Chemical Synthesis (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)

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Awards available PhD
Programme length Four years full-time
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available No, full-time only
Open to international students Yes
We welcome applications from self-funded students and, where possible, can assist candidates making scholarship applications.
Start date September 2017

Programme overview

We are a world-class Centre for Doctoral Training for Synthetic Chemistry in the UK. Synthetic Chemistry is one of the CDTs hosted by the School of Chemistry offering training in a number of different disciplines.

Our alternative to the traditional PhD will:

  • enhance your research skills through our unique initial training period
  • enable you to choose your own PhD project
  • encourage you to explore areas outside your comfort zone
  • foster a teamwork ethos through cohort-driven research
  • build personal confidence
  • create links with industry while working on real-world problems
  • allow you to interact with international renowned research groups
  • increase your employability by building on your transferable skills

The Royal Society of Chemistry has recognised the quality of our training by allowing students in their final year to apply for partial accreditation of the Chartered Chemist qualification.

We are seeking applications from students covering the whole breadth of the synthetic chemistry discipline. Our research is organised into themes, and we encourage applications from students whose interests lie within these:

  • Metal catalysed transformations
  • New scaffolds for medicines and agrochemicals
  • Designer ligands for catalysis
  • Design and synthesis of new bioactive and functional molecules
  • Main group chemistry: from molecules to materials
  • Development of expedient new synthetic methodologies
  • Chemistry, synthesis and activity of natural products
  • Cleaner synthesis

Studentships last for four years and cover tuition fees and maintenance.

Applications are welcomed from students with or expecting to gain a first or upper-second class honours MSci/MChem (or equivalent).

Fees for 2017/18

Full-time fees


Fees quoted are provisional, per annum and subject to annual increase.

Alumni scholarship

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a ten per cent reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni scholarship.

Funding for 2017/18

Our fully-funded studentships cover all University fees for the duration of the programme, as well as a yearly stipend for living expenses. The yearly stipend is set by RCUK; further information can be found on their website.

Further information on funding for prospective UK, EU and international postgraduate students.

Programme structure

The PhD in Chemical Synthesis, offered by our Centre for Doctoral Training, is a comprehensive four-year programme designed to equip you with enhanced team-working and problem-solving skills that will enable you to successfully address the full range of molecular-based problems of the future.

You will start year one of your PhD with a seven-month training period, known as Postgraduate Advanced Chemical Techniques (PACT). This intensive period is designed to broaden and strengthen research techniques before starting your PhD project. The over-arching goal of PACT is to equip you with the tools required to make an informed PhD project choice. You will also benefit from learning and developing a range of transferable skills, including presentation, teamwork and problem solving. 

The six elements of PACT are:

  • brainstorming PhD proposals
  • seven-week lab rotations
  • Director's Cut (problem-solving sessions)
  • Journal Club (literature review)
  • lecture courses (assessment by exam)
  • postgraduate DLM (lab experiments in a virtual environment)

After PACT, in years two to four, your training will be further supported by bespoke lectures and workshops from leading companies, as well as industrial and academic placements, both in the UK and abroad.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class honours MSci/MChem degree, or equivalent.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

Application method Online application form and interview
English language requirements Profile F
Further information about English language requirements
Admissions statement Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Research groups

Our research is organised into themes and we encourage applications from students whose interests lie within these:

We currently work closely with several chemical companies, including AstraZeneca, Lilly, Syngenta, GSK, Novartis and Pfizer.


Graduates of the centre are currently working in a range of sectors, including further academic research, pharma and biotech industries, patent law and teaching.

Staff profiles

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Chemical Synthesis

Professor Varinder Aggarwal BA, PhD(Cantab), FRS, (Professor), Acyclic stereocontrol; catalytic asymmetric synthesis; organoboron chemistry; organometallic chemistry; synthesis of natural products.

Professor Robin Bedford BSc (Hons), DPhil(Sus), (Professor), Inception and development of novel catalytic reactions; synthesis of new catalysts.

Professor Kevin Booker-Milburn BSc(CNAA), PhD(Strath), (Professor), New synthetic methods for the synthesis of natural products; photochemistry; radical chemistry; transition metal catalysis.

Dr John Bower MSc, PhD(Bristol), (Senior Research Fellow), Development of green processes (i.e. step economy, atom economy and selectivity); development of novel asymmetric catalytic strategies.

