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Unravelling the structures of molecules contained within complex mixtures

   School of Chemistry

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  Dr Nicholle Bell  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

A PhD studentship is available in the group of Dr Nicholle Bell (School of Chemistry, The University of Edinburgh;

Project Summary

Mixtures are found everywhere from food and drink, manufacturing to our natural environment. Many contain unknown molecules or are so complex that standard chromatographic methods fail to separate individual molecules contained within them. Typically, identification of only a handful of compounds is possible and a large number of unknown compounds prevents structure-function relationships to be explored. This project aims to develop approaches to combine chromatographic separation ad high-end analytical techniques to elucidate structure of unknown compounds using NMR spectroscopy, HPLC-FT-ICR-MS and GC-GC-TOF-MS. The project will explore application of existing methods and develop new methodologies using a range of mixtures from peat organic matter to Scotch whisky. In the first instance, informal enquiries (accompanied by a CV) should be directed to:

Dr Nicholle Bell, School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh, David Brewster Road, Edinburgh EH9 3FJ, UK. 

 The position will remain open until filled. Start date: 1st September or October 2022.

Keywords: Peat, Whisky, Mixtures, Metabolites, NMR spectroscopy, Gas chromatography, Mass spectrometry


The successful candidate should hold, or expect to receive, a 1st class or 2.1 MSc degree in Chemistry or equivalent. The position would suit those with a passion for analytical chemistry. Candidates are expected to have experience with HPLC or GC and analysis of 2D NMR spectra. Experience with R or Python to work with complex datasets is desirable.

Equality and Diversity

The School of Chemistry holds a Silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of our commitment to advance gender equality in higher education. The University is a member of the Race Equality Charter and is a Stonewall Scotland Diversity Champion, actively promoting LGBT equality. The University has a range of initiatives to support a family friendly working environment. See our University Initiatives website for further information. University Initiatives website:

Funding Notes

The studentship is fully funded for 42 months and covers tuition fees and an annual stipend (starting at £15,609 per annum) for a candidate satisfying EPSRC criteria:
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Kitson, E., Ding, W., and Bell, N.G.A., "PyKrev: A Python Library for the Analysis of Complex Mixture FT-MS Data." Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry 32.5 (2021): 1263-1267.
Sakas, J., and Bell, N.G.A., "Reduced dimensionality hyphenated NMR experiments for the structure determination of compounds in mixtures." Faraday discussions 218 (2019): 191-201.
Bell, N.G.A., et al., "Isotope‐Filtered 4D NMR Spectroscopy for Structure Determination of Humic Substances." Angewandte Chemie International Edition 54.29 (2015): 8382-8385.

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