Chemistry Scholarships

The Department typically admits 65-70 PhD and 90 - 100 MRes students each year. Funding for these students comes from a diverse range of sources, including the EPSRC, industry, scholarships and self-funded students. A selection of PhD Studentships currently available are detailed below or visit our other pages to find out more about MRes studentships.

Accordion - available studentships

PhD Studentship in Small Molecule Activation and Homogeneous Catalysis

                                                                                                                                                                           PhD Studentship in Small Molecule Activation and Homogeneous Catalysis

 

 

New Catalysts for the Activation and Hydrogenation of NN to NH3

 Applications are sought for a fully funded studentship in homogeneous catalysis. The successful candidate will be co-supervised by Prof. Nicholas Long and Drs Andrew Ashley and Philip Miller at the Department of Chemistry, Imperial College London, starting October 2019.

 Project

 One of the grandest challenges facing chemists is to find a method of catalytically producing NH3 from molecular N2, at low temperature and pressure. The principal use of NH3 is for crop fertilisers to significantly enhance agricultural yields, which is of paramount importance in sustaining an ever-increasing global population. Currently, mankind utilises the Haber-Bosch process to synthesise NH3 by reacting N2 with H2 over Fe catalysts at high temperatures and pressures (400°C, 90-200 atm); this is extremely energy intensive, consuming 1-2% of the global energy output. An energy-efficient alternative – deemed a ‘Holy Grail of Chemistry’ - is highly desirable and will have significant societal, economic and environmental impact.

 This research project will capitalise from our recent discovery that simple homogenous Fe or Co complexes can strongly activate the N2 molecule and, in the case of Fe, efficiently catalyse N2 fixation at low temperatures.[1][2] Additionally we have shown that catalytically-relevant intermediates can activate both N2 and H2.[3] The successful candidate will synthesise new molecular transition-metal complexes which are predicted to strongly activate N2, to the point of N≡N cleavage. These will be highly reactive and will subsequently react directly with H2, to form NH3 under ambient conditions. Mechanistic investigations of this unique reactivity will employ state-of-the-art spectroscopic techniques, and be aided with isotopic labelling (2H, 15N) studies.

 

 

 Eligibility and Funding

 The position would suit an ambitious and highly motivated researcher with interests in organometallic chemistry and catalysis. A background in air-sensitive synthetic chemistry is desirable, alongside relevant previous research experience in academic laboratories. The successful candidate will hold (or expect to be awarded) a Class 1st or 2i (top 20% within their cohort) Master’s degree (e.g. MSci or MChem) in Chemistry.

 How to Apply

 Interested candidates should contact Dr Ashley by email (a.ashley@imperial.ac.uk) ASAP, with an up-to-date CV. Formal applications should be made through the Imperial College online application process. Please make reference to the above project title in the Proposed Research Topic field. Short-listed candidates will be required to attend an interview at Imperial College London in June. Notification of decisions on applications will be expected in July 2019.

 Selected publications

[1] (a) Hill PJ, Doyle LR, Crawford AD, Myers WK, Ashley AE*, Selective Catalytic Reduction of N2 to N2H4 by a Simple Fe Complex, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2016, 138, 13521-13524. Featured on Inside Science, BBC Radio 4: Accidental Rocket Fuel’, 3/11/2016(http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/b080pxwp); (b) Piascik AD, Li R, Wilkinson HJ, Green, JC, Ashley AE*, Fe-Catalyzed Conversion of N2 to N(SiMe3)3 via an Fe-Hydrazido Resting State, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2018140, 10691-10694.

 [2] Apps S, Miller P,* Long NJ, Cobalt-triphos dinitrogen complexes: activation and silyl-functionalisation of N2, Chem. Commun., 2019, DOI:10.1039/C9CC01496A.

 [3] Doyle LR, Scott DJ, Hill PJ, Fraser DAX, Myers WK,* White AJP, Green JC, Ashley AE*, Reversible coordination of N2 and H2 to a homoleptic S = 1/2 Fe(I) diphosphine complex in solution and the solid state, Chemical Science, 20189, 7362-7369. Selected for the 2018 Chemical Science HOT Article Collection.

PhD studentship in graphene and 2D materials for thermal management of flexible and wearable electronics

PhD studentship in graphene and 2D materials for thermal management of flexible and wearable electronics

Applications are invited for a fully-funded PhD studentship to work on Anisotropic nanostructured materials based on graphene and 2D materials for thermal management and heat dissipation in next generation electronic circuits, specifically in flexible and wearable electronics.

Description: Electronics is ubiquitous in our everyday life. Faster and smaller electronic devices require the miniaturisation of several electronic components distributed on chips with ever-growing capacity. The heat generated by electronic devices increases exponentially with the density of electronics on the same chip, limiting the performances of miniaturized integrated circuits. Anisotropic thermally conductive materials able to dissipate heat in one or two in-plane spatial directions while barring the conductivity on the out-of-plane direction are ideal materials to dissipate heat effectively, without affecting the surrounding devices. The current materials employed for thermal dissipation suffer from intrinsic physical limitations. Along with graphene a whole new family of two-dimensional (2D) materials has recently emerged with extraordinary electrical, thermal, optical and mechanical properties. Some of these materials (e.g. graphene or hexagonal Boron Nitride, h-BN) have shown excellent thermal conductivity with orders of magnitude improvement and have the ideal set of properties to pave the way to a next generation thermally conductive materials. This project aims to engineer new polymer composites embedding graphene and/or hybrid two-dimensional materials (such as h-BN) with a high concentration and explore their use as highly electrically, thermally conductive pastes and composites for integrated electronic circuits. Electrical, thermal conductivity will be characterised and viscoelastic properties of the polymer composites and pastes will be investigated and tailored for deposition techniques such as extrusion, and 3D printing. The 2D-materials based inks with thermal and electrical properties will also be used to engineer anisotropic inkjet printed multi-layer devices with conducting, semiconducting and insulating properties for printed transistors, thermoelectric generators and capacitors. Given the growing interest in wearable electronics and smart textiles, the integration of these 2D materials with fabrics, fibres and yarns will be explored. The ultimate goal is to achieve a new family of electrically insulating and thermally conducting pastes and polymer composites with highly anisotropic properties that can be deposited by the most modern deposition technologies, including 3D printing.

