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PhD in Nanoscience \ Nanoparticles \ Molecular Replication Networks

Project Description

Are you interested in postgraduate research applying synthetic chemistry to investigate chemical complexity with nanomaterials? Are you an enthusiastic scientist who wants to help develop a cutting-edge cross-disciplinary research area? Do you have excellent work ethic, organisation skills and problem solving abilities? Are you an EU citizen with a first or upper second-class degree (or equivalent) in Chemistry? If so, there is a PhD position available to start in September 2020 or before for an outstanding candidate to be jointly supervised by Dr Euan Kay and Professor Douglas Philp at the University of St Andrews.

Complex networks of chemical reactions sustain every function that we recognise as characteristic of “living” systems. Systems chemistry tries to recreate and understand chemical complexity by establishing artificial reaction networks from simple components that can be studied experimentally and understood quantitatively. The structures associated with biological life span sizes from molecular to macroscopic and are constantly being assembled, disassembled, modified and adapted in response to specific inputs. By contrast, few artificial chemical systems combine processes occurring in several environments (e.g. in solution and on surfaces) or are able to exert their influence on components spanning several size scales.

Combining recently developed chemically responsive “dynamic covalent” nanoparticles with “replicating” molecules that can catalyse their own formation, you will create “replication-enabled nanoparticles”. This new category of nanoscale chemically reactive species will be capable of translating and amplifying specific molecular signals to produce macroscopic outputs. This will lead to new classes of hierarchical and dynamically responsive material.

For recent relevant papers, see:
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2015, 54, 4187
Chem. Sci. 2018, 9, 125
Chem. Sci. 2020, 11, 372
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, 139, 17565
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 6832
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 13905

This multi-disciplinary project will provide training in a wide range of modern synthetic and analytical techniques, applied to molecular, supramolecular and nanoscale systems. You will gain hands-on experience with a range of analytical techniques, including NMR, UV-Vis, mass spectrometry, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), dynamic light scattering (DLS), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA).You will become experienced in “physical–organic” methods and associated data analysis, and you will have the opportunity to learn computational methods for simulating molecular structure, interactions and reaction network kinetics. A PhD in this area will also develop your team-working, written and oral communication skills, making excellent preparation for a career in academia or industry. Group members are expected to present their published work at national and international conferences and funding is available to support this.

The Kay and Philp labs will shortly occupy fully renovated (March 2020) wet chemistry laboratories with dedicated instrument space. Synthetic chemistry is supported by world-class characterization facilities, including solution-state and solid-state NMR; powder and single-crystal X-ray diffractometers; mass spectrometry; a nationally-recognized electron microscopy centre; and the Scottish Centre for Interdisciplinary Surface Spectroscopy. For more information, see : and

Entry Requirements
A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

Please see: or e-mail for more information regarding PhD opportunities and applications at the School of Chemistry.

Candidates interested in undertaking a PhD in the Kay group should register their interest as soon as possible. Informal enquiries can be made to Dr Euan Kay ().

Formal applications should be made online at:

Closing date: applications should be received no later than 30 March 2020 for standard admissions, although later applications may be considered depending on the funds remaining in place.

Funding Notes

Funding: full tuition fees for UK/EU students plus a tax-free stipend (currently £15,009 per annum) for up to 3.5 years.


[1] F. della Sala, E. R. Kay, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2015, 54, 4187–4191. DOI:10.1002/anie.201409602
[2] W. Edwards, N. Marro, G. Turner, E. R. Kay, Chem. Sci. 2018, 9, 125–133. DOI: 10.1039/C7SC03666C
[3] N. Marro, F. della Sala, E. R. KayChem. Sci. 2020, 11, 372–383. DOI: 10.1039/C9SC04195H
[4] J. W. Sadownik, T. Kosikova, D. Philp, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, 139, 17565–17573. DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b09735
[5] C. C. Robertson, H. W. Mackenzie, T. Kosikova, D. Philp, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 6832–6841. DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b13576
[6] J. Huck, T. Kosikova, D. Philp, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 13905–13913. DOI: 10.1021/jacs.9b06697

How good is research at University of St Andrews in Chemistry?
(joint submission with University of Edinburgh)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 37.30

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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