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Sensitivity Enhancement in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) by Para-hydrogen Induced Hyperpolarisation

   Department of Chemistry

   Tuesday, February 14, 2023  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project


This project will use hyperpolarisation to improve the ability of NMR to detect an array of important target molecules – such as chemical agents, metabolites and drugs. We will achieve this through the use of parahydrogen based sensitisation methods e.g. PHIP and SABRE. Novel analytical and NMR methodologies will be developed to achieve these goals in conjunction with novel instrumentations and automation protocols. Aspects of synthesis will see the PhD student prepare both catalysts and organic materials to achieve these goals.


Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is one of the most powerful techniques for investigating the structure, composition, and dynamics of living and non-living matter. Traditionally, expensive superconducting magnets are required to alleviate the methods low sensitivity. However, the last decade has seen low-field benchtop NMR systems become more common. Unfortunately, they are categorised by even poorer sensitivity and long scan times are often needed.

This project will involve DSTL’s NMR lab and seek to use hyperpolarisation to address the issues of sensitivity and high cost. Hyperpolarisation can boost the detected signal by orders of magnitude to pave the way for ultrafast and highly sensitive sample detection. We will use it here to maintain DSTL’s cutting edge technical capabilities in analytical chemistry whilst developing methodologies to support biomedical applications that will form the basis of the next generations of MRI scanners. The hyperpolarisation will be created by harvesting the latent magnetism of para-hydrogen. The student will employ novel catalysis to achieve this result which will see the improved detection of diagnostic 1H, 13C, 15N, 19F, and 31P signals in an array of important target molecules. Subsequently, these hyperpolarised targets will be employed for a range of NMR applications such as rapid chemical identification, tracking chemical fate, sample purity analysis and kinetic studies. Novel analytical and NMR methodologies will be developed to achieve these goals in conjunction with novel instrumentations and automation protocols.

Research Group:

The project will be carried out under the joint supervision of Prof. Simon Duckett (York) and Dr. Soumya Singha Roy (DSTL) at the University of York and at DSTL. Much of this project will take place in the Centre for Hyperpolarisation in Magnetic Resonance (CHyM), a 940 m2 facility dedicated to developing methods to improve NMR and MRI. CHyM is based in Chemistry at the University of York, a Department placed in the top 10 for research in the last assessment exercise. The student will also spend time at DSTL’s NMR lab, a premier Ministry of Defence facility, where they will seek to transfer the York based approaches to their analytical facility.


The student will be trained to gain advanced knowledge in catalytic synthesis, NMR-based analytical chemistry, NMR experiment design, instrumentation and advanced data analysis. This project is based within the broader context of hyperpolarization research in Duckett’s group. Therefore, the student will also be exposed to the wider range of expertise within the Centre for Hyperpolarisation in Magnetic Resonance (CHyM) on topics including NMR spectroscopy, hyperpolarisation, MRI, photochemistry, catalysis, and kinetics. The student will have the opportunity to visit the DSTL’s NMR lab to carry out research and also gain knowledge about wide range of projects of high national importance (

Beyond the resulting multidisciplinary scientific knowledge, the researcher will receive University of York training through dedicated modules on “softer” academic skills, including paper and grant-writing and presentation abilities, IP-related knowledge and entrepreneurial thinking. We will also seek to foster soft skills through presentations, interdisciplinary discussions, and communication with industry and provide specific training in commercialization, intellectual property law, and problems related to setting up private enterprises. Attendance at international conferences and workshops will form an integral part to their training. The PhD student will enrol in York’s PhD program and take courses to aid their research. These will be selected to maximise their personal and professional development whilst being aligned to research objectives. You will be supported by a mentor and second member of academic staff, an independent authority to help assess and optimise progress over the 4 year PhD programme.

All Chemistry research students have access to our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills: 

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel:

For more information about the project, click on the supervisor's name above to email the supervisor. For more information about the application process or funding, please click on email institution

This PhD will formally start on 1 October 2023. Induction activities may start a few days earlier.

To apply for this project, submit an online PhD in Chemistry application:

You should hold or expect to achieve the equivalent of at least a UK upper second class degree in Chemistry or a related subject.

This project is only available to UK applicants.

Funding Notes

Fully funded for 4 years by EPSRC and DSTL : (i) a tax-free annual stipend (£17,668 in 2022-23)), (ii) tuition fees at the Home rate , (iii) funding for consumables.
Selection process:
You should hold or expect to receive at least an upper second class degree in chemistry or a chemical sciences related subject.
Applicants should submit a PhD application to the University of York by 14 February 2023.
Supervisors may contact candidates either by email, telephone or web-chat for interview.
Candidates will be notified of the outcome of the decision by email.

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