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Unprecedented approach for the synthesis of N-CF3 amides and lactams

   Department of Chemistry

  Dr Mark Greenhalgh  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

A 3.5 year fully-funded PhD position is available in the group of Dr Mark Greenhalgh at the University of Warwick. The position will remain open until filled, so if interested please get in touch at your earliest convenience.

Background: The synthesis of amides is of central importance across the physical and life sciences, due to their natural occurrence and prevalence in pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, polymers and cosmetics. The introduction of CF3 groups can have a profound effect on the physical and chemical properties of molecules, and thus have found widespread applications in agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and materials. Recently, a confluence of these industrially and academically important research areas was realised with the first efficient syntheses of tertiary N-CF­­3 amides,[1-3] which cannot be accessed through traditional amide coupling methods due to the instability of secondary N–CF3 amines.[4] These works have provided a step-change in the types of molecule that chemists can conceive and synthesise, however they all require the use of excess expensive and toxic reagents, and only allow access to tertiary amides.

The Project: This PhD studentship will introduce a simple, safe and inexpensive method for the synthesis of both secondary and tertiary N-CF3 amides and beta-lactams. Unpublished proof-of-concept studies have demonstrated the unprecedented synthesis of secondary N–CF3 amides, and this studentship will build upon these promising initial results to develop the utility and scope of the method. Following successful realisation, the methodology will be extended to the synthesis of tertiary N-CF3 amides and beta-lactams. The utility of all developed methods will be showcased through application to industrially- and biologically-relevant target molecules.

Student Training: The successful candidate will join a small, close-knit and enthusiastic team that provides a collaborative and supportive environment (View website). Regular group meetings and problem sessions are used to promote teamwork, problem solving and the continual development of a wider knowledge base and skill set. This project will provide high-quality, specialised training in synthesis, reaction development and monitoring and structure determination. The student will be trained in the dissemination of research output through writing scientific papers and presenting at (inter)national conferences. Overall, the range of opportunities and training provided will enable a range of career pathways and place the student in a competitive position to take their next career step.

Candidate Requirements: Good degree (2.1 or 1st class) in Chemistry. Must be willing to work independently and as a key part of a research team. Funding is available for students who meet UK residency criteria [overseas students are welcome to apply but would need to find additional funding for the full Band 2 Postgraduate Research fees (View website)]. The project will suit a candidate who has an interest in synthesis, is motivated, enthusiastic and most importantly is interested learning new skills. The PhD programme will allow the candidate to develop further skills in organic, main-group and organometallic synthesis, reaction design and optimisation, mechanistic investigations, X-ray crystallography and analytic techniques (NMR, HPLC, IR, etc.).

How to Apply

In the first instance, please contact Dr Mark Greenhalgh to express your interest in this position. Please include your CV and current/predicted grades. Email:

The position will remain open until filled so please get in touch as early as possible.

Formal applications should then be made using the University of Warwick’s online application process: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/chemistry/admissions/postgraduateresearch/

Funding Notes

The studentship is fully funded for 3.5 years by the University of Warwick and covers tuition fees and an annual stipend in line with the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate for a candidate satisfying UKRI UK residency criteria (View Website). Overseas candidates would need to find additional funding for the full Band 2 Postgraduate Research fees (View Website).


1) Nature 2019, 573, 102–107. 2) Chin. J. Chem. 2020, 38, 924–928. 3) Chem 2021, 7, 2245 – 2255. 4) J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1979, 101, 347–349.

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