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Exploring the chemical origins of life on Earth

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 31, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Applications are invited from suitably qualified candidates for three-year PhD Studentships. The studentships are fully funded by the Simons Foundation and available from January 2020, depending on applicant availability. The successful candidates will be based in the Department of Chemistry at UCL and supervised by Prof. Matthew Powner.

The overall project goal is to explore the chemical origins of life. Robust chemical reactions will be developed to explore the relationship predisposed chemistry and the origins of life. The work will involve developing of novel multicomponent reactivity and exploit nitrile reactivity, extending recently reported work from our group (Nature 2019, 571, 546–549; Nat. Commun. 2018, 9, 4073; Nat. Commun. 2017, 8, 15270; Nat. Chem. 2017, 9, 584–589; J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 13889; J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2010, 132, 16677).

This is an exciting opportunity for students with a strong chemistry background to tackle one the biggest problem in Science. The successful applicants will join a highly motivated group working at the interface of organic and biological chemistry to elucidate the chemistry that underpins the Origins of Life on Earth.

The postholders will be required to carry out chemical research into the synthesis and function of biological and biomimetic molecules in water. The postholder will contribute to the design and implementation of research strategy, and provide full records, analyses and internal reports of all research outcomes.

Prof. Powner is an Investigator of the Simons Foundation (New York, USA), and a broad range of international collaborative interactions are on-going within Simons Foundation Collaboration on the Origins of Life ( The minimum requirement is a first class or upper second-class honours degree (MSci, MChem) or equivalent.

Applications, including a cover letter and full and up-to-date CV, together with the names, addresses and email addresses of two academic referees should be sent as soon as possible to Prof. Powner (). Informal inquiries may be made with Prof. Powner, but suitable candidates must all complete an electronic application form at

Funding Notes

Due to funding restrictions, this studentship is only open to applicants from the UK and EU, or students who have indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

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