

Theme Leads are happy to respond to informal questions about our centre and indeed the focus of respective research areas. Applicants should not send personal documents and CVs directly to Theme Leads, attachments will be disregarded to ensure that the blinded nature of our application process is maintained.

For questions related to eligibility, general CDT programme information and application process, please email us on cdt-suschem@nottingham.ac.uk.

Completion of University of Nottingham Online Application Form

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