PhD Studentship: Topologically directed discovery of green catalysts

University of Sussex - Department of Chemistry, School of Life Sciences

A Ph.D. studentship (42 months) is available from September 2018 under the supervision of Dr George Kostakis, Department of Chemistry, School of Life Sciences.

The discovery of new, atom-efficient and energy efficient catalytic processes is critical to sustaining the synthetic chemistry required for applications in the pharmaceutical industry and other concerns which use organic chemistry. Laboratories-as-factories are a key strand in European and UK research efforts as sustainable, waste-free – ‘reagentless’ – catalysis is correctly seen as being the direction of travel for the modern chemical industry. This proposal will address this area directly in a practical manner while also illuminating the fundamental science that underpins these advances. The expected outcome of the proposed research will be the discovery of new catalysts that are clean and green. Very often, desirable properties, in this case, catalytic properties, are retained as long as the topology is invariant; this contrasts with organometallic catalysts, where the electronic structure and reactivity are driven by the properties of the ligand field. With this insight, a wider range of catalytic compositions are therefore available and it is within this expanded compositional space – with respect to the nature of the metal and the ligand set – that the synthetic methods developed in the PI’s laboratory will be directed. Rapid synthesis within this topological-compositional space will be accompanied by screening as catalysts, with viable catalysts being then mechanistically investigated. The mechanistic investigation will provide the fundamental science required to confirm the topological underpinning of the methodology. Specific initial reaction targets for catalysis include Michael addition,1 A3 coupling,2 electrocyclic reaction,3 and enantioselective Povarov4 as these reactions are particularly amenable to Lewis acid catalysis. Enantiocontrol will be effected through conditioning the energy of the transition state topologically.


  1. Inorg. Chem., 2017, 56, 9563.
  2. Inorg. Chem., 2017, 56, 4898.
  3. Inorg. Chem., 2016, 55, 6988.
  4. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2015, 54, 11209.

This project is one of a number ear-marked for funding by the University of Sussex Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnership to commence in September 2018. This project is in direct competition with others for funding; the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding.

Please submit a formal application using our online application system at, including a CV, degree transcripts and certificates, statement of interest (clearly stating supervisor’s name and the project title) and names of two academic referees. On the application system use Programme of Study – PhD Chemistry.

Applicants will have an excellent academic record and should have received or be expected to receive a relevant first or upper-second class honours degree. The EPSRC award is available to UK and to EU students who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for the previous 3 years. EU candidates who do not meet this criteria will be eligible for a fee waiver only. Overseas (non EU) students are not eligible to apply for EPSRC funding, but they are welcome to apply if they have access to other sources of funding.

Contact Anna Izykowska for application enquiries (

Contact Dr George Kostakis ( or Dr. John Turner ( for enquiries about the project.

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