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New approaches for 13C benchtop NMR spectroscopy using parahydrogen-based hyperpolarisation

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, January 08, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Over the last fifty years, magnetic resonance (MR) has revolutionised many areas of science with the most well-known example being the application of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to clinical diagnosis. Equally important has been the use of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy as an analytical tool to identify and study molecules in the solid and liquid state throughout the chemical and physical sciences. The key limitations of NMR and MRI are the cost and size of modern MRI scanners and NMR spectrometers and the low inherent sensitivity of MR when compared to other approaches. The goal of this project is to open up new applications of this technique by bringing together recent advances in low-cost portable NMR spectrometers with the cutting edge in NMR sensitivity enhancement through parahydrogen-based hyperpolarisation.

Objective, Experimental approach and Novelty
Commercially available benchtop NMR spectrometers with fields of 1-2 T and better than 20 ppm field homogeneity have been demonstrated for use in reaction monitoring and control, including being incorporated into automated reaction screening systems. However, due to their relatively weak magnetic fields these instruments suffer from low sensitivity and significantly reduced chemical shift dispersion. This is not prohibitive for 1H NMR applications at moderate analyte concentrations; however, the resolution issue is very acute in 1H NMR. By contrast, 13C{1H} NMR spectra of natural abundance compounds are easily interpreted at fields of 1-2 T because of the relatively large ppm range for 13C and the lack of homonuclear couplings. However, the exceptionally low sensitivity of 13C means 13C NMR spectra can only be observed for highly concentrated samples and following large numbers of signal averages. The goal of this project is to target the hyperpolarisation of 13C at natural isotopic abundance using novel parahydrogen-based hyperpolarisation techniques and to implement these techniques on a benchtop NMR spectrometer. This project will build on previous work establishing that 1H and 13C hyperpolarisation can be used to achieve high-quality 1D and 2D NMR spectra on a benchtop instrument [1, 2] and that these enhanced signals can be used for reaction monitoring applications.[3] The focus in the project will be on improving the efficiency and broadening the scope of this approach through the design and implementation of novel in situ and ex situ methods for enhancing 13C signals in order to achieve high sensitivity 1D and 2D NMR spectra in reasonable experiment times. The methods will be tested on a range of target analytes and mixtures to establish the versatility and quantitative potential of the approach. This project will involve the design and implementation of 1D and 2D NMR experiments and will focus of the development of novel NMR pulse sequences and data analysis strategies as well as instrumentation development, where appropriate.

The project will be carried out under the supervision of Dr Meghan Halse. Throughout the project, the student will gain advanced training in MR-based analytical chemistry with additional skills in the theoretical basis of NMR and MRI, advanced data analysis and NMR and MRI experiment design and implementation on a range of instruments. This project will be carried out within the broader context of hyperpolarisation research at York. Therefore, in addition to meetings within the Halse research group, the student will also be exposed to the wider range of expertise within the Centre for Hyperpolarisation in Magnetic Resonance (CHyM) on topics including NMR spectroscopy, hyperpolarisation, MR theory, photochemistry, catalysis and kinetics.

All Chemistry research students have access to our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills:

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel: This PhD project is available to study full-time or part-time (50%).

This PhD will formally start on 1 October 2020. Induction activities will start on 28 September.

Funding Notes

This studentship is fully funded for 3 years and covers: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£15,009 estimated for 2020 entry), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate. Teaching studentships are available to any student who is eligible to pay tuition fees at the home rate: View Website
Other funding is available to those who are eligible for research council studentships: View Website
Funding may be provided by a Chemistry Teaching Studentship for which you should submit a separate application: View Website


[1] Robinson, A. D., Richardson, P. M. & Halse, M. E., Applied Sciences 9 (2019) 1173.
[2] Richardson et al. Analyst 143 (2018) 3442-3450.
[3] Semenova et al. Analytical Chemistry (2019) in press.

Candidate selection process:
• Applicants should submit a PhD application to the University of York by 8 January 2020
• Applicants should submit a Teaching Studentship Application by 8 January 2020:
• Supervisors may contact candidates either by email, telephone, web-chat or in person
• Supervisors can nominate up to 2 candidates to be interviewed for the project
• The interview panel will shortlist candidates for interview from all those nominated
• Shortlisted candidates will be invited to a panel interview at the University of York in the week commencing 10 February 2020
• The awarding committee will award studentships following the panel interviews
• Candidates will be notified of the outcome of the panel’s decision by email

How good is research at University of York in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 47.06

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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