Chemical Synthesis (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)

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Run by Faculty of Science
Awards available PhD
Programme length Four years full-time
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available No, full-time only
Start date September 2018

Programme overview

We are a world-class Centre for Doctoral Training for Synthetic Chemistry. Our alternative to the traditional PhD will:

  • enhance your research skills through our unique initial training period
  • enable you to choose your own PhD project
  • encourage you to explore areas outside your comfort zone
  • foster a teamwork ethos through cohort-driven research
  • build personal confidence
  • create links with industry while working on real-world problems
  • allow you to interact with international renowned research groups
  • increase your employability by building on your transferable skills.

The Royal Society of Chemistry has recognised the quality of our training by allowing students in their final year to apply for partial accreditation of the Chartered Chemist qualification.

We are seeking applications from students covering the whole breadth of the synthetic chemistry discipline. Our research is organised into themes, and we encourage applications from students whose interests lie within these:

  • Metal catalysed transformations
  • New scaffolds for medicines and agrochemicals
  • Designer ligands for catalysis
  • Design and synthesis of new bioactive and functional molecules
  • Main group chemistry: from molecules to materials
  • Development of expedient new synthetic methodologies
  • Chemistry, synthesis and activity of natural products
  • Cleaner synthesis

Studentships last for four years and cover tuition fees and maintenance. Applications are welcomed from students with or expecting to gain a first or upper-second class honours MSci/MChem (or equivalent).

Our centre is one of the CDTs hosted by the School of Chemistry offering training in a number of different disciplines.

Fees for 2018/19

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2018/19 are as follows:

UK/EU: full-time
Overseas: full-time
Channel Islands/Isle of Man: full-time

Bench fees: For postgraduate research students who are not funded by UK Research Councils or (specific) UK charities, it is usual to charge a bench fee. A bench fee covers the costs of laboratory consumables, specialist equipment and other relevant costs (e.g. training) for the duration of the programme. The bench fee charged can vary considerably depending on the nature of the programme being undertaken. Details of specific bench fee charges can be provided on request and will made clear in the offer letter sent to applicants.

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to a five per cent increase in fees each year. Find out more about tuition fees.

Alumni scholarship

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a ten per cent reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni scholarship.

Funding for 2018/19

Our fully-funded studentships cover all University fees for the duration of the programme, as well as a yearly stipend for living expenses. The yearly stipend is set by RCUK; further information can be found on their website. We welcome applications from self-funded students and, where possible, can assist candidates making scholarship applications.

Further information on funding for prospective UK, EU and international postgraduate students.

Programme structure

The PhD in Chemical Synthesis offered by our Centre for Doctoral Training, is a comprehensive four-year programme designed to equip you with enhanced team-working and problem-solving skills that will enable you to successfully address the full range of molecular-based problems of the future.

You will start Year 1 of your PhD with an eight-month training period, known as Postgraduate Advanced Chemical Techniques (PACT). This intensive period is designed to broaden and strengthen research techniques before starting your PhD project. The over-arching goal of PACT is to equip you with the tools required to make an informed PhD project choice. You will also benefit from learning and developing a range of transferable skills, including presentation, teamwork and problem solving.

The six elements of PACT are:

  • brainstorming PhD proposals
  • eight-week lab rotations
  • Director's Cut (problem-solving sessions)
  • Journal Club (literature review)
  • lecture courses (assessment by exam)
  • postgraduate DLM (lab experiments in a virtual environment)

After PACT, in Year 2 to Year 4, your training will be further supported by bespoke lectures and workshops from leading companies, as well as industrial and academic placements, both in the UK and abroad.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class honours MSci/MChem degree, or equivalent.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you need to meet this profile level:
Profile F
Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Admissions statement

Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Admissions statement

Research groups

Our research is organised into themes and we encourage applications from students whose interests lie within these:

We currently work closely with several chemical companies, including AstraZeneca, Lilly, Syngenta, GSK and Novartis.


Graduates of the centre are currently working in a range of sectors, including further academic research, pharma and biotech industries, patent law and teaching.

Staff profiles

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Chemical Synthesis

Professor Varinder Aggarwal BA, PhD(Cantab), FRS, (Professor), Acyclic stereocontrol; catalytic asymmetric synthesis; organoboron chemistry; organometallic chemistry; synthesis of natural products.