The student will be fully incorporated into the Molecular Science Research Hub offering a unique opportunity to interact with teams of researchers working on Synthesis, Nanomaterials, Energy, Imaging & Sensing, Plastic Electronics.

Applicants need to have, or expect to achieve, a first-class or a high 2:1 degree in Engineering, Chemistry, Physics, Chemical Engineering, Nanotechnology or Material Science. Applicants from the UK and EU are eligible for a full award, full University fees and a maintenance allowance.

Overseas / Non-EU applicants are eligible for a fees only award, but can still join the programme if recipient of external scholarships covering the full costs.

Interested students should email a CV and 2 reference letters to Dr F. Torrisi (f.torrisi@imperial.ac.uk). Applications should be made through the College application form, which can be found at: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/study/pg/apply/how-to-apply/apply-for-a-research-programme-/ no later than 30th June 2019.

wearable nano-electronics: wearable electronic devices based on graphene and other layered materials

Wearable Nano-Electronics: Wearable electronic devices based on graphene and other layered materials (in collaboration with Google Advanced Technologies and Projects and the University of Cambridge)

Wearable electronics are at the core of academic and industrial research and development in the strategic areas of healthcare and wellbeing, Energy generation and harvesting. Wearable electronics currently relies on rigid and flexible electronic technologies, which offer limited skin-compatibility in many circumstances, suffer washing and are uncomfortable to wear because they are not breathable. Turning natural fibres and textiles into electronic components will address these issues, by unlocking ultimately wearable electronics potential through electronic textiles.

The 2DWEB group has demonstrated that graphene and other two-dimensional materials enable superior wearable electronic textile devices, such as transistors and memories (T. Carey et al., Nature Comms. 8, 1202, 2017). The aim of this PhD project is to develop a new class of wearable electronic devices based on inks and composites of graphene and other layered materials, their supramolecular structures and hybrid platforms, combining the versatile properties of layered materials with fibres and textiles. The electrical and optical properties of such devices will be characterised aiming at wearable electronic applications, such as biosensors and bio-medical devices devices.

This is a highly innovative PhD project, with a strong interdisciplinary nature, across chemistry, nanoscience, physics and electronics of two-dimensional materials aiming at the realization of novel wearable devices for several applications such as the Internet of Things, Body Area Networks, Healthcare and Wellbeing devices and Smart fabrics. The project also provides an exciting opportunity to work across the  research fields of printed electronics and two-dimensional materials (Dr Torrisi), chemistry of nanomaterials (Dr Siva Bohm, University of Cambridge)  and future wearable technologies (Google ATAP).

The student will be fully incorporated into the Molecular Science Research Hub offering a unique opportunity to interact with teams of researchers working on Synthesis, Nanomaterials, Energy, Imaging & Sensing, Plastic Electronics.

Applicants need to have, or expect to achieve, a first-class or a high 2:1 degree in Engineering, Chemistry, Physics, Chemical Engineering, Nanotechnology or Material Science. Applicants from the UK and EU are eligible for a full award, full University fees and a maintenance allowance.

Overseas / Non-EU applicants are eligible for a fees only award, but can still join the programme if recipient of external scholarships covering the full costs.

Interested students should email a CV and 2 reference letters to Dr F. Torrisi (f.torrisi@imperial.ac.uk). Applications should be made through the College application form, which can be found at: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/study/pg/apply/how-to-apply/apply-for-a-research-programme-/ no later than 30th June 2019.

 

 

DNA-nanotechnology tools for synthetic cell mimics

Dr Lorenzo Di Michele

UK/EU students only, available from 1 October 2019

Bottom-up synthetic biology aims at constructing artificial cells, micron-scale entities that replicate typical functionalities of biological cells, such as regulated metabolism, communication and adaptation to their environment. Artificial cells offer vast applicability as biosensing systems and nanomedical devices, while helping researchers to unravel the molecular mechanisms underlying biological complexity in a simplified setting. These microreactors are often constructed from a semi-permeable compartment playing the role of the cell membrane, supporting or encapsulating various active elements that enable sensing, communication and information processing.

DNA nanotechnology enables exquisite control over the structure and dynamic response of nanoscale objects constructed from synthetic DNA molecules, making it ideal for the production of nanomachines and structural elements that mimic biological ones, and can thus be applied in the context of artificial-cell research.

This PhD project aims a developing new DNA-nanotech tools that can enhance the capabilities of artificial cells. These include synthetic membrane receptors for sensing environmental cues, signalling and communication protocols to implement collective behaviours in artificial-cell consortia, and responsive structural elements that mimic the cytoskeleton and can alter the morphological and structural features of the artificial cells.

