PhD studentships DISRUPT: Disruptive processes for late-stage functionalisation in chemical synthesis at University of Nottingham

 The EPSRC and SFI Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Sustainable Chemistry at the University of Nottingham is offering three 48-month PhD studentships in organic chemistry in its thematic area “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. 

Examples of potential research projects 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. 

The first year of this CDT involves a student-focused and individually tailored series of technical and laboratory training courses and workshops, designed to provide the students with the skills and confidence required to successfully undertake their PhD project. 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. With the support of their academic mentors, the students also have the unique opportunity to co-design and develop the research projects which they will focus on in years 2-4 of their studies. 

The academic mentors in the theme are: Dr Miriam O’Duill (School of Chemistry); Prof. Cameron Alexander (School of Pharmacy); Dr Helen Betts (Nottingham University Hospital); Dr James Cuthbertson (School of Chemistry); Dr Kistaps Ermanis (School of Chemistry); Dr Grazziela Figueredo (School of Computer Science); Prof. Anna Grabowska (School of Medicine); Dr Anca Pordea (School of Engineering); Dr Mattia Silvi (School of Chemistry). 

Applicants should have, or are expected to achieve, a First Class or good 2:1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in chemistry or natural sciences specialising in chemistry. Research experience will be advantageous. 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. Due to funding restrictions, we are only able to accept applications from UK students at this time. 

For more information about the research topics, please contact Dr Miriam O’Duill at For more information about the programme and how to apply, please visit:

Application deadline 16th March 2023. 

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