Current PhD vacancies are listed below. See the postgraduate pages for more information on our PhD programmes.
- Probing the electronic structure and dynamics of photoactive protein chromophores using photoelectron spectroscopy (closing date: 31/07/16)
A fully-funded 3-year PhD studentship is available to work with Professors Helen Fielding and Stephen Price (UCL Department of Chemistry).
Photoactive proteins drive a number of chemical and biological processes. Following absorption of a photon, the chromophore at the heart of a photoactive protein tends to undergo a structural change, such as an isomerisation, to initiate a chemical or biological response. An example is the photoactive yellow protein (PYP), which is the photoreceptor responsible for the motion of the purple bacterium Halorhodospira halophila away from potentially harmful ultraviolet light.
The aim of this project is to use frequency-resolved and time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopies to observe the primary motions that follow photon absorption by the PYP chromophore and to investigate the role of an environment in controlling the excited state structure and dynamics.
The project will involve the following:
- anion photoelectron spectroscopy to investigate the excited state structure and dynamics of isolated model chromophores;
- liquid jet photoelectron spectroscopy to investigate the excited state structure and dynamics of chromophores in the condensed phase;
- quantum chemistry calculations to assist with the interpretation of the experimental measurements.
The start date is 1 October 2016. The PhD stipend for this project will be ca. £16,794 p.a. (tax and fees paid) and will last for 3 years. Due to restrictions on funding, this studentship is only open to candidates who satisfy EPSRC eligibility requirements, i.e. from the UK/EU with 3 years residency in the UK.
The project will suit a candidate who has enjoyed undergraduate physical chemistry or molecular physics. Applicants should have, or expect to achieve a 1 or 2.1 MSci degree in chemistry, physics or related subject. For further information about the project, please contact Professor Helen Fielding (firstname.lastname@example.org). For further details about the application process, please contact Dr Jadranka Butorac in the Chemistry Department (tel: +44 (0)20 7679 4650, email: email@example.com).
- Electron and energy transfer in two-dimensional covalent organic frameworks (closing date: 08/07/16)
A three year PhD studentship is available at the Department of Chemistry, UCL, to study electron and energy transfer in porphyrin-based two-dimensional covalent organic frameworks (2D-COFs). The studentship will commence in September 2016, and will cover stipend and fees.
Two-dimensional covalent organic frameworks (2D-COFs) are ordered materials where individual planar molecules are linked through covalent bonds, thereby generating a stable two-dimensional molecular network. A key aspect of these COFs is that if the individual molecules are conjugated systems – such as porphyrins – then it is possible that the entire network will also be conjugated, allowing facile transfer of charge carriers and/or energy across the framework. This could provide potential applications in a number of fields, including molecular electronics.
The project will involve fabricating the COFs and assessing the success of the fabrication process using scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM). Electron and energy transfer processes will then be measured using spectroscopic techniques, primarily transient absorption spectroscopy, in order to ascertain and optimise their suitability for molecular electronic applications.
The candidate must be a UK or EU citizen with 3 year residency in the UK, and have experience in spectroscopy and/or morphology characterisation techniques. He/she must have – or expect to obtain by September 2016 – a first class or upper second class honours degree in chemistry, physics, or a closely-related discipline.
For more information, please contact Tracey Clarke (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Matthew Blunt (email@example.com). To apply, please send your CV and a one page research statement to Dr Clarke by Friday 17th June.
- Following the Fate of Photo-Activated Chromophores Using Quantum Dynamics Simulations (closing date: 31/07/2016)
A fully-funded 3-year PhD studentship is available to work with Professor Graham Worth (UCL Department of Chemistry) in computational chemistry.
What happens to a molecule after absorbing a photon (photo-activation) are hard to predict as there are often a number of competing pathways available. Which will predominate depends on details of the molecule, its environment, and the way the excitation takes place. A particular area of interest at present are the behaviour of chromophores in proteins, where the role of the environment plays a special role, not yet fully understood. Examples are the well studied Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) and Photo-active Yellow Protein (PYP). To get a full picture, computer simulations have an important role to play. These are, however, computationally demanding calculations and we are developing new, more efficient, algorithms to solve the time-dependent Schrödinger equation to simulate these processes from first principles. Experimental work on these molecules using time-resolved spectroscopy is also being performed at UCL in the group of Prof. Helen Fielding. The project will be designed to complement these measurements.
