PhD students in chemistry

Projects

On this page you can find out about PhD opportunities currently available in Chemistry. Click on a research area or a project title below to find out more.

Some of these projects come with funding to cover your tuition fees and living expenses, but they may not be available to students from outside the UK or the European Union. They will be added to this webpage when they are available and will be marked 'FUNDED'.

If you are applying for a project that does not come with funding, or you are not eligible for a funded project, there may be other ways for you to fund your PhD. We also accept applications from students who are able to fund themselves.

Funding your PhD
See also: Tuition fees

It is a good idea to contact the supervisor of any PhD opportunity you want to apply for, before you submit your application. If the project you want to apply for does not come with funding, they may also be able to advise you on other sources of funding.

Once you have identified a project, a supervisor and a source of funding, you can complete the University's postgraduate online application form.

Postgraduate online application form

Do you have your own idea for a project?

Find a potential supervisor by visiting our research clusters' webpages. Contact a member of academic staff to find out about PhD opportunities in their area.

Research

Centres for Doctoral Training

Other funded PhD opportunities are available through the Centres for Doctoral Training that our staff contribute to. Visit the webpages for these centres to find out more about their projects.

EPSRC CDT

EPSRC CDT in Polymers, Soft Matter and Colloids
– UK applicants only

More University of Sheffield Centres for Doctoral Training

Entry requirements

We usually ask for a first class or upper second class MChem or MSc degree in chemistry or equivalent in chemical physics, chemical engineering, materials, or a relevant biological science.

Our decision on whether to offer you a place will also be based on the research proposal or personal statement you submit, your CV and academic references, and any interviews you complete. Students will also need to meet our English language requirements, and international students will need to get clearance through the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS). Find out more about English language requirements and ATAS on our webpage for international students:

International students


Chemical biology

Find out more about our chemical biology research

Screening of chemical libraries using iPS models for investigating the role of prion protein in Alzheimer’s disease - FUNDED

Background

AD has been identified as a protein misfolding disease (proteopathy). The disease is caused by accumulation of two major amyloids: a rounded “amyloid plaque” outside cells and “neurofibrillary tangles” inside cells. A number of theories have been developed to describe the cause and characteristics of AD although the exact cause is still not fully understood.1,2,3,4,5

Recently, it has been reported that cellular prion protein, PrPC, binds to Aβ1-42 oligomer and inhibits the long-term potentiation (LTP) in mice.6 Antibodies targeting the 94-104 region in PrPC blocks the inhibition of LTP triggered by soluble Aβ1-42 oligomer.7,8 PrPC has also been reported to affect the formation of the Aβ oligomers by modulating the function of β-secretase (BACE-1).9
Several lines of research has pointed to the nature of amyloid formation in AD having some synergies with prion formation in TSE (transmissible spongiform encaphlopathy, a family of fatal neurodegenerative diseases caused by conformational change of soluble prion protein, PrPC, into its insoluble counterpart, PrPSc, including scrapie in goats, mad cow disease in cattle and CJD in human). Although fundamental differences between these two diseases exist, the prion hypothesis10 articulates that the amyloidosis process of Aβ and Tau could well be prion-like. This is because it is suggested that the amyloid plaques such as Aβ and Tau, are formed via seeding of oligomers; and amyloidosis in one cell can trigger the nearby cells within tissue/organs to form plaques despite of the fact that AD is not transmissible from individual to individual.

Suggested role of prion protein in Alzheimer's disease

Fig. 1 Suggested role of prion protein, PrPc, in Alzheimer's disease. PrPc binds, regulates activity of BACE in cleavage of amyloid precursor protein (APP); PrPc acts as receptor for Aβ dimer. PrPc forms a complex with Fyn (probably with the help of Cav-1); and the complex regulates Tau hyperphosphoration, hence Tangle formation.

The close relationship amongst PrPC, Aβ and Tau was unveiled in recently studies. It was found that PrPC is enriched in postsynaptic densities, and the Aβ-PrPC interaction leads to activation of the Src tyrosine kinase Fyn and neuronal demise.11 Aβ engagement of PrPC-Fyn signalling yielded phosphorylation of the NR2B subunit of NMDARs. Fyn can mediate Aβ/Tau-induced toxicity.12 New evidence has showed that soluble Aβ and the Aβ1-42 dimer in particular can bind to PrPC at neuronal dendritic spines where it forms a quadruple complex with Fyn via Cav-1. This results in the activation of the Fyn kinase, which in turn triggers aberrant missorting and hyperphosphorylation of Tau, hence tangle formation.13,14 (Figure 1)

Henceforth, PrPC seems to be an important piece of the jigsaw in the AD landscape. Together with the amyloid and Tau theory, it could provide solutions to some unsolved questions in AD aetiology. Understanding the role PrPC in AD is extremely important and could shine lights on developing new diagnostics and drugs to combat AD.

