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Understanding how (bio)molecular machines work

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Oxidation-reduction reactions underpin innumerable chemical reactions - and much of the chemistry of life. Our group investigates how oxidation-state changes govern respiration and photosynthesis and how nature has fine-tuned the redox properties of its many intricate molecular machines. Redox reactions often involve transition metal ions and we are investigating the properties, structure and bonding of transition-metal centres in biological as well as synthetic molecular machines. Our work is highly interdisciplinary and collaborative, and spans from physical/materials chemistry to biological and bioinorganic chemistry.

Many redox reactions proceed via radical intermediates and these are frequently located in mechanistically key locations. We use electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy as a powerful method for obtaining detailed information on the structure and bonding of these ubiquitous spin centres. Electrochemistry on the other hand, in particular film electrochemistry, provides insight into the redox reactions. Our research is focused on understanding the molecular mechanism of some of the most complex molecular machines known: respiratory and photosynthetic complex I, catalysts that play essential roles in respiration and photosynthesis, respectively. In addition to generating new fundamental chemical knowledge, understanding how these enzymes work paves the way to healthier ageing and enhancing crop yields through managing plant stress tolerance. Moreover, this new fundamental understanding can sometimes be exploited to guide the design of man-made materials. Advancing the methodologies available for the study of complex (bio)molecular machines constitutes another important aspect of our work, in a project that ventures into materials science and engineering. We currently collaborate closely with researchers at the University of Cambridge, the Medical Research Council (Cambridge) and Queen Mary University of London, and there will also be opportunities to collaborate within Imperial College.

We are looking to recruit an outstanding Masters level graduate in Chemistry or a related subject, with a strong interest in developing and applying novel (bio)chemical and spectroscopic tools to advance biology. The PhD studentship is fully funded for 3.5 years. The prospective PhD student is encouraged to get in touch via e-mail with a detailed CV and explaining his/her interests and research experience. There is scope to tailor the project towards physical or biological chemistry, depending on the background and interests of the applicant. Please see for further details on current research and a full list of recent publications. The successful candidate will receive training in EPR spectroscopy, electrochemistry, protein purification and nanomaterials design, fabrication and characterization. The PhD student will further benefit from working in the state of the art Molecular Sciences Research Hub (, the new research home for the Department of Chemistry at Imperial’s White City campus, with access to cutting-edge magnetic characterization facilities of SPIN-Lab ( at the South Kensington Campus.

The studentship will be filled as soon as a suitable candidate has been found. Candidates are therefore encouraged to get in touch as soon as possible.


• M. M. Roessler and E. Salvadori, 'Principles and Applications of EPR Spectroscopy in the chemical sciences', Chemical Society Reviews, 2018, 47 (8), 2534-2553
• N. le Breton, J. J. Wright, A.J.Y.J. Jones, E. Salvadori, H. R. Bridges, J. Hirst, M. M. Roessler, 'Using EPR Hyperfine Spectroscopy to define the Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer Reaction at Fe-S cluster N2 in Respiratory Complex I', J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2017, 139 (45), 16319-16326, Spotlight Article
• M. Cirulli, A. Kaur, J. E. M. Lewis, Z. Zhang, J. A. Kitchen, S. M. Goldup, M. M. Roessler, ‘Rotaxane-Based Transition Metal Complexes: Effect of the Mechanical Bond on Structure and Electronic Properties’, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2019, 141 (2), 879-889

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