PhD Studentship in the atomistic dynamics of mechanochemical reactivity

   School of Chemistry

   Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Applications are sought for a fully funded 3.5-year PhD position in the group of Dr Adam Michalchuk in the School of Chemistry at the University of Birmingham to start Oct. 2024. 

Background. Molecules confined to the solid state have been traditionally understood as being inert. This is, however, far from the truth. Even within solids, molecules are in constant motion, and their reactivity can be readily induced with external perturbations like mechanical force. The ability to mechanically incite chemical reactions in solids – mechanochemistry – leads to exciting new possibilities for sustainable energy harvesting and conversion materials, and the ability to conduct chemical reactions without need for solvent.[1] In this regard, the emerging field of mechanochemistry is quickly becoming a cornerstone of sustainable chemical technologies. The rapidly growing interest in sustainable mechanochemical technologies seen in research and industry is met with a need for new models that explain this unconventional way of doing chemistry. In this respect, our group has pioneered fundamental developments of phonon-driven mechanochemical reactivity in crystalline molecular solids (see e.g., our recent papers Refs [2,3]). Our models have been highly successful at predicting simple chemical reactions in crystalline organic solids, laying the groundwork for more detailed investigations into the reactivity of complex systems. In particular, mounting experimental evidence indicates that most mechanochemical reactions occur in semi-crystalline bulk and surfaces, whose mechanochemical reactivity has not to date been explored.

Project Summary. Rooted in our developments of phonon-driven mechanochemistry, this project addresses the fundamental study of mechanochemical reactions in semi-crystalline solids and surfaces and will mark an important evolution in our understanding of mechanochemical reactivity. Such developments have the potential to expedite the adoption of mechanochemical technologies in industry, spanning the fine chemical and pharmaceutical sectors, through to energetic material design and manufacture. Working as a member of our team, you will develop new theoretical frameworks for understanding how mechanochemical reactions proceed within semi-crystalline solids and surfaces, based on cutting-edge tools of computational chemistry and machine learning. Emphasis will be placed on understanding how phonon-driven reactivity is affected by mechanical activation and loss of crystallinity, and hence delve into details of how mechanical energy becomes available to drive chemistry in realistic systems. Within the project there will be ample opportunity to supplement theory with experimental validation at state-of-the-art synchrotron and neutron scattering facilities in the UK and abroad. With the increasing importance of mechanochemistry across academic and industrial laboratories, the candidate will gain training that makes them competitive across both sectors. Moreover, the student will receive training in a diverse range of transferable skills, ensuring competitiveness in any employment sector. 

How to Apply. Candidates should have or expect to receive a first or upper second (2.1) honours degree (or equivalent) in chemistry, physics, or other related discipline. Familiarity with solid-state chemistry, computational chemistry, and programming (e.g. Python) would be a strong advantage. Due to funding restrictions, the position is open to those eligible for UK home fees status

For queries and expressions of interest, please contact Dr Adam Michalchuk at with a CV and statement outlining your suitability / interest for the post. 

The position will remain open until filled.

The University of Birmingham was founded in 1900 on an anti-discrimination ethos accepting men and women on an equal basis. Today, as a community of over 150 nationalities in one of the UK’s most vibrant cities, we remain committed to promoting equality, diversity, and fairness irrespective of age, disability, gender, pregnancy or marital status, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Chemistry (6) Physics (29)

Funding Notes

A funded PhD studentship is available for those qualifying for UK home fee status. The successful applicant will receive 3.5 years of support through a tax-free stipend (approx. £18k/year) and full tuition fees.


[1] Michalchuk et al. (2021) Front. Chem. 9, 685789
[2] Michalchuk (2023) Faraday Discuss. 241, 230-249
[3] Michalchuk et al. (2021) J. Chem. Phys. 154, 064105

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