Aims and Objectives

The aims of the project are:
• Develop and optimise iPS cellular model from epithelium cells from healthy and Alzheimer patient
• Study the interaction between PrPC and its interacting partners such as A, mGlu5, and NMDAR etc.
• Screen chemical libraries for compounds interfering the interactions
• Investigate the mode-of-action of initial hits

Project Plan

Year 1 - Develop and optimise iPS cellular model from epithelium cells from healthy and Alzheimer patient

Epithelium cells from healthy and Alzheimer patients will be reprogrammed and then differentiated into young neurons and cortical neurons and level of expression of PrPC and its interacting partners will be assessed using Western blotting and ICC and flow cytometry.

Year 2 - Study the interaction between PrPC and its interacting partners such as A, mGlu5, and NMDAR etc; screen chemical libraries for compounds interfering the interactions

Pairwise interaction studies between PrPC and its interacting partners will be carried out using doubly labelled fluorescence tags and the ability of small molecules in interfering such interactions will be assess. Hit compounds will be selected for further studies.

Year 3 - Investigate the mode-of-action of initial hits

The mode-of-action of selected hits will be thoroughly studied using a range of techniques such as RNAi screening and pull-down assays.

For more information

For more information, please contact Prof Beining Chen via email (b.chen@sheffield.ac.uk). To apply online for this studentship, click here.

References

1Braak, H ; Braak, E ; 1991. Acta Neuropathlogia, 82(4): 239-259;
2Bachmeier, C.; Paris, D.; Beaulieu-Abdelahad, D. et al. 2013, Neurodegen. Dis. 11(1): 13-21;
3Suh, Y.H.; Checler, F. 2002. Pharmcological Reviews. 3: 469-525;
4Hardy, J.; Allsop, D. 1991. Trends in Pharm. Sci. 12(10): 383-388;
5Um, J.W; Nygaard, H. B.; & Stephen M Strittmatter, S. M.; Nature NeuroSci. 2012, 15(9):1227-1235.;
6Larson, M.; Sherman, M. A.; Amar, F.; & Lesne, S.E. J. 2012. NeuroSci. 32(47): 16857-16871
7Benilova, I.; Karran, E.; & Bart De Strooper, B. D. Nature NeuroSci. 2012, 15(3): 349-357.;
8Sisodia, S.S.; St George-Hyslop, P.H. 2002. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 3(4): 281-290.
9Esler, W.P; Wolfe, M.S. 2001. Science, 293(5534): 1449-1454;
10Griffiths, H. H and Hooper, N. M. et al. (2011) J. Biol.Chem. 286(38): 33489-33500.;
11Freir, D.B.; Nicoll, A.J.; Klyubin, I., Panico, S. & Collinge, J. 2011. Nat Commun 2:336.;
12Ittner, L.M.; Ke, Y.D; & Götz, J. et al. 2010. Cell 142:387–397.;
13Walsh, D.M.; Klyubin, I.; Selkoe, D.J. et al. 2002. Nature 416:535–539.;
14Williamson, R.; Scales, T.; & Anderton, B.H, 2002. J Neurosci 22:10–20.

Mechanisms of cell membranes repair in health and disease

Supervisor: Dr Barbara Ciani

To find out more about this project, email b.ciani@sheffield.ac.uk.

Single-molecule studies of protein-nucleic acid interactions

Supervisor: Dr Timothy Craggs

To find out more about this project, email t.craggs@sheffield.ac.uk.

The role of nucleases in DNA replication and repair

Supervisor: Dr Jane Grasby

To find out more about this project, email j.a.grasby@sheffield.ac.uk.

Fabrication of nanometre-scale interfaces, and the characterisation of biological and tribological interactions on the nanoscale

Supervisors: Professor Graham Leggett

To find out more about this project, email graham.leggett@sheffield.ac.uk.

See also: The Nanoscale Analytical Science Group

Understanding the biosynthesis of chlorophyll and heme

Supervisor: Dr Jim Reid

To find out more about this project, email j.reid@sheffield.ac.uk.

Stimuli-responsive materials for the diagnosis and treatment of immune disease

Supervisor: Dr Sebastian Spain

To find out more about this project, email s.g.spain@sheffield.ac.uk.

Understanding and mimicking how biomineralisation proteins control magnetic nanoparticle synthesis

Supervisor: Dr Sarah S. Staniland

To find out more about this project, email s.s.staniland@sheffield.ac.uk

Using magnetosomes and biological fabricated magnetic nanoparticles for nanomedical application

Supervisor: Dr Sarah S. Staniland

To find out more about this project, email s.s.staniland@sheffield.ac.uk

Recognition and sensing of ions, bioanions, and biomolecules by photo-activated metal complexes

Supervisor: Professor Jim Thomas

To find out more about this project, email james.thomas@sheffield.ac.uk.

Investigating mechanism, reactivity and catalysis in organic, supramolecular and biological chemistry

Supervisor: Professor Nick Williams

To find out more about this project, email n.h.williams@sheffield.ac.uk.

Understanding DNA damage and repair using chemically-modified nucleotides and nucleic acids

Supervisor: Dr David Williams

To find out more about this project, email d.m.williams@sheffield.ac.uk.


Polymers, materials and surface chemistry

Find out more about our polymers, materials and surface chemistry research

Polymerisation-induced self-assembly of diblock copolymers using RAFT polymerisation

Supervisor: Professor Steven Armes FRS

To find out more about this project, email s.p.armes@sheffield.ac.uk.