The student will design responsive DNA nanosystems (aided by computer tools), assemble and characterise them in the lab, and finally integrate them with synthetic cellular mimics. Depending on the student’s interests and skillset, experiments may be complemented by theoretical analysis and coarse-grained computer simulations.

The candidate should hold a master’s degree in physics, chemistry, materials or a closely related discipline, preferably with interest or experience on soft nanomaterials. Experience with computer programming would be highly beneficial.

Most important, the candidate should share our curiosity and enthusiasm for research! 

Note that Lorenzo’s group, currently based at the University of Cambridge, will move to Imperial College, Department of Chemistry in August 2019.


Details

  • Location: Molecular Science Research Hub, White City Campus, Department of Chemistry of Imperial College London.
  • Start date: 01/10/2019
  • Duration: 3.5 years
  • Eligibility: UK/EU
  • Deadline for applications: 31 May 2019

Application process

To apply, please send via email to Lorenzo Di Michele (ld389@cam.ac.uk) the following material before 31 May 2019:

  • Covering letter (max 1 page)
  • CV (max 2 pages)
  • 2 letters of references

Shortlisted candidates will be contacted shortly after the deadline for an interview on skype or in person.


Further information

For further information, please contact Dr Lorenzo Di Michele:

Understanding how (bio)molecular machines work

Understanding how (bio)molecular machines work 

Dr. Maxie Roessler

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/m.roessler

m.roessler@imperial.ac.uk

 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 http://www.imperial.ac.uk/roessler-lab/ 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.  

Recent relevant publications

  • 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

Advancing bacterial 3D printing for the production of next-generation bio-materials

Funded by the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme in Cellular Bionics – 3 year PhD studentships

Supervisors: Dr Guy-Bart StanDr John HeapDr Connor Myant

Natural and engineered bacteria possess extraordinary biosynthetic capabilities. These can serve almost any application imaginable: from functionalised bacterial cellulose patches for antimicrobial wound dressing to bacterial self-healing concrete or the use of bacteria to produce nacre-inspired composite materials. The ability to harness such great manufacturing potential into customised designs with defined three-dimensional shape and composition remains, however, largely elusive.

Current 3D bacterial printing approaches rely on the use of scaffolds or conventional layer-by-layer additive manufacturing strategies to shape their designs, often resulting in unsophisticated structures with restricted geometries and monotonous physico-chemical and mechanical properties. In contrast, one-body yet heterogeneous composite materials with seamless transitions between disparate properties (functionally graded composite materials) have long been a holy grail for designers and engineers.

This project will employ a new 3D printing method, developed by the project supervisors, that is merging the fields of synthetic biology and 3D Printing. 3D Printing has enabled the creation of complex geometric structures previously unavailable to design engineers and scientists. However, this vast new pallet of object geometries has been limited to non-living materials. The ability to create bespoke biological structures directly from a 3D printing process has so far eluded us. The focus of this project is to challenge this limitation and open a new era of 3D bio-printing.

More specifically, this project will develop a novel 3D printing process that employs nature as the 3D printer, at a cellular level; whilst utilising engineering’s ability for highly accurate spatial control. It will build on ongoing efforts to bridge the gap between synthetic biology and 3D printing technology and will focus on further developing the necessary biological tools for the effective manufacturing of bio-materials in 3D. In the initial phases of the project, less-sophisticated, simple proof-of-concept structures will be generated. This will help identify and delimit expected and also unexpected challenges for the production of more complex composite materials. Next steps will include, but not be limited to, optimisation of biosynthetic pathways in the working chassis; finding appropriate external 3D control strategies to improve printing efficiency and accuracy; incorporation of biomolecular feedback control into genetic designs; development of efficient secretion systems and alternative “secretion” strategies (e.g. enzyme display for extracellular biosynthesis of one or more constituents of the composite material); bio-material engineering (e.g. through incorporation of bacterial amyloids) and functionalisation (e.g. silver nanoparticles); development and integration of mathematically-modelled gene expression systems into 3D printing software for true computer-guided bio-fabrication; etc. Finally, resultant next-generation 3D bio-materials will be analysed for their physico-chemical and mechanical behaviour and compared with existing bio-materials.

The successful development of this bio-printing technology could have significant impact in the medical field, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical industries. From the development of high throughput pharmaceutical screening equipment to 3D microfluidics and novel biomaterials. In addition the 3D printing technique offers a new paradigm in 3D manufacturing applications were the printing process is not limited to 2D planar layer stacks but rather a true 3D object.

The ideal candidate will have a background in some of these areas: bacterial synthetic biology (e.g. E. coli), genetic engineering, optogenetics, metabolic engineering, biomolecular feedback design and implementation, modelling in biology, computational modelling

The project will bring together a truly multidisciplinary team of synthetic biologists, bioengineers, and design engineers. The work will be support by a parallel project run by the supervisors; Dr Guy Bart Stan from the Department of Bioengineering, Dr John Heap from the Department of Life Sciences, and Dr Connor Myant from the Dyson School of Design Engineering. If you have any questions regarding the application please email Dr Guy-Bart Stan (g.stan@imperial.ac.uk).

