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Photoredox Catalysis for Enantioselective C-H Functionalisation of Amines

   Institute for Sustainability

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  Dr Alexander Cresswell, Dr Scott Lovell  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The University of Bath Institute for Sustainability is inviting applications for the following funded PhD project commencing in October 2023.

This is a fully-funded, 4-year synthetic organic chemistry PhD project in collaboration with the biopharmaceutical company UCB, subject to contract. It will be ideally suited to anybody with a desire to pursue a synthetic chemistry career in the pharmaceutical industry.

The project will develop exciting new strategies for enantioselective C–H functionalisation of primary amines using visible light photoredox catalysis. Our group has previously reported the use of photogenerated azidyl radicals as hydrogen atom transfer agents for C–H activation of unprotected amines, and applied this to the synthesis of pharmaceutically important γ-lactams1 and γ-aryl amines.2 This new project will mark a departure from this mode of activation, and explore a novel strategy for primary amine C–H functionalisation that may be amenable to enantioselective synthesis. If successful, this could revolutionise the way chemists think about synthesising and derivatising amines or azacycles.

As well as visible light photoredox catalysis, you will be exposed to a number of enabling technologies and advanced techniques, including flow chemistry, automation, and mechanistic analysis. Further training will be offered in the form of weekly problem sessions on organic synthesis and participation in compiling an annual review of the literature on synthetic chemistry for drug discovery. Please contact Dr Cresswell ([Email Address Removed]) directly for further details.

Sustainability issues addressed:

In terms of carbon emissions, the pharmaceutical industry emits more CO2 than the entire automotive industry, producing 48.55 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) for every $1 million generated. A significant proportion of this CO2 footprint derives from disposal (incineration) of vast quantities of chemical waste – particularly organic solvents. This is a problem not only during drug development, but also for the manufacture of final APIs – it is estimated that for every kilogram of drug made, around 100 kg of waste (on average) is produced. More efficient chemical synthesis that can increase atom economy and reduce step count has a critical role to play in reducing the environmental impact from drug manufacture. This project will develop new catalytic strategies for the late-stage functionalisation of amine pharmaceuticals, which will streamline access to this critically important class of chemicals.

Project keywords: organic chemistry, pharmaceutical chemistry, synthetic chemistry

Candidate Requirements:

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class Honours degree (or the equivalent). A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.

Non-UK applicants must meet our English language entry requirement.

Enquiries and Applications:

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be directed to Dr Alex Cresswell, [Email Address Removed]. 

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Chemistry

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found on our website.

Funding Eligibility:

To be eligible for funding, you must qualify as a Home student. The eligibility criteria for Home fee status are detailed and too complex to be summarised here in full; however, as a general guide, the following applicants will normally qualify subject to meeting residency requirements: UK nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland), Irish nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland), those with Indefinite Leave to Remain and EU nationals with pre-settled or settled status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme). This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Additional information may be found on our fee status guidance webpage, on the GOV.UK website and on the UKCISA website.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion:

We value a diverse research environment and aim to be an inclusive university, where difference is celebrated and respected. We welcome and encourage applications from under-represented groups.

If you have circumstances that you feel we should be aware of that have affected your educational attainment, then please feel free to tell us about it in your application form. The best way to do this is a short paragraph at the end of your personal statement.

Funding Notes

A studentship is for 4 years’ duration and includes Home tuition fees, a stipend (£17,668 per annum, 2022/23 rate) and a budget for research expenses and training. Eligibility criteria apply – see Funding Eligibility section above.


[1] “Photocatalytic Hydroaminoalkylation of Styrenes with Unprotected Primary Alkylamines” Cresswell et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2021, 143, 15936 [most read JACS article of the month]
[2] “Photocatalytic α‐Tertiary Amine Synthesis via C−H Alkylation of Unmasked Primary Amines” Cresswell et al., Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2020, 59, 14986
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