PhD Studentship: Poor but Happy: Persistent but Weakly Stabilising Interactions in Crystal Structures

The University of Edinburgh

The role played by specific intermolecular interactions in determining crystal structures is relevant to numerous applications including solid-form optimisation in pharmaceuticals and the use of crystal engineering to design functional materials. It is common to analyse the stability of crystalline solids by looking for intermolecular interactions in which atom…atom contacts are shorter than the sums of the relevant van der Waals radii. This approach has been criticised because the relationship of atom…atom distances to intermolecular energy is not a simple one, and it is better to try to understand why different interactions form using intermolecular energies instead. In no field is this issue more contentious than in assessing the significance of weak interactions, such as CH…O ‘hydrogen bonds’. In this project we will apply a combination of crystallography and spectroscopy at pressures of up to 100 000 atm and computational techniques to characterise the properties of weak interactions to reveal the role they play in crystal structure formation.


The project is fully-funded, covering home/EU fees and a stipend at the EPSRC standard rate (in the region of £14 764 in academic year 2018-19) for 3 years. It is suitable for students with a background in chemistry, chemical physics or materials science. The studentship will be held at the School of Chemistry and The Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions at The University of Edinburgh, with access to instrumentation sited both in-house and at synchrotron and neutron scattering facilities such as Diamond Light Source and the ISIS neutron spallation facility.

Applicants must have or expect to obtain a 1st class or an upper 2nd class honours degree (or equivalent) and meet the EPSRC residency requirements, which restrict awards to UK and EU nationals. Informal enquiries should be addressed to, with applications made through the EUCLID system as outlined at

Applications will be considered until an excellent candidate has been identified.

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:

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