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Next Generation Synthesis & Reaction Technology

The mission of the CDT to educate a critical mass of researchers equipped to respond to future research challenges and opportunities created by the data-revolution: highly qualified researchers with the ability to collect data using automated, high-throughput reaction platforms, and to apply quantitative and statistical approaches to data analysis and utilisation. This CDT assembles a multi-disciplinary team of internationally-leading researchers at Imperial College with academic and manufacturing expertise, augmented by recent investments in state-of-the-art infrastructure, equipment and facilities (ROAR, Agilent measurement suite), we are poised to deliver a unique CDT to produce well-rounded individuals who are academically and technically able to tackle challenges of synthesis in the coming decades.

Profile of the Researcher produced by this CDT:

  • Multidisplinary
    Competency in core topics of synthetic chemistry, engineering and data science, with interdisciplinary research expertise in at least two of these areas.
  • Technical proficiency
    Able to make, measure and model reactions by using the latest synthesis and analytical tools, including automated reactors in combination with process/data analytical tools.
  • Creative and collaborative
    Effective team member, able to apply creative approaches to problem-solving.

Fully-funded 1+3 year (MRes + PhD) studentships are available to start in October 2019. Potential candidates are encouraged to submit their CV and a covering letter, including full contact details of two referees, to Prof. Mimi Hii. Imperial College PhD entry requirements must be met and the successful applicant will subsequently need to apply online. For further information please contact mimi.hii@imperial.ac.uk.


A brief description of the CDT programme

MRes course (Year 1): The first year of this CDT is structured as a standalone course for the UK cohort, where the students will progress through a common academic program in scheduled classes. The course includes 3 mandatory taught components, aimed at underpinning the fundamentals in synthetic chemistry, engineering and statistical sciences. Each student will also undertake a 9-month individual research project in a chosen area.

PhD (Years 2-4): The formal taught courses will be reduced to allow the student more time to pursue their independent project in subsequent years.

A key feature of this CDT is the accessibility of centralised and managed facilities such as ROAR, and the Agilent Advanced Measurement Suite to provide access to a range of automated reactors, ideal for delivering cohort-based practical workshops. The workshops will be given by technical experts from the hardware and software suppliers. Certificates of attendance will be issued and recorded on the students’ skill training record.

Throughout the programme, the students will also be expected to undertake professional and personal development courses, offered by the award-winning Graduate School.

All students will be encouraged to undertake a period of placement and internship, in an industrial or an academic collaborator’s lab abroad, during or immediately after their PhD.


Requirements and how to apply

Applicants must be EU nationals or have permanent leave to remain in the UK and should hold or expect to obtain a first or upper-second class honours degree or equivalent in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, or a related field. A Master’s degree in one of the above fields would be advantageous.

The admission procedure

Stage 1: Send a full CV and covering email to: mimi.hii@imperial.ac.uk

Stage 2: Suitable applicants will be invited for a formal interview in late March/early April (exact date TBC), and if successful invited to make a formal application.

Funding information

Full funding is available for Home Students and European Union nationals who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least three years prior to the start date a CDT studentship, i.e. for a 1st October 2019 start date you would need to have been resident in the UK since 30th September 2016.

Overseas students with full funding are welcome to apply.

EPSRC funding

To be eligible for a full award (stipend and fees) a student must have:

  • Settled status in the UK, i.e. no restrictions on how long they can stay; AND
  • Been ‘ordinary resident’ in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the grant; AND
  • Not be residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education (This does not apply to UK or EU nationals).
Industrial funding

We have a limited number of part-industry, part-EPSRC funded CDT projects available. These will provide an equivalent level of funding to the full EPSRC award.

EU and overseas students who are not eligible for the EPSRC award would only be entitled to the industry funding (usually equivalent to half of the full EPSRC award).

International students

International candidates with thir own fnding can be considered fo a place in the CDT programme, but must contact a supervisor to develop their own project.

For students who wish to self-fund, details of tuition fees and financial support can be found on the Student Finance page.

For those who are ineligible for funding would still like to apply, alternative funding opportunities can be found on the Scholarships & Awards page.

On-site assembly of the actin cortex in semi-synthetic cells to control cell mechanics and behaviour

Funded by the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme in Cellular Bionics – 3 year PhD studentships

Supervisors: Dr Elani YuvalDr Nick BrooksDr Marina Kuimova

Can we engineer semi-synthetic cells that can alter their global mechanical properties on-demand, in response to external stimuli? Can we link these mechanical properties to downstream protocellular ‘behaviours’ that are relevant to therapeutic and biotechnological applications? This project aims to address these questions using a cellular bionics approach. By intermingling both biological and synthetic components, an actin cortex will be manufactured/disassembled within vesicle-based synthetic cells in response to light of defined wavelengths. This will allow the synthetic cell to dynamically switch between mechanically distinct states (i.e. different rigidities and viscosities). Coupling cell biomechanics to different behaviours, in this case the cell’s ability to squeeze through constrictions under flow, will be investigated using a microfluidic device. This project will first require an understanding of the effect of the actin cortex on cell mechanics to be developed using molecular rotors and flickering analysis. These insights will then allow us to controllably engineer the stimuli-responsive systems. 



A synthetic biology toolbox for electronic control of gene expression

Funded by the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme in Cellular Bionics – 3 year PhD studentships

Supervisors: Dr Thomas OuldridgeDr Danny O'HareDr Rodrigo Ledesma

The 20th Century was characterized by the growth of a myriad of technologies based on digital electronics. Engineering of biological systems has the potential to be similarly revolutionary in the 21st Century. Before this dream can be realized, however, precise, programmable control of complex biological systems needs to become simpler, and the interface with other engineered technologies needs to be made more robust. In this project, the student will develop a modular system for interfacing electronic signals with engineered cells. The proposed mechanism utilizes electrochemical oxidation and reduction of redox molecules at electrodes, and the subsequent activation of redox-sensitive transcription factors in the vicinity of those electrodes. The electrogenetic module will allow implementation of precise spatio-temporal control of biological systems from a smartphone or personal computer, with applications in bioproduction, biomaterials, biosensors, diagnostics and more.  