Dr Wuge Briscoe PhD(SAust), (Senior Lecturer in Physical Chemistry), Interactions at bio- and nano-interfaces

Dr Craig Butts BSc, PhD, (Reader), Experimental investigations (in particular with NMR) of challenging chemical structures, dynamics and reactivity, with emphasis on developing techniques to probe and control these.

Professor Jonathan Clayden BA (Natural Sciences)-Cambridge, PhD(Cam), (Professor), New molecular reactivity; rational conformational control (ROCOCO); synthesis of neuroactive and other bioactive compounds.

Professor Matthew Crump BSc, PhD(Bristol), (Professor), Application of chemical probes in biological systems; medicinal chemistry and biologics; structural biology using NMR and X-ray crystallography.

Professor Anthony Davis MA, DPhil(Oxon), FRSC, (Professor), Anion recognition and transport; carbohydrate recognition; computer-aided molecular design; crystal engineering; supramolecular chemistry.

Dr Carmen Galan BSc (Alicante, Spain), MPhil (Strathclyde, Scotland), PhD (CCRC, Georgia, USA), (Reader), Development of expedient and stereoselective glycosylation methods for the synthesis of oligosaccharide targets and glycoconjugates drug analogues; oligosaccharide synthesis and glycobiology.

Professor Tim Gallagher BSc(Wales), PhD(Liv), CChem, FRSC, (Dean of the Faculty of Science, Professor of Organic Chemistry), Development of novel synthetic chemistry and its application to medicinally important target systems; understanding the role and function of carbohydrates in biologically relevant environments.

Professor Ian Manners BSc, PhD(Bristol), FRS, (Professor), Block copolymers containing inorganic elements; catalytic chemistry with main group substrates; nanoscience; self-assembly; supramolecular materials; synthesis of reactive inorganic molecules and of functional inorganic polymers.

Professor Andrew Orr-Ewing MA, DPhil(Oxon), (Professor), Photochemical and reaction mechanisms of organic molecules in solution, on a range of timescales from femtosecond upwards.

Professor Paul Pringle BSc(Leic), PhD(Leeds), (Professor), Applications of metal complexes in catalysis; design and synthesis of unusual organophosphorus compounds.

Dr Chris Russell BSc(Bristol), PhD(Cantab), (Reader), Coinage metal catalysis; main group elements as transition metals; phosphorus as a carbon copy.

Professor Tom Simpson BSc, DSc(Edin), PhD(Bristol), FRS, FRSC, (Alfred Capper Pass Chair of Chemistry), Bio-organic and natural product chemistry, especially biosynthesis of polyketide antibiotics; synthesis of biologically active natural products and mycotoxins.

Dr Drew Thomson MChem, PhD (Edin), (Research Fellow), Peptide folding and molecular recognition; peptide synthesis and ligation techniques ; self-assembled peptide systems and materials.

Professor Duncan Wass BSc(Dunelm), PhD(Lond), (Professor), Homogeneous catalysis; organometallic and coordination chemistry.

Professor Chris Willis BSc(Lond), DPhil(Sus), (Professor), Biotransformations; isotopic labelling; new methods for the synthesis of natural products and molecules of biological interest; reaction mechanisms.

Professor Dek Woolfson BA(Oxon), PhD(Cantab), (Professor), Computational and experimental methods to design, synthesise and characterise novel peptide and protein structures that go beyond nature' s repertoire; construction of peptide-based biosensors and materials for applications in medicine and synthetic biology; understanding the relationships between protein sequence and three-dimensional structure.

How to apply
Application deadline:

First deadline: 6 November 2016

Second deadline: 8 January 2017

Self-funded students/international students: 31 March 2017

International students

Find out more about becoming a student at Bristol, and the support we offer to international students.

I chose Bristol because of its outstanding academic reputation. It's reassuring to be taught by people who truly love their subject - their passion becomes contagious.


REF 2014 results

  • 39% of research is world-leading (4 star)
  • 57% of research is internationally excellent (3 star)
  • 4% of research is recognised internationally (2 star)
  • 0% of research is recognised nationally (1 star)

Results are from the most recent UK-wide assessment of research quality, conducted by HEFCE. More about REF 2014 results.

Bristol Doctoral College

The Bristol Doctoral College facilitates and supports doctoral training and researcher development across the University.

Get in touch

Ms Mar Ruiz CDT Administration Manager Phone: +44 (0) 117 954 6314 Email:

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Chemistry in Chemical Synthesis
School of Chemistry
University of Bristol
Cantock's Close
Bristol BS8 1TS


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