Technology Enhanced Chemical Synthesis

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Run by Faculty of Science
Awards available PhD
Programme length Four years full-time
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available No, full-time only
Start date September 2020

Programme overview

Our alternative to the traditional PhD includes a unique training period (TATE) before the start of your synthesis research project which will:

  • enhance your research skills in a variety of areas of chemical synthesis
  • introduce you to state-of-the-art automation and reaction technology;
  • introduce you to new methods of computational chemistry, including AI;
  • 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;
  • include entrepreneurship training to introduce you to the start-up culture;
  • build personal confidence;
  • create links with industry while working on real-world problems;
  • allow you to interact with internationally renowned research groups;
  • grow your employability and transferable skills.

We are seeking applications from students covering the whole breadth of the synthetic chemistry spectrum. We encourage applications from students whose interests include:

  • Metal catalysed transformations
  • New scaffolds for medicines and agrochemicals
  • Designer ligands for catalysis
  • Computational modelling and automation
  • 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 and reactor technology

Applications are welcomed from students with or expecting to gain a first or upper-second class honours MSci/MChem (or equivalent). This is one of the CDTs hosted by the School of Chemistry offering training in a number of different disciplines.

Fees for 2020/21

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2020/21 are as follows:

UK/EU: full-time
Overseas: full-time
Channel Islands/Isle of Man: full-time

Bench fees: For postgraduate research students who are not funded by UK Research Councils or (specific) UK charities, it is usual to charge a bench fee. A bench fee covers the costs of laboratory consumables, specialist equipment and other relevant costs (e.g. training) for the duration of the programme. The bench fee charged can vary considerably depending on the nature of the programme being undertaken. Details of specific bench fee charges can be provided on request and will made clear in the offer letter sent to applicants.

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to a five per cent increase in fees each year. Find out more about tuition fees.

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 2020/21

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

Programme structure

Our PhD programme combines our best methods of chemical synthesis training with advances in technology and automation to best prepare you for a career in modern synthetic chemistry.

You will start with an eight-month training period known as Technology & Automation Training Experience (TATE), which will strengthen your research techniques and introduce new technologies for chemical synthesis. We will provide training on automated synthesis, computational methods for synthesis design and new reactor technologies, alongside research lectures by world-renowned academics, who are leaders in their fields.

You will also benefit from developing a range of transferable skills (including presentation skills, teamwork skills and problem-solving skills) through a series of workshops, virtual lab experiments and a journal club.

The main goal of TATE is to enable you to make an informed PhD choice. You will develop research proposals in brainstorming sessions and undertake short rotations in research groups before selecting your PhD project.

Visit our programme catalogue for full details of the structure and unit content for the first year of the Technology Enhanced Chemical Synthesis CDT programme.

After TATE and alongside your PhD research project, your scientific development will continue to be enhanced by entrepreneurship training and further professional and academic courses provided by our industrial partners.

Entry requirements

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

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you need to meet this profile level:
Profile F
Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Admissions statement

Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Admissions statement

Research groups

We cover the breadth of chemical synthesis and strongly encourage cross-disciplinary research projects. Our research activity is underpinned by the latest in synthetic chemistry technologies, such as automated reaction optimisation, AI for synthesis design, data-driven discovery and predictive methods.

Research interests of our staff include:

  • Medicinal chemistry
  • Synthetic analogues
  • Heterocyclic chemistry
  • Supramolecular chemistry for recognition, transport and medicine
  • Design of new peptide and protein structures
  • Molecular machines
  • Transition metal catalysis
  • Synthesis and design of new ligands
  • Photocatalysis and Biocatalysis
  • Carbohydrates in synthesis
  • Organo-boron and organo-sulphur chemistry
  • Photochemistry, Electrochemistry and Flow chemistry
  • Natural product extraction and characterisation
  • Total synthesis
  • Isotopic labelling and Biosynthetic pathways
  • Ultra-fast spectroscopy for reaction dynamics

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


This PhD programme has grown out of our previous Chemical Synthesis PhD. Graduates from this programme are currently working in a range of sectors, including further academic research, pharma and biotech industries, patent law and teaching.

Staff profiles

Centre for Doctoral Training in Technology Enhanced 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 B.Sc. (Hons.), D.Phil.(Sus.), (Professor of Catalysis), catalysis of novel organic reactions; development of novel synthetic methodology; mechanistic investigation; 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 Wuge Briscoe PhD(SAust), (Senior Lecturer in Physical Chemistry), Interactions at bio- and nano-interfaces

Professor 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.

Professor Charl Faul BSc, BSc, MSc, PhD(Stellenbosch), (Professor of Materials Chemistry), Electroactive functional nanomaterials and ionic self-assembly.

Professor David Fermin, (Professor of Electrochemistry)

Dr Natalie Fey B.Sc.(Keele), Ph.D.(Keele), (Senior Lecturer), computational inorganic chemistry; data-driven discovery; optimisation of organometallic catalysts

Professor 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.

Dr David Glowacki BSc(Penn.), MA(Manc.), PhD(Leeds), (Royal Society Senior Research Fellow)

Dr Pierangelo Gobbo BSc(Padua, Italy), MSc(Padua, Italy), PhD(W.Ont.), (Vice Chancellor's Fellow)

Dr Beatrice LeFanu Collins Phd (Cantab.), MSci (Cantab.), BA (Cantab.), (Royal Society University Research Fellow), The design and synthesis of artificial molecular machines, using transition metal reactivity platforms to achieve autonomous directional motion at the molecular level.

Dr Alastair Lennox MA(Manch.), PhD(Bristol), (Royal Society Research Fellow), Fluorination; homogeneous catalysis; physical organic chemistry (kinetics, mechanism); synthetic organic electrochemistry

Professor Adrian Mulholland B.Sc.(Bristol), D.Phil.(Oxon.), (Professor), Antimicrobial resistance; drug design; enzyme catalysis; enzyme design; enzyme thermoadaptation; molecular modelling and simulation; protein dynamics

Dr Tom Oliver PhD(Bristol), MChem/Chem(Warw.), (Royal Society University Research Fellow), DNA photo protection; nanomaterials; photochemistry; photoshynthesis; protein interactions

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 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:

Get in touch

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

CDT in Technology Enhanced Chemical Synthesis
School of Chemistry
University of Bristol
Cantock's Close
Bristol BS8 1TS
School website: Centre for Doctoral Training in Technology Enhanced Chemical Synthesis

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Find out how to attend one of our upcoming online events.

International students

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

Bristol Doctoral College

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

REF 2014 results

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

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


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