Development of a bedside diagnostic tool to determine low levels of free haemoglobin in whole blood

Funded by the CDT in Chemical Biology: Innovation in Life Sciences – 1+3 year PhD studentships - APPLY HERE

This studentship in the ICB CDT is co-funded with Roche.

Supervisors: Professor Alan Spivey | Professor Tony CassDr Greg Quinlan 

Haemoglobin (Hb) is predominantly localised within the cellular compartment of red blood cells. However, traumatic injuries, surgery and some disease states (e.g. sickle cell, thalassemia and malaria) cause red cell rupture/haemolysis which releases free Hb into the circulation. Endogenous protection is afforded by the Hb binding and removal protein haptoglobin (Ha), but this reserve is rapidly overwhelmed. Free Hb has recently been implicated in kidney failures, infection, sepsis, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), hypertension and pulmonary arterial hypertension. Thus there is an emerging need to develop a sensitive and rapid, bedside, free Hb quantitation method to help inform diagnosis and clinical management of patients. In this project, we will explore two potential solutions to this challenge one based on electrochemical detection and the other spectrophotometry.

SolarBioChip: development of a solar bio-battery for printed bioelectronics

Funded by the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme in Cellular Bionics – 3 year PhD studentships

Supervisors: Prof Milo ShafferProf Peter Nixon | Prof Klaus Hellgardt

We have recently described the development of a printed cyanobacterial biobattery with potential application as a biodegradable power supply for low-power devices including biosensors and printed bioelectronics (Sawa M, Fantuzzi A, Bombelli P, Howe CJ, Hellgardt K & Nixon PJ (2017) Electricity generation from digitally printed cyanobacteria. Nature Commun. 8, 1327). The biobattery is conveniently fabricated by a scalable inkjet method to print both cyanobacterial cells and carbon nanotube electrode surfaces on which the cells grow as a biofilm. In the light the printed device acts as a biophotovoltaic cell producing electrical current from electrons released from the cell during photosynthetic electron transport. Importantly, the biobattery can also produce electricity in the dark from the breakdown of stored products of photosynthesis, such as carbohydrate. The aim of this project is to improve the power output of the first-generation solar biobattery so that it can meet the power requirement for use in ultra-low-power microprocessors, which will be undertaken in collaboration with Arm Ltd. Areas for investigation include the development of novel cyanobacterial strains (Nixon), the testing of novel electrode materials for improved conductance and biocompatibility (Shaffer), the development of robust printing techniques and composite design (Hellgardt) and the testing of printed biobattery on powering an ultra-low-power Arm processor in collaboration with Arm Ltd. Ultimately, we aim to fabricate a semi-living electronic device powered by sunlight using cyanobacterial cells – the ‘solarbiochip’.

Engineering novel cell mimetic membrane architectures

Supervisors: Dr Yuval Elani and Professor John Seddon

Cell mimicry – the ability to imitate the physical architecture, function and behaviour of cells – is proving to be an increasingly useful conceptual framework in (i) furthering our understanding of biological systems and (ii) constructing novel bio-inspired devices for clinical and industrial applications. The ability to generate membrane-based structures is proving to be especially powerful in both respects. However, the field has reached an impasse: although plasma membrane mimics are well established, mimics of alternative membrane structures are lacking. In this project, a suite of droplet-based technologies to assemble, manipulate, and functionalise synthetic analogues of a repertoire of membranous motifs — including synapses,  nuclear envelopes and double membranes — will be developed, and their biophysical properties characterised. This will lead to a step change in our ability to generate artificial cell systems from the bottom up, allowing us to reproduce features associated with intra-cellular compartmentalisation and inter-cellular communication. This project is multidisciplinary, incorporating elements of chemical biology, microfluidics, biophysics and biointerface science.

For further information please contact Yuval Elani (email Yuval)

EPSRC CDT in Smart Medical Imaging opens recruitment for 2019 student cohort

In September 2019, the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Smart Medical Imaging at King’s College London and Imperial College London will welcome its first cohort of students.

Students at the CDT typically follow a 1 + 3 pathway, spending their first year studying for the newly designed MRes in Technologies at King’s College London, and then the remainder of their course on their PhD research project at either Imperial College London or King’s College London. Research projects fit into at least one of the CDT’s four smart medical imaging themes: AI-enabled imaging, Smart Imaging Probes, Emerging Imaging and Affordable Imaging.

Professor Nick Long, deputy director of the CDT in Smart Medical Imaging said:

“Our vision is to train the next generation of medical imaging researchers, leveraging the full potential of medical imaging for healthcare through integration of artificial intelligence, targeted, responsive and safer imaging probes, cutting-edge emerging and affordable imaging solutions, within a unique multi-disciplinary environment of imaging scientists, engineers, clinicians and other healthcare professionals.”