The scientific objectives of this PhD project will be:
- To characterise the potential energy surfaces of chromophores in the gas phase and in their protein environment using quantum chemistry calculations.
- To investigate the excited state dynamics (photochemistry and photophysics) of these chromophores to understand the mechanism of decay.
- To help develop the computer program used to study photo-activated dynamics.
- Work together with experimental spectroscopists to help them analyse data.
The start date is 1 October 2016. The PhD stipend for this project will be ca. £16,296 p.a. (tax and fees paid) and will last for 3 years. Due to restrictions on funding, this studentship is only open to candidates who satisfy EPSRC eligibility requirements, i.e. from the UK/EU with 3 years residency in the UK.
The project will suit a candidate with a strong background or interest in theoretical and computational chemistry. Applicants should have, or expect to achieve a 1 or 2.1 MSci degree in chemistry or physics. For further information about the project, please contact Professor Graham Worth (firstname.lastname@example.org). For further details about the application process, please contact Dr Jadranka Butorac in the Chemistry Department (tel: +44 (0)20 7679 4650, email: email@example.com).
- Modelling the ligand binding kinetics in G protein-coupled receptors (closing date: 22/07/16)
This 4 year PhD research project, due to start at the end of Sep 2016, is a collaboration between the UCL Chemistry Department and Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology at UCL and Heptares Therapeutics Ltd, a global biopharmaceutical company (http://www.heptares.com/home/). The doctoral student will be based at UCL in the group of Francesco Gervasio but the training will include a 3+ month placement spent with Heptares. On successful completion, the candidate will receive a doctorate from UCL.
G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) form the most commonly targeted class of proteins for therapeutic intervention, accounting for 30- 40% of all prescription pharmaceuticals currently on the market. Notable examples of drugs targeting GPCRs include Zyprexa, an antipsychotic medication and Clarinex, an antihistamine used to treat the symptoms of allergies.
The aim of this PhD project is to further develop the simulation methodologies from the Gervasio group and apply them to understand the molecular factors regulating binding kinetics in GPCRs. The current limitations of atomistic molecular dynamics simulations, with respect to not sampling over time scales typical of drug binding and unbinding, will be addressed with enhanced sampling algorithms. A user-friendly computational platform built on the widely used programs Gromacs, PLUMED and PyMol will be developed to make the approach robust and generally applicable to GPCRs. The protocol will be tested on biomedically relevant GPCR systems such as the adenosine A2a receptor, the glucagon receptor and orexin 1 receptor. The collaboration with Heptares, a leader in the field of GPCRs drug discovery, is fundamental for the validation of the computational models. It will provide access to high quality binding kinetics and thermodynamics data as well as new X-ray structures of ligand-protein complexes and pharmacological evaluation of the ligand activity.
This studentship offers an excellent opportunity for a gifted individual to work on a significant problem in drug discovery and computational biophysics and will allow them to learn about computational method development and drug discovery under the supervision of experts in the field. Collaboration with industry will ensure the overall relevance and visibility of the project and a better stipend than a standard PhD studentship.
The candidate should have a first or upper second Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, physics, biochemistry or a similar discipline. A familiarity with molecular modelling and simulations is needed, and computer programming ability would be beneficial. To be eligible, applicants must satisfy 3 years UK residency criteria (see https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/skills/students/help/eligibility/).
Please submit a full CV and covering letter to Prof. Francesco Gervasio (firstname.lastname@example.org). The deadline for applications is 22nd July 2016.
- Bi-functional Catalysts & Electrode Structures for Electrochemically Rechargeable Metal-Air Batteries (closing date: 17/06/16)
Electrochemically Rechargeable Metal-Air Batteries are a promising future energy storage technology, due to their high theoretical specific energy, i.e. 1350 or 11140 Wh kg-1 (excluding oxygen) for Zinc-air or Li-air battery, respectively, compared with 100-265 Wh kg-1 for current Li-ion batteries. Aqueous metal-air batteries (i.e. Zn-air) are of particular interest for the large scale grid storage as this is potentially one of the low-cost solutions. Major challenges of Metal-air batteries, however, lie in the following: 1) rechargeability; 2) round-trip efficiency and 3) power density, which ultimately determine the cost-effectiveness & life-time of the developed system. A fully funded 3-year PhD studentship is available to work with Professor Z. Xiao Guo and Professor Gopinathan Sankar.
