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Reaction Optimisation using Intelligent Mobile Robots (collaboration with AstraZeneca)


   Department of Chemistry

  Dr John Ward,  Tuesday, February 28, 2023  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

This opportunity will remain open until the position has been filled and so early applications are encouraged.

A fully funded PhD studentship is available from 1st October 2023 in collaboration with AstraZeneca.

In this project, you will build on our recent work on intelligent mobile robotic chemists (Nature 2020, 583, 237–241) to develop a smart, connected automated workflow for reaction optimisation. The overall aim will be to create a unique and flexible approach to accelerate active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) development by leveraging the state-of-the-art in artificial intelligence, chemistry automation, and robotics.

The project will be supervised by Dr John Ward (https://www.wardlab.co.uk) and Prof. Andy Cooper (https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/cooper-group/). The project will take place in the Autonomous Chemistry Laboratory, which forms part of the Materials Innovation Factory, and the candidate will be part of a multi-disciplinary team at the Leverhulme Research Centre for Functional Materials Design. Here there will be multiple opportunities to interact with a range of experts in areas such as experimental chemistry, computational chemistry, robotics, algorithms, and artificial intelligence. There will be training opportunities in robotic technologies and their application to industrially relevant synthetic methodologies. This mobile robotics approach described in the proposal is globally unique, and the candidate will graduate with a diverse skill set that will be highly relevant to academia or industry.

The candidate will benefit from being jointly supervised and trained by automation experts at AstraZeneca and will spend at least three months on site (AstraZeneca’s Macclesfield site is located approximately 1 hour by car from the University of Liverpool). This presents an excellent opportunity for training in an industrial setting, where the candidate will learn about the drug manufacture process and will be in a privileged position to make connections with key people in the organisation to enhance your CV and career opportunities post PhD.

The candidate will be encouraged to take full advantage of training opportunities available through the School of Physical Sciences at the University of Liverpool, which are aligned with this studentship, specifically the Autonomous Mobile Robotics module delivered by the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Group in the Department of Computer Science.

Entry Requirements: Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a good degree (equivalent to a UK First or Upper Second Class degree) in Chemistry or a related discipline. We are looking for candidates with an enthusiasm for research, multidisciplinary collaboration and tackling challenging problems through teamwork. Prior research experience (such as a Masters Research project or equivalent) in organic synthesis is desirable. Ideally, the candidate will have strong programming abilities (e.g., in Python, Java), but an interest in programming and a willingness to learn are essential. You do not need to have experience with robotics – the necessary skills will be taught during the PhD.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact John Ward (email: ).

How to Apply: To apply, please visit the following website: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/how-to-apply/ Please ensure you quote reference CCPR061 on your application form.

The University of Liverpool is committed to providing an environment which recognises, values, respects and celebrates people's differences and strengths. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) are at the heart of all we do. Working together, as a community, we will create an even more inclusive culture, which aims to maximise the potential of our staff and students.

We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

The School is committed to Athena SWAN principles to promote women in science; the School’s website documenting activity in this area can be found at: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/physical-sciences/equality-and-diversity-group/athena-swan/


Funding Notes

The studentship will cover full tuition fees at the UK rate and pay a maintenance grant for 3.5 years, and is in collaboration with AstraZeneca, and part funded by the Leverhulme Research Centre for Functional Materials Design via the Leverhulme Trust. Applications from candidates meeting the eligibility requirements of the EPSRC are welcome – please refer to the EPSRC website: View Website The stipend for 2022/2023 is minimum £17,668 pa, with the possibility of an increase for 2023/2024. Non-UK applicants may have to contribute to the higher non-UK tuition fees.

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