PhD Vacancies

DTP - Html body only

PhD vacancies for 2019 entry

Applications are invited for PhD studentships, starting in September/October 2019.  

These are full-time, fully-funded, covering tuition fees at the home rate plus a stipend (currently £14,777 per annum).   Unless otherwise stated, studentships are for three years. 

The projects currently available are listed below.  Additional projects may become available, so please keep checking for further details. 



Academic criteria - a minimum of 2.1 honours in a relevant subject.    Candidates with a 2.2 honours degree and a suitable MSc may also be considered.   

Residency criteria – unless otherwise stated, only UK residents, as defined by the University’s Postgraduate Office, are eligible to apply.   This is because of funding body constraints.        


How to apply

Applications must be submitted online at: Only applications submitted via the online portal will be accepted.    

The closing date is 1 April 2019.     



For general enquiries, including queries about the application process, contact the School Research Office ( in the first instance.  For more detailed information about the projects, contact the named supervisor.  For queries about eligibility, contact the University’s Postgraduate Office (


Available projects (as at 11 March 2019)


Developing a New Method for Monitoring the Kinetics of Homogeneously Catalysed Reactions (Supervisor: Dr Paul Dingwall)

Traditional methods of monitoring reactions over time involve either specialised and expensive instruments to collect in situ data (FTIR, calorimetry) or time-consuming, and occasionally technically challenging, collection of samples followed by offline sample analysis. This interdisciplinary project will involve the construction of equipment, as well as control software, to demonstrate proof of principle for a novel method to rapidly monitor the kinetics of homogeneous reactions, with a focus on homogeneous catalysis. The candidate will develop expertise in physical organic chemistry, homogeneous catalysis, python coding, flow chemistry, synthetic organic chemistry and a range of analytical techniques (HPLC, LCMS, NMR, etc).

Interested students should contact Dr Dingwall to discuss the position in more detail.

Copper-based electrocatalysts for energy applications (supervisor: Dr Paul Kavanagh)

The primary aim of this fully funded DfE project is to develop novel electrocatalysts, composed of Earth abundant elements, for the efficient electrochemical oxidation of sustainable fuels e.g. alcohols, glycerol and carbohydrates. Copper nitroxyl-based electrocatalysts, inspired by the active sites of alcohol oxidising metalloenzymes, have recently emerged as viable alcohol oxidising catalysts for the scalable synthesis of fine chemicals. It has yet to be investigated, though, if such catalysts can be adapted for oxidation of alcohol based fuels for electrochemical energy conversion. This project will examine a series of structurally related copper nitroxyl complexes as redox mediators for the oxidation of alcohol-based fuels. A strong emphasis will be placed on unravelling the underlying reaction mechanism, which, to date, is largely unknown. Insights gained from this will permit rational enhancement of catalyst activity, through electronic and structural tuning, and optimisation of reaction conditions. Ideal PhD candidates should have a strong interest in metal-ligand coordination chemistry with the ability to develop new skills in electrochemical analysis.

Interested students should contact Dr Paul Kavanagh (  to discuss the position in more detail.

Foldamer Therapeutics for Amyloid Disease (supervisors: Dr Peter Knipe and Dr Stephen Cochrane)

Foldamers are artificial oligomeric molecules that mimic the structural and functional properties of natural biopolymers such as peptides. We recently developed an entirely new foldamer capable of adopting protein-like tertiary structures in predictable, sequence-defined manner (ACIE 2018, 57, 8478), and have recently formed the cyclic analogues of these foldamers.

Many neurodegenerative conditions including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases involve misfolding and aggregation of peptides, followed by their deposition as insoluble amyloid plaques. This project will explore the use of novel cyclic (and acyclic) foldamers as potential therapeutics for neurodegeneration by targeting amyloid formation and growth, in collaboration with Dr Jinghui Luo (Paul Scherrer Institut).

The student will develop strong synthetic skills, and a detailed knowledge of advanced analytical techniques including multidimensional NMR, HPLC(MS), and GC, all of which are in high demand from employers in the chemical sector.

The project will involve the synthesis, characterization and testing of complex organic molecules, so candidates should have a strong background in synthetic organic chemistry or related areas.

Functionalized Biocompatible Block Copolymer Particles and Fibres Produced by Electrospraying/Electrospinning for Biomedical Applications (supervisor: Dr Efrosyni Themistou)

The design of novel biodegradable polymeric nano- and micro- structures containing functional groups is of high importance in the biomedical field, and especially in drug delivery and tissue engineering. Functionalization of polymers with reactive groups is highly desirable, since these groups can be used for attachment of biologically-important molecules on the polymers, such as antibodies, peptides and/or fluorescent dyes. The project will involve the preparation of novel biodegradable functionalized polymeric particles by eloctrospraying and fibres by electrospinning. Modern polymerisation techniques including reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerisation and ring opening polymerisation (ROP) will be used for the synthesis of a series of biocompatible biodegradable polymers with different functional groups. The student will receive training in various polymer characterisation techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, gel permeation chromatography (GPC), dynamic light scattering (DLS) and scanning and transmission electron microscopy (SEM and TEM). The particles and fibres exhibiting favourable structural characteristics will be further assessed for their suitability in attachment of biologically-important molecules and their use in efficient drug delivery (encapsulation and release of anti-cancer drugs) and tissue engineering (attachment of stem cells), respectively.  Applicants will have a degree in Chemistry, Materials Science, Chemical Engineering, Biomedical Science or a closely related subject and a strong interest and motivation in pursuing research in polymeric biomaterials. The project will be undertaken under the supervision of Dr Efrosyni Themistou and will involve the potential for the successful candidate to work in collaborator laboratories during their research project.  

For further information, please contact

Main group catalysis with ionic liquids (supervisor: Dr Gosia Swadźba-Kwaśny and Dr John Holbrey)

A 3-year, fully funded PhD position is available starting September/October 2019 in the Swadźba-Kwaśny group, at the QUILL Research Centre. The project scope combines two topical areas: Main Group catalysis and ionic liquids. The aim is to further the development of new ionic liquids with highly Lewis acidic cations, for applications in catalysis, in particular in carbocationic processes and as frustrated Lewis pairs.

The project is suitable for an independent thinking, enthusiastic student, interested in a project spanning from synthetic inorganic chemistry, through physical chemistry (spectroscopic studies), to homogenous catalysis.

For further information, please contact  

Queen's University Belfast is committed to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
For more information please read our Equality and Diversity Policy.

Queen's University Belfast is registered with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC101788
VAT registration number: GB 254 7995 11