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Development of Ni Catalysis as an Alternative to Pd for the Coupling of Hindered Substrates

Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry

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Dr David Nelson No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
Glasgow United Kingdom Computational Chemistry Inorganic Chemistry Organic Chemistry Synthetic Chemistry

About the Project

Nickel catalysis has enabled a significant range of exciting synthetic chemistry that has established nickel as more than simply a cheap version of palladium. However, our understanding of the underlying reaction mechanisms and structure/reactivity relationships in nickel catalysis is far from complete. This project will examine a key area of nickel catalysis with the aim of enabling the scope of valuable nickel-catalysed reactions to be extended significantly. Specifically, the project will examine the reactions of sterically-hindered aryl halides in cross-coupling reactions.

The project will use a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches to tackle this challenge. This will include:

(i) The synthesis, characterisation, and study of potential intermediates in catalysis

(ii) Kinetic studies to evaluate and quantify structure/reactivity relationships

(iii) Computational chemistry to rationalise and predict the reactivity observed in experimental work

(iv) Synthetic organic chemistry to design, optimise, and evaluate conditions for the cross-coupling reactions of sterically-hindered aryl halides

The project is generously funded by a four year Industrial CASE studentship in collaboration with Syngenta, and will include at least three months on-site at Jeallot's Hill. Our collaborators on this project are expert physical organic chemists from the Process Studies Group.

The ideal candidate for this position will:

(i) Have, or be on track for, a First or Upper Second Class degree in Chemistry

(ii) Have research experience in the form of an industrial placement year and/or final year project, ideally in the area(s) of organic and/or organometallic and/or inorganic chemistry

(iii) Be driven by curiosity, and have a desire to not only apply catalytic reactions but to develop a full understanding of how they operate

(iv) Be willing to learn about new tools and techniques to study catalysis and mechanisms in organometallic chemistry

The student who undertakes this project will join a group with broad interests in understanding reaction mechanisms and structure/reactivity relationships in transition metal catalysis, with a focus on nickel catalysis and on C-H activation. We have strong industrial links, with past and present students in the group having been funded by organisations including GSK, Syngenta, and AstraZeneca. PhD students at the University of Strathclyde undertake a PGCert in Researcher Development in parallel to their PhD, which comprises a series of courses that cover both specialist topics and broader skills that are essential for effective researchers.

Our work on nickel catalysis has been published in a number of leading journals. Recent work has included: examining the reactions of nickel(0) with aryl halides using computational[1,2] and experimental[3] techniques; identifying functional groups that influence the outcomes of catalytic reactions[4,5]; and understanding the mechanisms of reactions between alkyl halides and nickel(0).[6]


To apply for this studentship, please send a cover letter, CV, and details of two referees to Dr David Nelson ([Email Address Removed]). Your cover letter should include a brief summary of your research experience and why you are applying for this position.

Funding Notes

Funded by Syngenta (Jeallot's Hill) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) via a 48 month ICASE studentship.
Please note that as the studentship only covers UK student fees we are only able to consider applications from UK citizens.


[1] I. Funes-Ardoiz, D. J. Nelson, and F. Maseras, Chem. Eur. J., 2017, 23, 16728
[2] D. J. Nelson and F. Maseras, Chem. Commun., 2018, 54, 10646
[3] S. Bajo, G. Laidlaw, A. R. Kennedy, S. Sproules, and D. J. Nelson, Organometallics, 2017, 36, 1662
[4] A. K. Cooper, P. M. Burton, and D. J. Nelson, Synthesis, 2020, 52, 565
[5] A. K. Cooper, D. K. Leonard, S. Bajo, P. M. Burton, and D. J. Nelson, Chem. Sci., 2020, 11, 1905
[6] M. E. Greaves, T. O. Ronson, G. C. Lloyd-Jones, F. Maseras, S. Sproules, and D. J. Nelson, ACS Catalysis, 2020, 10, 10717
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