In order to achieve cost-effective and highly durable metal-air batteries, the first-priority is to develop efficient oxygen reduction / evolution (ORR / OER) bi-functional catalysts. The existing commercial benchmark, i.e. platinum or iridium oxide supported on carbon (Pt/C or IrO2/C), suffers from their scarcity and poor durability. In fact, neither is ‘truly’ bi-functional. Preliminary work in Prof. Guo’s group has shown that a series of non-precious metal / porous carbon composites and even metal-free (i.e. heteroatom-doped graphene) catalysts surpass the ORR/OER activities of Pt/C and IrO2/C, respectively [ACS Catalysis, 2016: DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.6b00531; Energy & Env. Sci.: DOI: 10.1039/C6EE00551A]. Such mechanistic study will be characterized by our state-of-the-art electrochemical atomic force microscopy (EC-AFM) technique, which allows for the in-situ measurement of morphology / chemical environment change on the electrode surface during charging / discharging, which facilitates the probe of active sites for catalytic oxygen reduction / evolution and the study on battery degradation mechanism. In addition, we will aim to develop in situ methods to use advanced characterization methods involving Synchrotron radiation techniques to determine the structure of the materials.
The candidate must be a UK or EU citizen and have experience in inorganic chemistry. They must have – or expect to obtain by September 2016- a first class or upper second class in chemistry, physics, or a closely-related discipline. For more information and to apply, please send your CV and a one page research statement to Professor Guo (email@example.com) by Friday 17th June 2016.
- PhD in Precision Nanomedicine (closing date: 10/06/16)
As a part of an large EPSRC project, we are currently developing new methods to delivery anticancer drugs that combine with stratified medicine to create personalised system. The project will involve the collaboration with clinical oncologists, chemists, physicists and biologists all working together to create a new generation of precision nanomedicines.
We are looking for an enthusiastic student with a strong first degree in Physical Science or Engineering who’s willing to expand their expertise in life sciences or with a degree in Life Science or Biomedicine who’s willing to expand their expertise in physical sciences. Experience with polymer synthesis, nanoparticle preparation and cell culture is desirable but not essential as advanced training will be provided.
To apply please send your CV, your degree transcript with grades (or expected grades), and 1 page research statement to Prof Giuseppe Battaglia, firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline for applications is the 10th of June 2016, interviews and selections will be taking place short after.
The two positions will be starting from October 2016. The scholarships will cover stipend and fees for students who have a UK-resident status. Other students will need to find extra funding/scholarships to cover the excess in fees and/or stipend. Candidates must hold (or will have obtained by Oct 2016) qualifications at the level of, or equivalent to, first or upper second class honours degree from a UK academic institution. Qualifications, or a combination of qualifications and experience, which constitute comparable ability and accomplishment will also be considered.
- Solar hydrogen generation over rutile/anatase TiO2 (closing date: 15/07/16)
A 4 year Eng Doc studentship is available in the Centre for Doctoral Training in Molecular Modelling and Materials Science, UCL (www.m3s.ucl.ac.uk).
The studentship will commence in September 2016. Titania surfaces have been widely explored as photocatalytic and photovoltaic materials for many years. This is one means of harnessing solar energy. Despite the large effort that has explored empirical optimisation, little progress has been made to increase the efficiency of the devices. As for the possibility of rational design, an atomistic understanding of the key processes that limit performance is still lacking. Of particular interest is the relative activity of the rutile and anatase polymorphs of TiO2. The anatase phase is thought to be the more active, and various ideas have been put forward to explain this phenomenon such as the indirect band gap of anatase. Nevertheless, the most effective powder samples for photocatalysis are a mixture of anatase and rutile. This project, which involves the major petrochemical company SABIC, will explore the origin of this synergy.
