PhD Studentship in Chemistry Bond Activation and Catalysis with Low-Valent Aluminium

The University of Edinburgh

Dr Michael Cowley, School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh

Applications are invited for a 3 year PhD studentship in the Cowley group at the EaStChem School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh, funded by the ERC.

Research in the Cowley group ( focuses on all aspects of main-group chemistry, with a particular focus on low-oxidation state or low-valent systems. We develop and discover new compounds and reactions, and apply them to problems in catalysis and materials chemistry. For recent publications see below:

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 56, (2017), 9953–9957.
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.,, 55, (2016), 15356–15359.
Chem. Eur. J., 18 (2016), 6248–6252.
Dalton Trans. 45 (2016), no. 35, 13695–13699.

Low oxidation-state main-group systems including Si(II) and Al(I) are now well established as stable species that can activate E-H bonds by oxidative addition. In specific cases, reductive elimination of covalent bonds from main group centres can regenerate the low-valent centre.1 This project will attempt to understand mechanistic and thermodynamic aspects of oxidative addition to Al(I) centres and thus develop an understanding of how the reverse reaction, reductive elimination, can be enabled. Such reactivity is typical of transition metals, but currently underdeveloped in the main- group.

Applicants should possess a recent chemistry degree (first class or 2(i), or equivalent). The ideal candidate will have a strong interest in inorganic or organometallic chemistry, some experience of inorganic synthesis (or a closely related area), excellent written and oral communication skills. Previous experience in the preparation and manipulation of air- and moisture-sensitive compounds is highly desirable.

The student undertaking this project will receive training in a wide variety of techniques. Synthesis of both organic (e.g. ligands) and inorganic main-group compounds, frequently under inert atmosphere, will be required. Multinuclear NMR and UV spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, and X-ray crystallography will also be important techniques. The practical skills gained will be complemented by the scientific problem solving and presentations required in group meetings, and the student will have opportunities to present their work at suitable national and/or international conferences.


The fully-funded (tuition fees & stipend) 36-month PhD studentship is available to start 1st September 2018. The stipend rate for 2017/18 is £14,510 per annum. The position will remain open until filled.


Informal enquiries are encouraged and should be address to Dr Michael Cowley ( To apply, please send a covering letter outlining your previous research experience and reasons for applying, alongside an up-to-date CV with details of two referees to The posts will remain open until filled.

Formal applications are made through the University's EUCLID system.

The School of Chemistry holds a Silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of our commitment to advance gender equality in higher education. The University is a member of the Race Equality Charter and is a Stonewall Scotland Diversity Champion, actively promoting LGBT equality. The University has a range of initiatives to support a family friendly working environment. See our University Initiatives website for further information. University Initiatives website:


(1) Urwin, S. J.; Rogers, D. M.; Nichol, G. S.; Cowley, M. J. Dalton Trans. 2016, 45 (35), 13695.

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