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Synthetic Organic Electrochemical Methodology Development: Defluoro-functionalisation Reactions (iCASE)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, February 28, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Applications are invited for a 4 year iCASE PhD studentship starting in October 2020 to work in the group of Dr Alastair Lennox (

Fluorinated organic molecules improve the bioavailability and potency of bio-active compounds: over 25% of agrochemicals on the market contain at least one C–F bond, as well as 31% of the top 100 best-selling small-molecule drugs. Current methods to install fluorine selectively into compounds can be problematic, as harsh conditions or wasteful reagents are commonly employed. Thus, the development of new methods that are efficient and selective is very important, and of great interest to academic and industrial research. We have a general interest in the development of new synthetic fluorination methodologies that take advantage of electrochemistry to provide the required redox equivalents, and we apply a strong emphasis on mechanism, catalysis and sustainability during optimisation. Electrochemistry promises to revolutionise redox reactions in organic synthesis, as it can perform highly selective oxidation or reduction reactions sustainably and safely. This enablingtechnology is also practical and easily scaled, as demonstrated by a number of industrial processes that are in operation. We have recently published in this rapidly growing and exciting field of research, in which we present the development of an alkene difluorination protocol (DOI: 10.1002/anie.201912119).

In this project, we will continue to develop the use of electrochemistry for the preparation of fluorinated complex organic molecules but using an alternative approach: we will take readily available fluorinated starting materials and optimise conditions to replace fluoride and
construct a new carbon-carbon bond. We will conduct fundamental studies and use Design of Experiments to aid in the development, and then aim to implement the transformation late-stage on bio-active compounds, as well as on larger scales using flow electrochemistry. The project will be conducted in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKlein (GSK) who are a world leading pharmaceutical company, and will include a 3 month industrial placement at their site.

Candidate Requirements
Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or high Upper Second Class UK firstdegree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a chemistry or related degree. A strong undergraduate-level understanding of organic chemistry is a prerequisite. Prior experience of electrochemistry is not required, but an interest in learning and using the technique is necessary

How to apply
To make a formal application, follow the ’Start a new application’ link on this page: and include “Alastair Lennox” in the “preferred supervisor” box. We encourage you to make an informal enquiry to Dr Lennox () if you have any queries or would like to discuss projects.

The deadline for applications is 28th February 2020, but note: early application is strongly recommended because applications may close earlier than the advertised deadline if a suitable candidate is identified.

Funding Notes

An iCASE studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees, a training support fee and a stipend of ca. £15,000 p.a. for 2019/20 (Tax-free), updated each year) for 4 years. Applicants who are classed as Overseas for tuition fee purposes may be considered if they can supply the difference between UK/EU and Overseas fees.

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