Nanoscale interfaces between rutile and anatase will be prepared using a method recently devised in a UCL/SABIC collaboration. This involves 3 keV e-beam disruption of an anatase TiO2(101) surface followed by an STM tip pulse to re-order the surface as rutile TiO2(110). Other methods of forming an interface will also be explored. The interface will be studied by scanning tunneling microscopy for comparision with calculations by a collaborating theory group. Comparative photochemical reactions will be studied on anatase, rutile and interfaces, for instance water dissociation. The methods to be used to investigate the enhance photoatalytic activity are high-resolution electron energy loss spectroscopy (HREELS), temperature programmed desorption (TPD), and XPS in addition to STM.
The student will spend up to two months a year at SABIC engaged in project experiments employing STM, XPS and TPD.
Due to funding restrictions, this studentship is only open to applicants from the UK and EU, who have been resident in the UK for at least 3 years preceding their start on the programme or have indefinite leave to remain in the UK. The candidates should have, or expect to gain, a good honours degree (first or upper second) in a relevant subject, e.g. physics, chemistry, or materials science. The group website is http://www.ucl.ac.uk/chemistry/research/group_pages/nano.
Please direct applications and enquiries regarding this project to Prof Geoff Thornton (email@example.com) as soon as possible.
The deadline for applications: 15th July 2016
- Understanding the Mechanochemical Synthesis of Mixed Oxides using Synchrotron and Neutron Techniques
We are looking to recruit a PhD student for a high-profile EPSRC funded CASE award in partnership with Johnson Matthey Technology Centre. The position will be based at the UK Catalysis Hub, Harwell, Oxfordshire. The UK Catalysis Hub is a new EPSRC initiative aimed at coordinating UK efforts in catalytic science, with the laboratories at the Research Complex at Harwell (RCaH) providing the physical base for this network. This is a unique opportunity to engage with leading UK academics in catalytic science, alongside exposure to the advanced characterisation techniques made possible by the synchrotron and neutron source on the Harwell Campus.
The mechanochemical synthesis of mixed oxides is of interest within Johnson Matthey as a potential new route to the manufacture of materials. The mechanism of the transformation of reagents to active phases under mechanical action will be explored using model and real materials and reference synthesis routes giving an understanding of how key phases are formed and what the key parameters are for synthesis.
Applicants should have a good honours degree (at least 2.1) or equivalent in Chemistry, or a related discipline. Due to funding restrictions only UK/EU students are eligible to apply. The project will be under the supervision of Dr Peter Wells (http://www.rc-harwell.ac.uk/team-members1), who is the Associate Director of the Harwell component of the UK Catalysis Hub. Although based at Harwell full-time, the student will be registered at University College London and will have access to the excellent postgraduate courses available within the University.
If you wish to apply for this unique opportunity or find out more information please get in touch with Dr Peter Wells (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Antibacterial Compounds
There is a strong demand to develop new powerful bacteria-killing agents because antibiotic resistance is rising and the existing repertoire of active compounds is dwindling. This PhD project will take advantage of recent research in chemical biology to produce new antibacterial compounds that target and lyse bacterial membrane.
This will be achieved by developing nanoscale pores that specifically interact and puncture the membranes. The pores will be chemically modified with lipid anchors for selective insertion into bilayers, and will be composed of short nucleic acids strands so as to tune the size and activity of the pores.
This is a multidisciplinary project incorporating elements of chemical biology and nanobiotechnology, and the student will gain considerable experience in a range of techniques including nucleic acids chemistry, rational design of DNA nanostructures, and microbiological and biophysical analysis.
Interested candidates are encouraged to informally contact Dr Stefan Howorka (email@example.com) to discuss the project, and can apply formally following instructions in the link:
Early application is encouraged as the position will be filled (for a September 2016 start date) as soon as a suitable candidate is identified.
- Modelling electron collision and surface reactions in technological plasma
A studentship is available as part of the UCL Centre for Doctoral Training in Molecular Modelling & Materials Science to work with UCL spin-out company Quantemol Ltd. The studentship will commence in September 2016.
The project will involve theoretical studies of electron - molecule collisions using the R-matrix method and calculations of surface reactions, with an emphasis on processes important for plasmas used in the manufacturing of semiconductor devices (i.e. microchips).
