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Computational Photochemical Dynamics of Light Driven Processes

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, February 28, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

You will use computational and theoretical chemistry approaches to study excited state dynamics. Important photochemistry such as occurring in photodynamic anti-cancer therapies, and photovoltaic devices will be studied. You will work with a wide range of theoretical and experimental collaborators on cutting edge problems that require a more detailed understanding in order to make progress. Powerful theoretical and computational approaches will yield extraordinary detail on the underlying processes at the level of both electrons (via multireference quantum chemistry), and nuclei (via multi-state quantum dynamics).

Phenomena such as photosynthesis and vision play a key role for Life on Earth. They are triggered by a molecule absorbing light. Similar light-induced molecular processes are now exploited in new technologies such as photocatalysis (ACS Catal., 2017 (7), 4602), photovoltaics (PCCP, 2016 (18), 21937) or photodynamic therapies for cancer (Nature Chem., 2019 (11), 1041). In every instance, light creates a highly excited molecular state that evolves rapidly via the coupled motion of the electrons and nuclei in the molecule. This results in complex quantum dynamics that determines the outcome of the process. A good understanding of such photochemical processes remains elusive. Available experimental techniques only observe one specific aspect of the dynamics, and the extremely short time scales involved make it difficult to catch intermediate stages. Thus, experimental information is limited, and accurate models are crucial. This project will focus on the development and application of quantum chemistry to model excited state processes, and their subsequent integration into quantum dynamics methods (with collaborators). We will then attack cutting edge problems in light-induced chemistry.

Name of supervisor: Prof. Martin Paterson, email:


All applicants must have or expect to have a 1st class MChem, MPhys, MSci, MEng or equivalent degree by Autumn 2020. Selection will be based on academic excellence and research potential, and all short-listed applicants will be interviewed (in person or by Skype). Some of our scholarships are only open to UK/EU applicants who meet residency requirements set out by EPSRC. Some scholarships are available for exceptional overseas candidates

Closing Date

All applications must be received by 28th February 2020. All successful candidates should usually expect to start in September/October 2020.

How to Apply

Apply Online:
When applying through the Heriot-Watt on-line system please ensure you provide the following information:
(a) in ‘Study Option’
You will need to select ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘Postgraduate Research’. ‘Programme’ presents you with a drop-down menu. Choose Chemistry PhD and select September 2020 for study option (this can be updated at a later date if required)
(b) in ‘Research Project Information’
You will be provided with a free text box for details of your research project. Enter Title and Reference number of the project for which you are applying and also enter the supervisor’s name.

This information will greatly assist us in tracking your application.

Please note that once you have submitted your application, it will not be considered until you have uploaded your CV and transcripts.

Funding Notes

Level of Award: We have a number of scholarships available. The annual stipend will be approx. £15,000 and full fees will be paid for a period of between 3 to 3.5 years.

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