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Accelerating mechanistic understanding in chemical synthesis: Design of Experiment, kinetic analysis and systems modelling

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  • Full or part time
    Prof I J S Fairlamb
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This chemical synthesis based project will involve exploitation of automated robotic systems to conduct chemical reactions of interest to pharmaceutical and agrochemical sectors, and also academia. Exemplar reactions include Suzuki-Miyaura, Heck, Negishi, C-H bond functionalization chemistry, Hartwig-Buchwald amination and etherification reactions. It will involve testing many reaction variables and conducting kinetic analysis in situ, while running reactions in pseudo-high throughput mode using a Chemspeed ISYNTH robotic platform. Simpler lower-cost robotic systems will further be developed and used to generate reaction data in an efficient manner, being coupling to in situ reaction monitoring systems (e.g. by infrared spectroscopy).

The reaction outcomes (e.g. yield, reaction time, cost, other valuable information) will be examined using appropriate statistical analysis tools, to help drive both understanding and optimisation of the transformation under investigation. The project will involve working closely with both academic and industrial end-users. Expertise in the robotic platforms is in place to ensure that the project has the greatest chance of success (and dedicated bespoke training for the student). Automation and Robotics is transforming science and we expect both to play a critical role in chemical synthesis going-forwards. This project therefore provides the project student with a unique opportunity that has the potential to unlock a fantastic future career in the chemical sciences.

All research students follow our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills. All research students take the core training package which provides both a grounding in the skills required for their research, and transferable skills to enhance employability opportunities following graduation. Core training is progressive and takes place at appropriate points throughout a student’s higher degree programme, with the majority of training taking place in Year 1. In conjunction with the Core training, students, in consultation with their supervisor(s), select training related to the area of their research.

The project will deliver unique training in robotic technologies, catalysis, synthetic methodologies, computation and data analysis. The student will engage with the supervisor daily, benefiting from the extended infrastructure available, and the technology and expertise of Chemspeed. The student will further receive leading training in Schlenk line techniques and glove box usage, in addition to hands-on training with a reactIR IC RIR15 infrared spectrometer with diamond. Increasingly, industry is seeking to identify students with the ability to both prepare molecules, but also to obtain quantitative reaction data that can be used to accelerate reaction understanding and mechanistic interpretation.

The student will be trained in science ethics and engage in broader training (e.g. CV writing, interview technique, and developing a professional social media profile). We openly discuss gender bias (UoY Chemistry holds Athena-Swan Gold); Fairlamb group members regularly debate wide-ranging issues.

Fairlamb runs weekly research group meetings, and the student will be asked to write fortnightly reports, giving up-to-date results in a brief digest, aiding formal/informal discussions.

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel: This PhD project is available to study full-time or part-time (50%).

This PhD will formally start on 1 October 2019. Induction activities will start on 30 September.

Funding Notes

The studentship is fully funded for 4 years by an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Industrial CASE award with GlaxoSmithKline, and covers: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£14,777 for 2018-19), (ii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate, (iii) funding for consumables and travel
Funding is available to any student who meets the EPSRC eligibility criteria:


• Applicants should submit an application for a PhD in Chemistry by 9 January 2019
• Supervisors may contact their preferred candidates either by email, telephone, web-chat or in person
• Candidates will be notified of the outcome of the panel’s decision by email

How good is research at University of York in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 47.06

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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