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Fully Funded PhD Studentship in Chemistry: Aluminium-catalysed Borylation

The University of Edinburgh

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Edinburgh
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: Starting at £15,009 per annum
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 15th February 2019
Closes: 29th March 2019

Dr Michael Cowley and Dr Stephen Thomas, School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh

Applications are invited for PhD studentship on a collaborative project in the Cowley and Thomas groups at the EaStCHEM School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh. The studentship is fully funded for 36 months and covers tuition fees and an annual stipend (starting at £15,009 per annum) for a candidate satisfying EPSRC criteria (

This project will develop new aluminium catalysts and investigate their reactivity towards C-H bond activation, to develop aluminium-catalysed C-H borylation reactions. Catalytic C-H bond borylation of arenes and heteroarenes is an important transformation because of the significant synthetic utility of aryl boron esters. Aryl boronic esters are ubiquitous in modern chemistry finding application in highly varied fields including materials discovery, target synthesis, sensors and pharmaceutical discovery and production.

This work builds on a highly successful and productive collaboration between the Thomas and Cowley groups (see for example: Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2016, 55, 15356–15359; ACS Catal., 2018, 8, 2001–2005) to develop and understand new forms of main-group catalysis, particularly for borylation reactions. The Cowley group focuses on low-oxidation or low-coordinate main-group chemistry, with a particular emphasis on compounds with unusual bonding or reactivity such as reductive elimination chemistry. The Thomas group is focused on the development of sustainable methods using Earth-abundant element catalysts. Reductive functionalisation reactions, operationally simple activations of first-row transition metal pre-catalysts and small molecule activation have been recent themes within the group.

The student undertaking this project will receive training in a wide variety of techniques. Synthesis of both organic and inorganic main-group compounds, frequently under inert atmosphere, will be required. Multinuclear NMR, 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 international conferences.

Applicants should possess a recent chemistry degree (first class or 2(i), or equivalent). The ideal candidate will have a strong interest in catalysis or organometallic chemistry, some experience of inorganic and/or organic synthesis (or a closely related area), and excellent written and oral communication skills. Previous experience in the preparation and manipulation of air- and moisture-sensitive compounds, is highly desirable, but not a prerequisite.

Informal enquiries are encouraged and should be addressed to Dr Michael Cowley ( and Dr Stephen Thomas ( 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 or before 29th March 2019.

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 a Stonewall Scotland Diversity Champion, actively promoting LGBT equality. The University has a range of initiatives to support a family friendly working environment. University Initiatives website:

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