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Combining Artificial Metalloenzymes and Biosyngas production for Next-Generation Catalytic Hydroformylation

School of Chemistry

About the Project

Background: The development of sustainable processes will be essential to reducing the global environmental impact of the modern petrochemical industry. Within this sector, the use of syngas is a central process used in the atom efficient manufacture of a range of platform chemicals (e.g. methanol, DME) and gasoline (Fischer-Tropsch process). However, the synthesis of syngas itself remains reliant on the steam reforming and gasification of fossil resources such as coal, natural gas and oil via energy-intensive processes that contribute significantly to atmospheric carbon emissions and global climate change. In fact, the annual demand for syngas exceeds 6 EJ (6.33 x 1018 J), which equates to 2% of the world’s current primary energy consumption. Although robust and economically viable, these processes are fundamentally unsustainable and access to sustainable syngas remains an outstanding challenge in chemical catalysis.

Research Project: This PhD project will build on ongoing work within the Jarvis and Wallace groups to use synthetic biology to assemble new strains of E. coli capable of producing CO, contributing to the production of bio-syngas for catalytic hydroformylation. A library of artificial hydroformylases will be created for both in vitro and in vivo hydroformylation. This will expand the biocatalytic toolbox to include catalysts for hydroformylation, a reaction that does not have a natural enzyme equivalent.

Keywords: Bioinorganic chemistry, biosynthetic pathways, sustainable feedstocks, artificial metalloenzymes.

The Candidate: The successful candidate will possess, or expect to obtain, a first class or upper-second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in chemistry or a related degree. Experience in synthetic chemistry, organic or inorganic, (bio)catalysis and/or chemical biology alongside associated analytical techniques is highly desirable. They should enjoy working as part of an interdisciplinary team, show an aptitude towards learning new techniques and be enthusiastic about working at the chemical/biological interface. Other essential attributes are good presentation and communication skills (written and oral).

The position will provide an excellent training across a broad range of chemistry and molecular biology techniques. Examples of experience that may be gained in this position includes pathway engineering, molecular biology, bioinorganic chemistry and organic synthesis. As part of the post the successful candidate will be required to undertake training and cohort development activities alongside the IBioIC and EaSICAT cohorts and a 3-month placement in Johnson Matthey. For further details of the training requirements see the IBioIC CTP website ( and the EaSICAT website (

Applications and informal enquiries (accompanied by a CV, transcript and a cover letter explaining your interest in the project) should be directed to:

Dr Amanda Jarvis,  and Dr Stephen Wallace,

Deadline for applications: 17th May 2021. Interviews will be held at the beginning of June.

The School of Chemistry holds a Silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of our commitment to advance gender equality in higher education. The University is a member of the Race Equality Charter and is a Stonewall Scotland Diversity Champion, actively promoting LGBT equality. The University has a range of initiatives to support a family friendly working environment. See our University Initiatives website for further information. University Initiatives website:

Funding Notes

A joint PhD studentship is available between the group of Dr Amanda Jarvis View Website) and Dr Stephen Wallace (View Website). The studentship is fully funded for 42 months through the IBioIC CTP/EaSICAT Programme and supported by Johnson Matthey. The funding covers tuition fees and an annual stipend (starting at £15,609 per annum) for a candidate satisfying EPSRC criteria: View Website.

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