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  PhD Chemistry - Catalytic Oxidation of Lignin to Vanillin using metal oxides

   College of Science and Engineering

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  Dr E K Gibson, Dr L Vilà-Nadal  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

We seek to recruit a highly motivated and talented PhD student in the School of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow to work in a multidisciplinary project within the research groups of Dr Gibson (web) Dr Laia Vilà-Nadal (link to LVN-group’s website). The successful candidate will be part of a multidisciplinary effort aimed at applying the concept of ‘materials by design’ to metal oxide chemistry synthesis.

A bit about the project: lignin, a major biopolymer in lignocellulosic biomass, is a promising aromatic chemical feedstock. In fact, one of the trendiest areas in biorefinery research is the chemical conversion of lignin, an aromatic polymer composed of 20–35 percent lignocellulose, into industrially useful chemicals. Since the 1950s, the aerobic oxidation of sodium lignosulfonate has been used to produce industrial vanillin from lignin. The rise in energy demand and pollution from fossil fuel use has driven the search for eco-friendly alternatives. Lignin, a cross-linked phenolic polymer produced by the pulp and paper industries, is particularly interesting. Lignin conversion is normally done in a liquid at high temperatures and pressure. Hydrothermal temperatures cause deactivation of solid catalyst active sites, resulting in poor catalytic activity, selectivity, and yield. Selective lignin conversion requires active site optimization to prevent undesired cleavage and re-condensation, minimise oxygen consumption, and promote waste minimization for effective lignin oxidation to vanillin.

A bit about your supervisors: Dr Gibson is a Research Fellow at the School of Chemistry with a great interest in heterogeneous catalysis. Her goal is to make processes more efficient and selective often reducing the use of aftertreatment or harsh chemicals and reducing energy consumption, which all have positive impacts for the environment, by characterising the catalysts involved as they react using X-ray and spectroscopic techniques. More specifically, she is involved in a project looking to reduce particle emissions of car exhausts, as improvements are needed in the interim before the move to electric vehicles. Dr Nadal is a newly appointed Lecturer at the School of Chemistry in the University of Glasgow. Her group works in theoretical chemistry and computational modelling of metal oxide clusters. Renowned for studying oxide-based materials in electronics to further increase the circuit density in electronic devices, beyond the limitations of lithography. Further interests in inorganic porous materials, environmental catalysis, and N2-activation. As a woman PI, she wants to help addressing the diversity in STEM subjects. You will not just be working with Drs Gibson and Nadal, though-you will be working in a friendly group of researchers between Chemistry, Engineering and Robotics on similar topics.

We are looking for an enthusiastic and flexible candidate from a STEM background (chemistry/physics/ engineering/etc.) willing to learn new skills in computational chemistry and catalyst characterisation, and comfortable in a multidisciplinary setting. If you have any questions before applying send her an email.

Eligibility: We are seeking an enthusiastic and highly motivated person with good interpersonal skills and a keen interest in research. The ideal student will have a strong undergraduate degree (ideally, 2:1 or higher) in a STEM subject (chemistry/physics/engineering or similar), or a distinction or high merit at MSc level (or international equivalent) in chemistry, physics, or materials science. 

It is the University of Glasgow’s mission to foster an inclusive climate, which ensures equality in our working, learning, research and teaching environment.

We strongly endorse the principles of Athena SWAN, including a supportive and flexible working environment, with commitment from all levels of the organisation in promoting gender equality.

As an Athena SWAN Bronze Award holder, the School of Chemistry has equality, diversity and inclusion at its heart, and actively supports applications from all sections of society.

More details of the School’s Athena SWAN activities can be found here:

How to Apply: Please refer to the following website for details on how to apply:

Chemistry (6) Materials Science (24)

Funding Notes

Funding is available to cover tuition fees for UK applicants for 3.5 years, as well as paying a stipend at the Research Council rate (estimated £15,840for Session 2022-23).
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