Why Join Us

  • Fully funded PhD studentships, including generous research consumables and conference travel, with exposure to international imaging labs and healthcare industry placements;
  • Research excellence in Smart Medical Imaging within a unique multi-disciplinary hospital environment in Central London (St. Thomas’ Hospital), with state-of-the-art labs and clinical research imaging facilities within both King’s and Imperial;
  • Choice of a large number of innovative PhD projects, supervised by internationally renowned academics from King’s College London and/or Imperial College London, with direct input from world-leading clinical academics of our associated NHS Hospital Trusts;
  • Close healthcare industry involvement in selective research projects, with paid internships and on-site clinical application specialists from major industry partners;
  • Emphasis on research collaboration through PhD cohort building and interdisciplinary research training, and transferable skills training for outstanding employability;
  • Access to large UK research initiatives and infrastructure, such as the new £10m London Medical Imaging & Artificial Intelligence Centre for Value-Based Healthcare, the NVIDIA AI initiative at King’s and the new London high-field 7T MR centre based at King’s.

For more information, visit the CDT’s website.

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Chemical Biology: Innovation in Life Sciences

infographic

The ICB CDT is a postgraduate training programme, which forms the heart of the ICB at Imperial College London. The ICB is an institute which brings together more than 130 research groups across Imperial College London with 20 industrial partners and a SME business club with over 40 members.

The aim of the ICB CDT, one of the longest standing CDTs in the UK, is to train students in the art of multidisciplinary Chemical Biology research, giving them the exciting opportunity to develop the next generation of molecular tools and technologies for making, measuring, modelling and manipulating molecular interactions in biological systems. Students on the programme apply these advances to tackle key biological/biomedical problems and clinical/industrial challenges. In addition, students gain experience of industry 4.0 technologies such as 3-D printing, machine learning and robotics with a view to increasing the impact of Chemical Biology research.  This is a skill set which is in great demand from industry and addresses the future needs of employers in the pharmaceutical, biomedical, healthcare, personal care, biotech, agri-science and SME sectors.

To find out more or to apply to our 4 year studentships, visit our webpage at https://www.imperial.ac.uk/chemical-biology/cdt

Synthetic Extremophiles: Cellular bionics for extreme conditions

Funded by the Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship Programme in Cellular Bionics – 3 year PhD studentships

Supervisors: Dr Nick BrooksProf Oscar CesProf Rob Law 

One of the key markers of life is its ability to adapt and evolve in response to its surroundings, helping organisms to survive in their ecological niches. Such adaptations can be structural, behavioural or physiological. In the case of extremophiles this trait extends to enabling life to thrive in forbidding environments that were once not thought to be able to sustain life: from extremes of pressure all the way through to extremes of temperature. This studentship aims for the first time to generate biological-synthetic hybrid systems that are capable of surviving extremes of pressure (equivalent to being at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest ocean point in the world; >1000atm)-synthetic extremophiles. By fusing living and non-living systems we will generate ensembles that are able to modify their composition and make-up in response to external changes in hydrostatic pressure. This has the potential to transform our understanding of how molecular components come together to introduce emergent behaviour. In addition, it will lead to the manufacture of biological components that are ideally suited to a wide range of industrial, biotechnical and consumer applications where performance under extreme conditions and the capability to respond to extreme operating conditions are fundamental prerequisites.

Chemistry Doctoral Scholarships

‌Each year, the Department of Chemistry awards Approximately 10 Chemistry Doctoral Scholarships to outstanding PhD applicants, funded by the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Successful scholars will receive full tution fees and a stipend at advertised EPSRC rates for a PhD place in the Department of Chemistry at Imperial College London. Recruitment for the 2019 intake is now open.  The next deadline for submission of all the application materials is the 25th January 2019.  CDS Advert 2019.

Doctoral training in Advanced Molecular Synthesis

One of the key missions of the Centre for Rapid Online Analysis of Reactions (ROAR) is to provide skills and training in data-intensive synthesis, including analytical science, automation/robotics, reaction engineering and mathematical/data analysis. If you are interested in applying for a PhD studentship working at these interdisciplinary areas, please submit a CV and a covering letter, including full contact details of two referees, to Professor Mimi Hii. Imperial College PhD entry requirements must be met, and the successful applicant will subsequently need to apply online.

Requirements

Applicants must be EU nationals or have permanent leave to remain in the UK and should hold or expect to obtain a first or upper-second class honours degree or equivalent in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, or a related field. A Master’s degree in one of the above fields would be advantageous.

The admission procedure

Stage 1: Send a full CV and covering email to mimi.hii@imperial.ac.uk

Stage 2: Suitable applicants will be invited for a formal interview in late March/early April (exact date TBC), and if successful invited to make a formal application.

INCA – INtegrated Chemical Analysis: Novel Ionic Liquid Electrochemical Sensors

Supervisors: Dr Alastair J.S. McIntosh, Dr Patricia A. Hunt, and Prof. Tom Welton.

 The aim of this project is to develop an electrochemical sensor made of a flexible ionic liquid-composite which will allow the in-situ solubilisation and analysis of deposited organic compounds.

 We will employ a synergistic experimental and computational approach to gain insight, at a fundamental level, of how functionalised ILs act.  The project will explore how functionalised ILs interact with other molecules; as solutes, co-solvents, or additives within an electrochemical system. Computational characterisation of ILs will provide insight into how different functional components behave, subsequently the knowledge gained will be employed to design novel ILs, with the aim of augmenting the solubilisation of deposited materials. Novel ILs exhibiting the most desirable properties will be synthesised, combed with composite materials, and their electrochemical function explored and optimised.

 Functional electrochemical platform design will be undertaken, in collaboration with Prof. Joseph Wang (UCSD - http://joewang.ucsd.edu/), which may involve a research stay in his research group.

