Funded Postgraduate Research Vacancies
Below, you can find out more about our currently available funded postgraduate research positions, including eligibility criteria and funding details.
(Information within this section is correct as of 19th January 2023)
General Information applicable to all the projects:
- Due to funding restrictions, the position is only available for UK-resident candidates
- Full eligibility and funding information can be viewed via https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/department-economy-studentships
- Candidates must possess or expect to obtain, a 2:1 or first-class degree in Chemistry or closely related discipline
- Candidates must be available to start the post by October 2023 at the latest
Friday 21st April 2023
How to Apply
Applications must be submitted online via the University's Postgraduate Application Portal.
Catalysis is at the core of sustainable chemistry allowing reduction in chemical waste, milder operating conditions, and lowered energy demands of processes. Much of traditional catalysis is reliant on platinum group metals that are expensive and have sensitive supply sources. Boron based inorganic catalysts are emerging as exciting and appealing alternatives because boron is abundant, inexpensive, has low toxicity and low environmental impact. This urgent need for inexpensive, metal-free catalysts is emphasised by the 2021 Nobel prize in chemistry which was awarded for work on organocatalysis.
Unique insights into transition metal catalysis have been enabled through research at the UK Large Research Facilities (especially Diamond Light Source, UK synchrotron X-ray source) and ISIS (UK neutrons and muons source), however advanced techniques to study boron are still in their infancy. This project is a unique, CAST-sponsored collaboration between the QUILL Research Centre, Diamond and ISIS aimed at developing new methods and gaining new insights into boron catalysis.
This project will involve elements of inorganic and physical chemistry, in particular inorganic syntheses and advanced spectroscopic and neutron scattering techniques, as well as aspects of homogenous and heterogenous catalysis. The student will work with beam scientists at ISIS and Diamond, learning to use spectroscopic X-rays techniques (Diamond), structural studies using neutrons (ISIS), and synthesis of chemicals with artificial isotope ratio at ISIS Deuteration Facility. At QUB, the student will gain experience in the synthesis of ionic liquids and in catalysis, which will furnish them with a truly unique set of technical skills.
It is expected that the successful student will regularly visit ISIS and Diamond facilities in Oxfordshire, and potentially other neutron and X-ray sources in Europe and the US. This project will be co-supervised with Professor John Holbrey.
For more information please contact: Professor Gosia Swadzba-Kwasny - firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2019 antimicrobial resistance (AMR) killed more people than breast cancer, HIV and malaria. Addressing AMR is a real-world need (QUB Strategy 2030).
Bacteria produce many different glycopolymers that are vital to their survival, including peptidoglycan, which is a key component of the bacterial cell wall required for structural integrity, and lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which protects Gram-negative bacteria from bile salts and lipophilic antibiotics. The bacterial cell wall is targeted by many clinically used antibiotics, including penicillin, vancomycin and fosfomycin. Peptidoglycan and LPS biosynthesis involve several key glycolipid intermediates, all of which are linked to the cell membrane by the universal lipid carrier, undecaprenyl phosphate. The enzymes that process undecaprenyl-containing biomolecules are hot antibiotic targets, as they are unique to bacteria and absolutely essential to their growth. In particular, a class of enzymes called flippases, which transport some undecaprenyl-linked biomolecules across cell membranes, may be the Achilles heel of bacteria as they are a bottleneck in glycopolymer syntheses. However, detailed studies on these enzymes have been limited due to a lack of suitable probes to interrogate their mechanism of action. An understanding of enzyme mechanism is a vital pre-requisite to the rationale design of inhibitors.
This project has two main objectives: 1) to develop novel high-throughput assays for flippases that allow mechanistic studies and inhibitor screens to be performed; and 2) to develop substrate mimics that can be co-crystallized with flippases. This is a highly interdisciplinary project. Natural product isolation, the chemical synthesis of glycolipid probes and enzymatic assays will be performed in the Cochrane Lab. Protein expression and the growth of protein crystals and protein/glycolipid co-crystals will be performed along with collaborators in the Caffrey Lab at Trinity College Dublin. The student will also complete a 3 month internship at the Swiss Lightsource in the Paul Scherrer Institut (Switzerland) macromolecular X-ray crystallography.
