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PhD Studentship in Autonomous Molecular Design

Department of Mechanical Engineering

Dr James Ewen , Applications accepted all year round Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a research studentship in the field of tribology, leading to the award of a PhD degree. The post is supported by a full bursary and fees (at the UK student rate). The successful candidate will work with Dr James P. Ewen and Prof. Daniele Dini and collaborate with scientists and engineers from Shell and Afton Chemical. The studentship is for three and a half years from October 2021.

The development of high-performance lubricant formulations remains a critical research activity in the pursuit of improved energy efficiency in the automotive sector. At the same time, formulations must be developed to facilitate the next generation of electric vehicles. The fluids used in these applications are complicated mixtures, consisting of blends of base fluids and additives designed to perform specific roles. Until now, lubricant development has been mostly evolutionary, with new components added to existing formulations to see whether they improve overall performance. Such top-down methods are slow and costly, meaning that novel techniques are required to keep pace with the rate of technological advancement.

Dr Ewen has recently been awarded a Research Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Engineering to develop a bottom-up approach to the design of lubricants and fluids for electric vehicles. This PhD project will apply autonomous molecular design approaches to develop new formulations for lubricants, transmission fluids, and battery cooling fluids. Supercomputers will be used to facilitate high-throughput screening and optimisation of molecular structures. The screening will be performed using molecular simulations and validated experimentally. The project is in collaboration with Afton Chemical and Shell via the University Technology Centre (UTC) for Fuels and Lubricants based in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The project will also involve collaborations with researchers in the Institute of Molecular Science and Engineering at Imperial College.

You will be an enthusiastic and self-motivated person who meets the academic requirements for enrolment for the PhD degree at Imperial College London. You will have a background in Chemical or Mechanical Engineering, Materials, Chemistry, Physics, Computer Science, Applied Mathematics, or a related field, and an enquiring and rigorous approach to research, together with a strong intellect and disciplined work habits. Good team-working, observational and communication skills are essential. Training will be given in molecular dynamics simulations, machine learning, and tribology. Previous experience in any of these would be beneficial, but is not essential.

To find out more about research at Imperial College London in this area, go to:

For information on how to apply, go to:

For further details of the post please contact Dr James P. Ewen () or Prof. Daniele Dini (). Interested applicants should email an up-to-date curriculum vitae. Suitable candidates will be required to complete an electronic application form available on the Imperial College London website in order for their qualifications to be assessed by the College Registry.

Funding Notes

The post is supported by a tax-free bursary and full coverage of fees (at the UK student rate only). The studentship is for three and a half years from October 2021.

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