 The fundamental understanding obtained will be applicable in every field where ILs are replacing conventional solvents and electrolytes, e.g. pharmacology and biology, batteries and supercapacitors, fuel cells and biofuels, electrochemical sensors and analytics.

 Funding Notes:

 Applicants should have an upper 2nd or 1st degree in Chemistry, and some knowledge of one of ionic liquid synthesis, electrochemistry and/or computational modelling is desirable, with a willingness to train in the other area: synthesis or computational modelling as required.

 European/UK/Commonwealth students only

 Fully funded 36 month PhD project in collaboration with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

Start date: Between 1st July 2018 – 1st October 2018

 Please contact Dr McIntosh (a.mcintosh@imperial.ac.uk) and Dr Hunt (p.hunt@imperial.ac.uk) for further details.

Novel adjuvants for antibody-based cancer therapeutics: design, biological characterization and influence on membrane-protein structure

Applications are invited for a 4-year PhD studentship in Structural Biology, funded by Cancer Research UK, and supervised by Dr Doryen Bubeck (Department of Life Sciences) and Prof Ed Tate (Department of Chemistry). 

Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are one of the most exciting new classes of anticancer agent, with a current market of over $20 billion forecast to grow by 50% in the next 3 years. The mechanism by which mAbs kill cancer cells during cancer immunotherapy treatments is complex, and involves the interplay of multiple effectors, including selective activation of complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC). Membrane attack complex (MAC) pores contribute to CDC, and are counteracted by membrane-bound complement inhibitors such as CD59, which are overexpressed on tumour cells and can provide a mechanism for immune evasion. Interestingly, bacterial pore-forming toxins with a similar structural fold to MAC proteins (e.g. Streptococcus Intermedilysin, ILY) compete for CD59-binding through a specific interface, and increase cells’ susceptibility to CDC. This project will integrate a platform of technologies to determine how MAC pores lyse cells and how CD59 regulates this process, providing fundamental insights into the mechanism of action of rituximab. This platform will be exploited to design and optimize compounds that can specifically block CD59, and thus potentiate anticancer immunotherapy.

The project would ideally suit an outstanding biochemistry graduate with some existing experience in protein chemistry and/or structural biology. You should also have a strong interest in structural and functional characterization of protein complexes and protein-drug interactions, and in developing and applying these methods in the context of cancer treatment. The successful candidate will receive training in all relevant aspects of protein chemistry, biophysics and structural biology.

To apply, please send a letter of motivation and your full CV, including your nationality and full contact details of two academic references, to Dr Doryen Bubeck.

Closing date: 15th January 2018

For further details on eligbility and funding please see the full advert.

PhD in Synthetic Coordination Chemistry (MOFs)

A PhD position in the synthesis and characterisation of novel Metal Organic Framework materials (MOFs) is available in the Davies group with an October 2019 starting date. The work will involve a variety of synthetic techniques (both organic and inorganic) for the preparation of the organic linkers and the MOFs themselves, as well the application of a wide-range of spectroscopic and materials characterisation techniques. The group has interest in these materials in medical, catalysis and gas sorting applications. For recent examples see Chem Commun., 2017, 53, 12524-12527; CrystEngComm, 2018, 20, 4541-4545; Angew Chem Int Ed Engl, 2018, 57, 4532-4537.

The position is available to UK graduates with a 1st class degree in Chemistry. Previous experience with synthetic inorganic/organometallic chemistry and/or MOFs is not a requirement but would be an advantage. Interested applicants should contact Dr Rob Davies (r.davies@imperial.ac.uk) by email, along with a CV.

PhD Studentship in Polyester Plastic Recycling Using Low-cost Ionic Liquids

We are inviting applications of motivated candidates for a PhD studentship in the exciting field of ‘Advanced plastic recycling’. The studentship includes fees and a bursary for suitable UK national/residents for the duration of 3 years. The studentship is available for a start from 1 October 2019. The deadline for application is 8 January 2019.

Persistent pollution of the environment with plastic is a major challenge. At the same time, plastic is also a valuable resource, and the best outcome after their initial use is recycling into a new product rather than landfilling, incineration or persisting in the environment. One reason for the low effectiveness of plastic recycling and limited value of post-consumer plastic are issues with mechanical recycling (remoulding), due to general degradation of the polymer structure and contamination with components such as metals, dyes, and labels. Renewable and non-renewable polyesters are a major part of the plastic economy. The amount of polyethylene terehtalate (PET) produced in 2015 was 33 million tonnes according to the World Economic Forum; it is the fourth most common plastic, used in drink bottles, food packaging and textiles. Emerging renewable and biodegradable polyester materials, for example polylactic acid (PLA), will also need high quality recycling routes to retain their economic value. Such polyesters are suitable candidates for a new route to plastic recycling called chemical recycling, where the polymer is deconstructed into its building blocks, which can then be recovered in purified form and used to produce virgin grade material.

 Ionic liquids are a new class of solvents that have interesting and unique properties such as non-volatility, in-built catalytic functionality and a broad range of solvation characteristics that can be tuned to suit an application. In this project, we will explore the use of stable, low-cost ionic liquids for the recycling of polyesters. The successful candidate will screen a range of suitable ionic solvents and optimise their composition for effectiveness and low cost, followed by optimising processing conditions and recovery of a range of polyester monomers, while monitoring the fate of contaminants. The new system will be compared with other chemical recycling approaches. Once we have identified an effective system, we will carry out an economic assessment.