For more information please contact: Dr Stephen Cochrane (email@example.com)
Providing clean water to a growing global population is a huge challenge and there is now a pressing need for us to develop better methods to measure water quality, since these underpin efforts to prevent pollution and measure the success of remediation efforts.
This project will bring together a well-known academic team working in vibrational spectroscopy with a commercial partner who have a strong track record in producing water sensors for industrial applications. The aim is to make a step change in the capabilities of water quality sensors and develop the next generation of instruments which expand the range of contaminants to include important targets that are currently impossible to measure in the field. The aim will be to develop fieldable remote sensors for continuous monitoring that can be deployed and operated in harsh conditions. The work will involve a combination of spectroscopy developed in an academic laboratory with instrument development work which will be carried out in collaboration with the partner company at their site. This is an opportunity to both carry out leading edge science and to contribute to bringing the benefits of that research to an important real-world challenge.
For more information please contact: Professor Steven Bell (S.Bell@qub.ac.uk)
Redox flow batteries (RFB) are a promising technology for stationary energy storage systems which will become a real necessity as we transition to a low-carbon energy landscape that relies more heavily on intermittent renewable energy.
We have recently developed a 3D-printing platform to produce laboratory-scale RFB test cells, demonstrating leak tightness, chemical stability, and versatility with regards to cavity thickness and internal manifold design. Importantly, these cells have demonstrated, through rapid prototyping, improved performance versus a commercially available test cell. Common designs are flow-by and flow-through configurations, the latter of which is the industry standard and the focus of this study.
This PhD project aims to investigate redox electrolyte flow in bespoke miniaturised operando flow cells as a function of internal manifold, compression, flow rate and current density. Customised, high-fidelity 3D-printed cells have been shown to provide excellent leak tightness and chemical compatibility, and their polymeric structure and versatile design make them amenable to high throughput X-ray computed tomography experiments, as well as complementary operando spectroscopic techniques such as XPS, UV/Vis and Raman microscopy. This allows the impact of manifold design and compression on electrolyte utilisation in operating cells to be probed, a remaining challenge in the field towards increasing performance and lowering costs.
The effects of internal manifold design, particularly as a function of cell compression, on the flow distribution and electrode porosity saturation remains poorly understood in an operating cell. This studentship will aim to establish the relationship between macro-parameters, the microporous flow regime, and the electrochemical performance by imaging miniature operando cells with high temporal resolution, appropriate spatial resolution to capture an RVE and with sufficient resolution and contrast to characterise electrolyte flow. In parallel, spectroscopic techniques (UV-VIS, Raman microscopy, EPR) will be conducted. EXAFS at synchrotron facilities (Diamond Light Source, Oxfordshire) will be employed for monitoring the local oxidation state of the redox species. The results of these spectroscopic techniques, together with the computational modelling will then feed into improved cell designs, which will then be experimentally validated.
The PhD student will work in close collaboration with the industrial partner and will have the possibility to spend up to 6 months at the Shell Technology Centre Amsterdam (STCA), Netherlands (funded). The student will work there closely with a team of international redox flow battery experts and will have access to Shell’s high-end, state-of-the-art energy and lab facilities.
The PhD student will receive extensive training and access to this facility over the full time of the studentship, which is a unique opportunity, since access to high-spec micro-CT instruments is normally limited to a few places worldwide, and access & operation are very costly. The student will moreover present and discuss progress in monthly meetings with the academic supervisory team and a team of energy storage experts from Shell. These meetings will provide additional technical feedback and an industrial perspective to the research.
The ideal candidate should enjoy working in a multi-disciplinary field of energy storage that ranges from inorganic chemistry, materials chemistry to analytical techniques, additive manufacturing and aspects of design & engineering. Team-working qualities, clear communication skills and the ability to learn and develop new techniques are key for a successful candidate. Co-supervisors for this project are Dr Oana Istrate (MAE) and Dr Stephen Glover (MAE).
For more information please contact: Professor Peter Nockemann (firstname.lastname@example.org)
OTHER POSTGRADUATE RESEARCH VACANCIES
Other available postgraduate research opportunities at the School can be found below - simply select the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from the "All Schools" dropdown menu to view available projects.