Professor Kevin Booker-Milburn BSc(CNAA), PhD(Strath), (Professor), New synthetic methods for the synthesis of natural products; photochemistry; radical chemistry; transition metal catalysis.

Dr John Bower MSc, PhD(Bristol), (Senior Research Fellow), Development of green processes (i.e. step economy, atom economy and selectivity); development of novel asymmetric catalytic strategies.

Dr Wuge Briscoe PhD(SAust), (Senior Lecturer in Physical Chemistry), Interactions at bio- and nano-interfaces

Dr Craig Butts BSc, PhD, (Reader), Experimental investigations (in particular with NMR) of challenging chemical structures, dynamics and reactivity, with emphasis on developing techniques to probe and control these.

Professor Jonathan Clayden BA (Natural Sciences)-Cambridge, PhD(Cam), (Professor), New molecular reactivity; rational conformational control (ROCOCO); synthesis of neuroactive and other bioactive compounds.

Professor Matthew Crump BSc, PhD(Bristol), (Professor), Application of chemical probes in biological systems; medicinal chemistry and biologics; structural biology using NMR and X-ray crystallography.

Professor Anthony Davis MA, DPhil(Oxon), FRSC, (Professor), Anion recognition and transport; carbohydrate recognition; computer-aided molecular design; crystal engineering; supramolecular chemistry.

Professor Charl Faul BSc, BSc, MSc, PhD(Stellenbosch), (Professor of Materials Chemistry), Electroactive functional nanomaterials and ionic self-assembly.

Dr Carmen Galan BSc (Alicante, Spain), MPhil (Strathclyde, Scotland), PhD (CCRC, Georgia, USA), (Reader), Development of expedient and stereoselective glycosylation methods for the synthesis of oligosaccharide targets and glycoconjugates drug analogues; oligosaccharide synthesis and glycobiology.

Professor Tim Gallagher BSc(Wales), PhD(Liv), CChem, FRSC, (Dean of the Faculty of Science, Professor of Organic Chemistry), Development of novel synthetic chemistry and its application to medicinally important target systems; understanding the role and function of carbohydrates in biologically relevant environments.

Professor Ian Manners BSc, PhD(Bristol), FRS, (Professor), Block copolymers containing inorganic elements; catalytic chemistry with main group substrates; nanoscience; self-assembly; supramolecular materials; synthesis of reactive inorganic molecules and of functional inorganic polymers.

Professor Andrew Orr-Ewing MA, DPhil(Oxon), (Professor), Photochemical and reaction mechanisms of organic molecules in solution, on a range of timescales from femtosecond upwards.

Professor Paul Pringle BSc(Leic), PhD(Leeds), (Professor), Applications of metal complexes in catalysis; design and synthesis of unusual organophosphorus compounds.

Dr Chris Russell BSc(Bristol), PhD(Cantab), (Reader), Coinage metal catalysis; main group elements as transition metals; phosphorus as a carbon copy.

Professor Tom Simpson BSc, DSc(Edin), PhD(Bristol), FRS, FRSC, (Alfred Capper Pass Chair of Chemistry), Bio-organic and natural product chemistry, especially biosynthesis of polyketide antibiotics; synthesis of biologically active natural products and mycotoxins.

Professor Duncan Wass BSc(Dunelm), PhD(Lond), (Professor), Homogeneous catalysis; organometallic and coordination chemistry.

Professor Chris Willis BSc(Lond), DPhil(Sus), (Professor), Biotransformations; isotopic labelling; new methods for the synthesis of natural products and molecules of biological interest; reaction mechanisms.

Professor Dek Woolfson BA(Oxon), PhD(Cantab), (Professor), Computational and experimental methods to design, synthesise and characterise novel peptide and protein structures that go beyond nature' s repertoire; construction of peptide-based biosensors and materials for applications in medicine and synthetic biology; understanding the relationships between protein sequence and three-dimensional structure.

How to apply
Application deadline:

31 August 2018

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Bristol Doctoral College

The Bristol Doctoral College facilitates and supports doctoral training and researcher development across the University.

Get in touch

Ms Mar Ruiz CDT Administration Manager Phone: +44 (0) 117 954 6314 Email:

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Chemical Synthesis
School of Chemistry
University of Bristol
Cantock's Close
Bristol BS8 1TS


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