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Development of Analytical Methods for Enantioselective Assessment of Licit and Illicit Drugs

Project Description

The Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) at the University of Bath has now launched a new joint PhD programme with Monash University, Australia. The Bath Monash Global PhD Programme will have its first intake in October this year.

This project is one of a number that are in competition for up to four funded studentships. More details are available here:

Home institution: Monash University
Supervisor at Bath: Professor Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern
Supervisors at Monash: Professor Philip Marriott (lead)

Project Background:

Although enantiomers essentially have the same chemical and physical properties, in living systems they elicit quite different properties. For flavours, one enantiomer may have a strong odour response whilst the other may be inactive, due to different interactions with sensory receptors. For drugs, one enantiomer may be toxic or psychoactive; the other non-active. The (R)-enantiomer of ecstasy has a slower elimination half-life that the (S)-enantiomer. Assessment of molecular chirality is required if the activity of enantiomers is to be quantified. Analytical methods directed to quantify these enantiomers today invariably rely upon use of chiral separation media in chromatographic methods, rather than prior synthesis of diastereomers. Assessment of chirality can also be a potent method to track the source of illicit drugs, and may be used for identification of supply chain. Rarely do police forensic methods extend to identification of chiral signature of actives, but there is interest in assessing street drugs for the active component.

This Project:

This project will apply leading-edge separation technologies with the informing power of mass spectrometry to develop new capabilities for general enantioseparations of illicit drugs such as amphetamines and new psychoactive substances (e.g. cathinones). Both HPLC and GC methods will be of interest, with the latter focussed on use of novel strategies in multidimensional separations for profiling of drugs from natural and synthetic sources. Chiral HPLC separation will utilise both low resolution mass spectrometry (triple quadrupole) as well as high resolution quadrupole time-of-flight technology.

Facilities and Capabilities:

University of Bath (BK-H) has access to HPLC and MS facilities (both low resolution mass spectrometry (triple quadrupole) for targeted analysis and high resolution QTOFMS for non-target analysis) and capabilities in enantiomeric analysis, with prior studies in assessing chiral drugs, including illicit substances. Monash University (PM) has advanced MDGC and MS – QQQMS and QTOFMS – facilities, used recently to assess natural chiral signatures in natural products, profiling of ecstasy synthesis procedures, and forensic drug analysis in collaboration with Victoria Police, with interest in portable GC–MS technology for on-site drug profiling.


We invite applications from Science and Engineering graduates who have, or expect to obtain, a first or upper second class degree and have a strong interest in Sustainable Chemical Technologies.

You may express an interest in up to three projects in order of preference. See the CSCT website for more information:

Please submit your application at the Home institution of your preferred project. However, please note that you are applying for a joint PhD programme and applications will be processed as such.

If this is your preferred project, apply to Monash here:

If the Home institution of your preferred project is Bath, apply here:
Please quote ‘Bath Monash PhD studentship’ in the Finance section and the lead supervisor(s)’ name(s) and project title(s) in the ‘Your research interests’ section. More information on applying to Bath may be found here:

Enquiries about the application process should be sent to .

Funding Notes

Bath Monash PhD studentships include tuition fee sponsorship and a living allowance (stipend) for the course duration (up to 42 months maximum). Note, however, that studentships for Bath-based projects will provide cover for UK/EU tuition fees ONLY. Non-Australian nationals studying in Australia will be required to pay their own Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).

Additional and suitably qualified applicants who can access a scholarship/studentship from other sources will be also considered.

How good is research at University of Bath in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 33.10

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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