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Research Scientists in Organic Synthesis (two posts)

Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR)

Research topic: Synthesis of Substrates for Biocatalytic Oxidation, and Characterisation and Elaboration of the Products

Division: Environment and Biotechnology (Molecular Science Group)

Reporting to: Professor Jeremy Robertson

Group website: / 

Contract type: Fixed-term (3 years), with the possibility of extension

Start date: 1 June 2019

Additional information: Synthetic organic chemistry, compound purification, and spectroscopic analysis

The role

The OSCAR research scientists (RSs) in organic synthesis will be part of a team investigating selective oxidation of organic compounds by engineered variants of cytochrome P450 enzymes for applications in the synthesis of high-value intermediates and active ingredients for the agrochemical and pharmaceutical industries. The posts are tenable for three years starting 1 June 2019. The RSs will report to Professor Jeremy Robertson, the joint-PI (with Professor Luet Wong) of the programme.

The RSs will join the effort to prepare small-molecule substrates for regio- and stereoselective C–H bond oxidation by enzyme mutants. Following screening (usually by a collaborating RS), the RSs will isolate and characterise the major oxidised products from scaled-up reactions using a combination of standard analytical techniques, primarily nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. Isolated, characterised products will provide reference samples for further screening rounds, intermediates for further elaboration to targets of interest, and new potential components of pharmaceutical and agrochemical screening libraries. The RSs will have sufficient experience to design effective and scalable synthetic strategies and protecting group regimes to produce appropriate substrates in a timely fashion. The RSs will have a supervisory role and work with research technicians (RTs) supporting the programme. The ability and willingness to participate in technology transfer to industrial partners is essential.


  • Manage own research and small-scale project management, co-ordinate multiple aspects of work to meet deadlines.
  • Adapt existing and develop new techniques and experimental protocols.
  • Use specialist scientific equipment in a laboratory environment.
  • Test hypotheses and analyse results from a variety of experiments, reviewing and refining working hypotheses as appropriate to advance the project.
  • Collaborate in the preparation of scientific reports and journal articles.
  • Act as a source of information and advice to other members of the team on scientific protocols and experimental techniques.
  • Supervisory role for RTs and visiting students associated with the programme.
  • Represent the research group at external meetings/seminars, either with other members of the research team or alone.
  • Carry out collaborative projects with industrial partners.

Selection criteria


  • Hold a PhD in Chemistry or Chemical Biology (or have submitted a PhD thesis in a relevant area prior to taking up the appointment).
  • Have an excellent general knowledge of organic chemistry through reading of the literature, online database searching, and attendance at seminars and conferences.
  • Have extensive research experience in synthetic organic chemistry of small non-modular organic molecules (MW ~50–500).
  • Have extensive research experience of multistep synthesis (up to ~10 steps) with the majority of this being at the 1–500 mg scale.
  • Operate safely in the handling of reactive, air-sensitive reagents and associated reaction protocols, and prepare the required risk and hazard assessments appropriately.
  • Be familiar with routine methods for compound purification (manual and automated column chromatography, plate chromatography, crystallisation).
  • Be adept in performing spectroscopic methods for compound characterisation (1D and 2D NMR, MS, IR, polarimetry) and analysing the results.
  • Have excellent communication skills in English, in writing and in oral presentations.
  • Be able to demonstrate competence and success in the PhD thesis research area (and postdoctoral work where applicable). The assessors will seek evidence of a deep understanding of the applicant's previous fields of research and the applicant’s independent intellectual and practical contributions to previous research projects, as indicators that such attributes can be brought to bear on the present project.
  • Be viewed as a motivated, enthusiastic, organised self-starter who can work with a minimum of supervision but at the same time extract the benefits of an excellent research environment.
  • Show the ability to work supportively in a laboratory environment and take part in joint projects through co-operation and the exchange of information, skills and reagents.
  • Maintain detailed laboratory records and report on progress at regular intervals.
  • Be willing to learn new techniques and apply them in an interdisciplinary research environment to expand and improve technical and theoretical knowledge.
  • Have a track record of delivering research objectives against deadlines.


  • Experience in research supervision, e.g. of graduate students.
  • Experience in the use of automated chromatographies (e.g. HPLC) and related instrumentation (e.g. GC-MS, LC-MS, SFC).
  • Experience in biocatalysis, especially in the use of cytochrome P450s or other redox enzymes.

The project requires two RS in the first instance to develop the use of C–H hydroxylating enzymes for a variety of synthetic chemistry applications. Applicants should have significant expertise in organic synthesis with a demonstrated ability to design and execute multistep routes to structurally-diverse and stereochemically defined organic molecules; extensive expertise in compound isolation, purification, and spectroscopic analysis (especially NMR) will be essential. Applicants should have a PhD in synthetic organic chemistry, or should have submitted a PhD thesis in this area prior to taking up the appointment. Further details are available for download here and informal enquiries may be made to Professor Robertson via email:

This is an exciting opportunity to establish and develop research activities in brand new laboratories fully-equipped and resourced for synthetic biology, organic synthesis, and materials chemistry. The work will be done in collaboration with research groups in Oxford and there will be the opportunity to undertake 1–2-month research visits there.

OSCAR was created as a partnership between the University of Oxford and the Suzhou Industrial Park The building comprises 20,000 m2 of space distributed over nine floors and will house translational collaborative research originating from twelve academic research groups from the University of Oxford’s Departments of Chemistry, Engineering Science, and Materials. Researchers in the Molecular Science Group (PIs: Moloney, Robertson, Wong) have dedicated brand new office and laboratory space, with adjacent analytical and spectroscopic equipment, including 400 MHz NMR, IR, UV, GC, analytical and preparative SFC-MS, GPC, and surface analytical and processing instrumentation. Further details and an image gallery are available at

How to apply

Applicants should submit a covering letter and CV in English as a PDF attachment by email to before the closing date of 12:00 midday on 29th March 2019. The email subject should specify the title of the post for which you are applying and you must include your full name and telephone number.

Location: Suzhou - China
Salary: A competitive remuneration package will apply.
Hours: Full Time
Contract Type: Fixed-Term/Contract
Placed On: 28th January 2019
Closes: 29th March 2019
Job Ref: 6008-2018-2
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