 You will join two dynamic interdisciplinary research teams focusing on sustainable materials analysis and process development; applicants should have excellent understanding of physical science and / or chemical engineering, with a deep interest in sustainable chemistry, solvent selection, polymer characterisation and process development, combined with outstanding teamwork and communication skills and a passion to make a true positive difference to the global environment. Some experience with examining reaction mechanisms and molecular structure is preferable. Candidates should have (or be expecting to have) a Master’s degree (1st class or upper second class) in chemistry, chemical engineering or a relevant discipline. 

This PhD studentship will be funded through the DTP ‘Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet’ supported by the UK's Natural Environment Research Council (https://www.imperial.ac.uk/grantham/education/science-and-solutions-for-a-changing-planet-dtp/). It is open to UK home students or non-UK students who have settled status in UK or were ordinarily residing in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the studentship. The studentship will cover tuition fees plus the standard London-weighted maintenance stipend of £16,777 per year.

PhDs in Inorganic and Organometallic Chemistry

PhDs in Inorganic and Organometallic Chemistry

Two 36-month PhD positions in synthetic inorganic and organometallic chemistry are available within the research group of Professor Nicholas Long (http://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/n.long).

The first position features the synthesis and application of redox-active/stereoselective catalysts for polymerisation. The work will involve a range of synthetic organometallic and inorganic coordination chemistry techniques and working with a Schlenk line, as well as spectroscopic and electrochemical characterisation. The project is in collaboration with Prof. Charlotte Williams (Oxford) and builds upon recent research in the group, see for example Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., (53) 9226-9230 2014; J. Am. Chem. Soc., (134) 20577-20580 2012.

The second position involves the synthesis and evaluation of new inorganic compounds for molecular imaging, particularly dual-modal imaging.   The project will feature the synthesis of new organic ligands and chelates, and their metal coordination chemistry with transition metals and lanthanides.   Applications will be evaluated in collaboration with biomedical collaborators and will involve optical imaging, magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography.  The work builds on recent research in the group e.g. Chem. Eur. J. (21) 5023-5033 2015; Angew. Chem Int. Ed., (53) 9550-9554 2014.

The positions are available to both UK and EU graduates with a 1st or 2:1 class UG degree in Chemistry. Previous experience with synthetic inorganic/organometallic chemistry and/or biomedical imaging is not a requirement but would be an advantage.

Interested applicants should contact Prof. Long (n.long@imperial.ac.uk) by email, along with a CV and the contact details of two referees. These positions are available for October 2018. 

Surgery on a Single Cell

Funded by the CDT in Chemical Biology: Innovation in Life Sciences – 1+3 year PhD studentships - APPLY HERE

Supervisors: Dr Alex Ivanov | Dr Nick Jones | Professor Joshua B Edel | Professor Patrick Chinnery | Dr Michael Devine

We currently have no basic understanding of how mutations spread within single cells. For example, the spread of specific mitochondrial mutations likely has a central role in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and fundamental life processes such as ageing. 

This multidisciplinary project is based around novel single molecule - single-cell biophysical technology developed in our groups that combine spatial mapping, extraction and genomic profiling of individual mitochondria from living cells. (Nature Nanotechnology 2019 and news article Nature Medicine)

This is a highly multidisciplinary research project and is ideally suited for an MRes/PhD, building up competences step-by-step ensuring the foundations are in place. It is important to emphasize that based on our preliminary data that automated mitochondrial extraction and sequencing is readily within our reach. The student will receive training in techniques such as nanofabrication, cell culture, and imaging. Furthermore, the student will actively collaborate with colleagues that will perform mtDNA sequencing and modelling.

These activities will be complemented by established expertise in mitochondrial research, mitochondrial sequencing and sequence informatics and mathematical modelling across leading groups at University of Cambridge, UCL and Imperial College London.

Targeting DNA secondary structures to investigate ageing biology

Targeting DNA secondary structures to investigate ageing biology - PhD project with Dr Marco Di Antonio

The aim of this research project is to investigate the role of DNA packaging and DNA G-quadruplex secondary structure thorough ageing and accelerating ageing disorders.

G-quadruplexes are stable non-B DNA structures that form in guanine-rich DNA sequences, acting as knots and posing a threat for polymerases processivity during transcription and replication. G-quadruplex prevalence is highly dependent on chromatin architecture and recent findings have suggested that is the lack of resolution of DNA G-quadruplex structures, particularly those formed within the guanine-rich ribosomal DNA, the underlining cause of accelerating ageing in Cockayne syndrome. However, a clear cause-effect between the build-up of unresolved G-quadruplex structures, chromatin structure alteration and ageing biology remains yet to be elucidated. Investigating chromatin architecture variation thorough lifespan and targeting age-dependent DNA structural features to revert ageing phenotypes is an unexplored opportunity that could radically improve our understanding of ageing biology.

The successful PhD candidate will develop small molecule probes to target, visualise and disrupt G-quadruplex structures within cells. These chemical tools will be used to study G-quadruplex structures prevalence and influence on chromatin during ageing. This project will expose the successful student to synthetic chemistry, biophysics, molecular biology and microscopy, which will be combined to unravel changes in chromatin architecture and DNA secondary structures formation that are linked with ageing. This work will pave the way towards the targeting of DNA and chromatin structural features to revert ageing associated conditions and treat rare accelerating ageing disorders.

For further information, please email Dr Di Antonio at md530@cam.ac.uk