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  Tailoring Unspecific Peroxygenases (UPOs) for Applications in Synthetic Organic Chemistry

   Department of Chemistry

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  Prof G J Grogan, Dr W Unsworth, Dr J Cartwright  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Background: The oxygenation of organic compounds presents an ongoing challenge to synthetic chemistry as conventional reagents present difficulties with toxicity, harsh conditions and poor selectivity. Enzymatic oxygenations, by contrast, present many advantages with respect to both sustainability and selectivity. The discovery of fungal unspecific peroxygenases (UPOs), has identified new possibilities for scalable biocatalytic oxygenations. UPOs catalyze selective oxygenations using only hydrogen peroxide, without the need for cofactors or electron transport proteins. They exhibit high turnovers, superior stability and can be produced in large amounts amenable to lyophilization, giving easy-to-use biocatalysts. In previous projects, we have developed robust systems for the expression of UPOs from a variety of organisms and applied them to the oxygenation of a range of compound classes (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2023, 62, e202214759; Chem. Catal., 2024, 4, 100889). We now aim to explore the potential of UPOs with further studies on homologs and engineered enzymes for synthetic organic chemistry applications, with a focus on the generation of pharmaceutical intermediates. Good experience and knowledge of organic chemistry is therefore the primary criterion for candidates applying for this PhD; knowledge and experience in biocatalysis is beneficial, but is NOT essential.

Training: This interdisciplinary project is funded by the industrial affiliates of the Centre of Excellence for Biocatalysis (CoEBio3; The student will learn synthetic organic chemistry and analytical skills (NMR, MS) in the lab of Dr Unsworth and biotransformations/applied enzymology with Prof. Grogan. Training will also include courses in techniques and transferable skills as part of the Innovative Doctoral Training Centre (iDTC) in the Chemistry Department at York. The student will also attend relevant problem sessions, literature groups, and group meetings and be required to present their results every six months at CoEBio3 meetings at the University of Manchester. These meetings will provide opportunities for the student to present and discuss their work with a broad cross-section of scientists from academic and industry.

You will follow our core cohort-based training programme to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills, as well as training on specific techniques and equipment. Training includes employability and professionalism, graduate teaching assistant training and guidance on writing papers.  

There will be opportunities for networking and sharing your work both within and beyond the University. Funding is provided to enable you to attend conferences and external training. The department also runs a varied and comprehensive seminar programme.

Equality and Diversity

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:

As part of our commitment to Equality and Diversity, and Widening Participation, we are working with the YCEDE project ( to improve the number of under-represented groups participating in doctoral study.  

Entry requirements 

You should hold or expect to achieve the equivalent of at least a UK upper second class degree in Chemistry or a relevant related subject.   Check the entry requirements for your country:

English language requirements:

For more information about the project, click on the supervisor's name above to email them. 

For more information about the application process or funding, please click on email institution.

Guidance for applicants:

Submit an online PhD in Chemistry application:

Applications may close before the deadline if a suitable applicant is found.

The start date of the PhD will be 16 September 2024

Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6)

Funding Notes

This project is fully funded for 3.5 years by the Centre of Excellence for Biocatalysis, Biotransformations and Biocatalytic Manufacture (CoEBio3).
The studentship includes: (i) a tax-free annual stipend (£19,237 for 2024/25), (ii) tuition fees at the home rate, (iii) funding for consumables.

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