The studentship is available for 4 years, which cover fees and stipend (~£17557 per annual, tax free). Applications are welcomed from UK/EU nationals, who have been resident in the UK for at least 3 years preceding their start on the programme, or those have indefinite leave to remain in the UK. The candidates should have a good degree in physics, chemistry or a close-related discipline, and high level computer skills.
- Magnetism and spin-orbit coupling in thin-film topological materials
In this four years EngD studentship project, which will be based in Centre for Doctoral Training Molecular Modelling and Materials Science, UCL, we will combine the thin film growth and structural characterisation expertise of the group of Chris Nicklin (CN) at the Diamond Light Source with the atomic-scale electronic and magnetic characterisation capabilities of the group of Cyrus F. Hirjibehedin (CFH) at UCL to study the properties of bare topological insulators as well as those doped with atomic and molecular magnetic adsorbates.
A broad class of TI materials will be prepared by CN’s group in collaboration with other leading UK groups. Particular attention will be paid to the achieving the highest quality intrinsic TI states by tuning, for example, the growth parameters as well as exploring different substrates for the films. After their initial structural characterisation, the most promising candidates will be explored by STM, first at room temperature at Diamond and then at low temperatures and in high magnetic fields at UCL. These latter studies will probe the dispersive behaviour of scattered surface states, and can access both filled and empty states with atomic-level resolution. Furthermore, analysis of the scattering by adsorbed magnetic defects and the development of Landau levels in a magnetic field will provide additional understanding of the topologically non-trivial nature of the material as well as possible evidence for novel quantum phenomena.
Due to funding restrictions, this studentship is only open to applicants from the UK and EU, who have been resident in the UK for at least 3 years preceding their start on the programme or have indefinite leave to remain in the UK. The candidates should have, or expect to gain, a good honours degree (first or upper second) in a relevant subject, e.g. physics, chemistry, or materials science.
For additional information, please contact Dr Cyrus Hirjibehedin – firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Sensitive gas sensor devices (closing date: 15th July 2016)
A 4-year Eng Doc studentship is available in the Centre for Doctoral Training in Molecular Modelling and Materials Science, UCL (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/chemistry/postgraduate/engd). Applications are invited for the studentship with Dr Chris Blackman (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/chemistry/people/chris-blackman) to use a recently developed vapour deposition method to deposit porous semiconducting metal oxides directly onto gas sensor substrates to produce sensitive gas sensor devices.
Micro-Electronic Mechanical Systems (MEMS) sensor platforms have numerous potential advantages over traditional alumina platforms including, importantly, lower power consumption whilst also allowing more repeatable dynamic thermal performance, which can be combined with signal processing to provide an exciting, yet underused, method for creating discriminating sensors. Traditional methods of gas sensor fabrication (i.e. screen printing, ink-jetting and nano-droplet) are not compatible with MEMS technology because the larger and variable mass deposited gives irreproducible phase information during dynamic thermal cycling and also because the required high temperature thermal treatment after deposition is limited by the substrate design. The vapour deposition method to be used in this project has the crucial advantage of allowing for direct deposition onto device structures.
This research is to be carried out in collaboration with Alphasense Ltd (http://www.alphasense.com/), a leading UK gas sensor manufacturer, interested in exploiting new technologies for the commercial production of next-generation gas sensors and the student will spend a portion of their time making sensor measurements at Alphasense using their state-of-the art sensor measuring systems.
The studentship will cover tuition fees at home/EU rate and provide tax-free stipend at the rate of £17557 per annum.
Please send your application letter, CV and the names and addresses of two referees to the programme coordinator, Dr Zhimei Du (email@example.com). Informal enquiries may be addressed to Dr Chris Blackman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The deadline for applications is 15th July 2016, but the position will be filled as soon as an appropriate candidate is found.
Due to funding restrictions, this studentship is only open to applicants from the UK and EU, who have been resident in the UK for at least 3 years preceding their start on the programme or have indefinite leave to remain in the UK. The candidate should have, or expect to obtain, an upper second-class or first-class honours degree (or equivalent) in chemistry/materials science.