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Reaction- and Interaction-Enabled Nanoparticles. (a PhD in Synthetic Supramolecular and Nanochemistry)

   School of Chemistry

   Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Our research focuses on translating the logical and rational strategies of molecular and supramolecular synthetic chemistry into the nanoworld. Remarkable developments in nanomaterials synthesis have given synthetic chemists access to completely new categories of chemical entity. This now presents an unsolved challenge: Can we create nanoscale building blocks capable of predictable chemical interactions and reactions?

Working with ‘monolayer-stabilized nanoparticles’ (a broad class of nanomaterial that can be handled and manipulated in solution) we have developed a class of reaction-enabled nanoparticles that can be instructed to undergo distinct chemospecific modifications in response to simple molecular signals.[1–2] We have shown that these ‘dynamic covalent nanoparticles’ allow us to install diverse molecular functionality on nanoparticle surfaces,[1, 3–4] to reversibly tune nanoparticle properties,[1, 4–5] and to assemble and disassemble nanoparticle-based materials.[3, 6] We have also probed fundamental questions about the nature of molecular reactivity confined to a nanoparticle surface.[3, 7]

We are now working to use these reaction-enabled nanoparticles to:

  1. Integrate selective nanosurface reactions and interactions to generate complex reaction networks that incorporate nanoscale active units.
  2. Modify and optimise attractive nanomaterial properties such as catalytic activity and high-sensitivity sensing.
  3. Construct covalently linked assemblies that combine several nanoparticle components (sizes, shapes, materials) in precisely controlled proportions and orientations.
  4. Answer fundamental questions regarding how confinement at a nanoscale surface influences molecular-scale reactions and interactions.

This multi-disciplinary area provides training in synthetic and analytical methods applied on molecular, supramolecular and nanometer length-scales. You will gain hands-on experience with a range of 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” assessment of reaction rates and interaction strengths, and computational methods for simulating molecular and nanoscale structures, interactions and reaction network kinetics. A PhD in this area will 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 Group occupy modern (refurbished 2020) synthetic chemistry facilities in the School of Chemistry at the University of St Andrews, with access to world-class resources in each of the above techniques. For more information about the group and our research, please see our webpage:

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 ().

Please see: for the application procedure or e-mail for more information regarding PhD opportunities at St Andrews. We encourage applications for the EaSiCAT Centre for Doctoral training ( and from Chinese nationals through the St Andrews CSC Scheme ( There are opportunities for self-funded PhD students to make use of the St Andrews Handsel Scheme to fund the difference between home and international fees.

Funding Notes

Funding for worldwide, EU or UK students is available. Self-funded students are also encouraged to apply and make use of the St Andrews Hansel scheme.


[1] F. della Sala, E. R. Kay, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2015, 54, 4187–4191.
[2] E. R. Kay, Chem. Eur. J. 2016, 22, 10706–10716.
[3] N. Marro, F. della Sala, E. R. Kay, Chem. Sci. 2020, 11, 372–383.
[4] M. Diez-Castellnou, R. Suo, N. Marro, S. A. L. Matthew, E. R. Kay, Chem. Eur. J. 2021, 27, 9948–9953.
[5] W. Edwards, N. Marro, G. Turner, E. R. Kay, Chem. Sci. 2018, 9, 125–133.
[6] S. Borsley, E. R. Kay, Chem. Commun. 2016, 52, 9117–9120.
[7] I. K. Mati, W. Edwards, D. Marson, E. J. Howe, S. Stinson, P. Posocco, E. R. Kay, ACS Nano 2021, 15, 8295–8305.

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