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PhD Studentship: Solvent-free Sustainable Organic Synthesis Enabled by Novel Electride Reagents

   School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

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  Dr Erli Lu  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project


An exciting opportunity to develop conceptually new reagents and revolutionise the organic synthesis into a sustainable future, in this PhD programme, you will push the boundary of inorganic chemistry by developing a rare type of reagents, electrides, and utilise them to achieve the holy grail of sustainable organic synthesis: eliminating bulk solvents, hazardous reagents and carbon-/energy-intense conditions.

Electrides feature free electrons as anions, which endow them with unique physical properties. However, electrides have few applications in organic synthesis due to their poor stability and accessibility. Recently, we have developed the first stable and easily accessible electride. The potential of the electride reagent was demonstrated on a notoriously unamiable organic reaction, the Birch reduction, by removing the need of Na-NH3(l), low-temperature conditions and bulk solvents (manuscript submitted to Science).

Built on this breakthrough, this project will fully develop the electride reagents and exploit their potential in sustainable organic synthesis. Under the supervision of an eminent cross-disciplinary group of chemists, this project will provide multidisciplinary training in experimental/computational skills in inorganic and organic chemistry, including:

·        Solvent-free synthesis (Dr Erli Lu): Mechanochemistry (ball mill).

·        Experimental inorganic chemistry (Dr Erli Lu): Anaerobic synthesis (Schlenk line, glovebox) and characterisations (single-crystal & powder XRD, NMR, UV/Vis, IR, EPR, magnetism).

·        Experimental organic chemistry (Dr Erli Lu and Prof. Michael Waring): Complex pharmaceutical intermediate design and synthesis; Organic compound characterisation.

·        Computational chemistry (Dr James Dawson): DFT calculations.

In addition to the team in Newcastle, the project will collaborate closely with the University of Manchester and Diamond Light Source.

Sustainable organic synthesis has received upsurge of academic and industrial research interest. These training opportunities suit ideally for students wishing to pursue a future career in many aspects of chemical research. In addition to the research programme, as part of the PhD you will participate in a comprehensive training programme in transferable skills, along with opportunities to present your work externally, including at international conferences.

Number Of Awards


Start Date

September 2022 or January 2023.

Award Duration

3.5 years.




Primary: Dr Erli Lu

Secondary: Dr James A. Dawson and Professor Michael Waring

Chemistry – School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Eligibility Criteria

·     An undergraduate degree in Chemistry (2:1 integrated Master’s or outstanding Bachelor’s) or a Master’s (Merit or above preferable).

·     If English is not your first language, you must have IELTS 6.5 overall (min 5.5 in all sub-skills)

The award is available to applicants with a Home fee status only 

How To Apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system.

You will need to:

Insert the programme code 8100F in the programme of study section

  • Select ‘PhD in Chemistry (full-time) - Chemistry’ as the programme of study
  •  Insert the studentship code snes224 in the studentship/partnership reference field
  • Attach a covering letter, a CV and a 2-page research proposal. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote reference code snes224 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project. The research proposal must show basic understanding of electride chemistry and mechanochemistry.
  •  Attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications.

Contact Details

Dr Erli Lu: [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

100% of Home/International tuition fees paid and annual stipend of £16062.
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