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 2022

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;
  • enable you to choose your own PhD project;
  • introduce you to state-of-the-art automation and reaction technology;
  • introduce you to new methods of computational chemistry, including AI;
  • build personal confidence;
  • grow your employability and transferable skills;
  • foster a teamwork ethos through cohort-driven research;
  • include entrepreneurship training to introduce you to the start-up culture;
  • create links with industry while working on real-world problems;
  • allow you to interact with internationally renowned research groups.

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 2022/23

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2022/23 are as follows:

UK: full-time
Overseas: 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 (eg 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 be made clear in the offer letter sent to applicants.

Following the recent changes to fee assessment regulation, Channel Islands and Isle of Man students will no longer be charged a separate tuition fee. From the 2021/22 academic year they will be charged the same fees as Home students.

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 discount

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a 25% reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni discount.

Funding for 2022/23

We have a number of EPSRC-funded studentships, which will be allocated to successful candidates (national and international).

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

Programme structure

At the start of the PhD programme, you will participate in an 8-month training period (Technology and Automation Training Experience or TATE) designed to strengthen your research techniques and introduce new technologies for chemical synthesis.

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 synthetic chemistry labs - contributing to the group’s research aims - before selecting your PhD project.

In addition, we 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, teamwork and problem-solving) through a series of workshops, virtual lab experiments and a journal club.

Having explored potential research projects in chemical synthesis during the Brainstorming sessions, you will choose your preferred areas of research in May, and will start working on your three-year PhD research project in June of the first year. Find out more about the PhD project areas

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 Astex, AstraZeneca, Bayer, GSK, Syngenta, UCB and Vertex.


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

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.

Dr Beatrice 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.

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), Artificial Photosynthesis; Dynamic Electrochemistry; Metal and Transition Metal Oxide Electrotcatalysts; Photoelectrochemistry; Water Electrolysis.

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.

Dr Pierangelo Gobbo BSc(Padua, Italy), MSc(Padua, Italy), PhD(W.Ont.), (Vice Chancellor's Fellow), biomimetic materials; click chemistry and polymer chemistry; drug delivery; functional molecules and materials; hydrogels; nanomaterials; soft materials; synthetic biology; tissue engineering and soft robotics

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.

Apply now

Find out how to apply

Application deadline

First application deadline: 9 November 2021
Second application deadline: 22 February 2022

Open days and visits

Watch on-demand recordings from November's virtual open week.

Get in touch

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

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 2021 results

The University of Bristol is ranked fifth for research in the UK (Times Higher Education), with 94% of our research assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent.

Full REF 2021 results for the University of Bristol.


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