Microporous polymers for heterogeneous catalysis

Supervisor: Dr Robert Dawson

To find out more about this project, email r.dawson@sheffield.ac.uk.

Fabrication of nanometre-scale interfaces, and the characterisation of biological and tribological interactions on the nanoscale

Supervisors: Professor Graham Leggett

To find out more about this project, email graham.leggett@sheffield.ac.uk.

See also: The Nanoscale Analytical Science Group

Stimuli-responsive materials for the diagnosis and treatment of immune disease

Supervisor: Dr Sebastian Spain

To find out more about this project, email s.g.spain@sheffield.ac.uk..

Biological nano-patterning and assembly of magnetic nanoparticles for nanotechnology

Supervisor: Dr Sarah S. Staniland

To find out more about this project, email s.s.staniland@sheffield.ac.uk


Spectroscopy and theoretical chemistry

Find out more about our spectroscopy and theoretical chemistry research

Understanding nature: ultrafast electron and energy transfers in photosynthetic molecular complexes

Supervisor: Dr Adrien Chauvet

To find out more about this project, email a.chauvet@sheffield.ac.uk.

Developing accurate and efficient computational protocols for targeted chemical environments

Supervisor: Dr Grant Hill

To find out more about this project, email grant.hill@sheffield.ac.uk.

Computational modelling of charge-transfer interfaces for perovskite solar cells

Supervisor: Dr Natalia Martsinovich

To find out more about this project, email n.martsinovich@sheffield.ac.uk.

Theoretical Studies of Chemical Reactivity

Supervisor: Dr Anthony Meijer

To find out more about this project, email a.meijer@sheffield.ac.uk.

New approaches to photocatalysis and solar fuels

Supervisor: Professor Julia Weinstein

To find out more about this project, email julia.weinstein@sheffield.ac.uk.

Towards controlling electron transfer with infrared lasers

Supervisor: Professor Julia Weinstein

To find out more about this project, email julia.weinstein@sheffield.ac.uk.


Synthetic chemistry

Find out more about our synthetic chemistry research

Inorganic supramolecular chemistry, porous coordination framework materials and reactions in molecular crystals

Supervisor: Professor Lee Brammer

To find out more about this project, email lee.brammer@sheffield.ac.uk.

Synthesis of saturated nitrogen heterocycles and alkaloids by using organolithiums or dipolar cycloaddition chemistry

Supervisor: Professor Iain Coldham

To find out more about this project, email i.coldham@sheffield.ac.uk

Characterisation and design of heterogeneous catalysts for the petrochemical industry

Supervisor: Dr Marco Conte

To find out more about this project, email m.conte@sheffield.ac.uk.

Development and synthesis of zeolites for the conversion of sugars to biofuels and environmental applications

Supervisor: Dr Marco Conte

To find out more about this project, email m.conte@sheffield.ac.uk.

Metal-organic nanosheets for sensing, catalysis and composite materials

Supervisor: Dr Jonathan Foster

To find out more about this project, email jona.foster@sheffield.ac.uk.

Exploiting alkynylborane cycloaddition reactions for the synthesis of high value small molecules: From natural products to fluorescent dyes

Supervisor: Professor Joseph Harrity

To find out more about this project, email j.harrity@sheffield.ac.uk.

Mechanisms in organometallic chemistry and homogeneous catalysis

Supervisor: Dr Anthony Haynes

To find out more about this project, email a.haynes@sheffield.ac.uk.

Design and preparation of highly efficient organic semiconductors for LED applications

Supervisor: Dr Ahmed Iraqi

To find out more about this project, email a.iraqi@sheffield.ac.uk.

Synthesis of unnatural amino acids to study biological processes

Supervisor: Professor Richard Jackson

To find out more about this project, email r.f.w.jackson@sheffield.ac.uk.

Catalytic asymmetric methods to make chiral building blocks

Supervisor: Dr Simon Jones

To find out more about this project, email simon.jones@sheffield.ac.uk.

Chemical probes to investigate mechanisms of bacterial resistance

Supervisor: Dr Simon Jones

To find out more about this project, email simon.jones@sheffield.ac.uk.

New synthetic routes to heterocycles from acetylides

Supervisor: Dr Michael Morris

To find out more about this project, email m.morris@sheffield.ac.uk.

Development of new methods of asymmetric catalysis for organic synthesis

Supervisor: Dr Benjamin Partridge

To find out more about this project, email b.m.partridge@sheffield.ac.uk.

Recognition and sensing of ions, bioanions, and biomolecules by photo-activated metal complexes

Supervisor: Professor Jim Thomas

To find out more about this project, email james.thomas@sheffield.ac.uk.

Understanding DNA damage and repair using chemically-modified nucleotides and nucleic acids

Supervisor: Dr David Williams

To find out more about this project, email d.m.williams@sheffield.ac.uk.

Investigating mechanism, reactivity and catalysis in organic, supramolecular and biological chemistry

Supervisor:Professor Nick Williams

To find out more about this project, email n.h.williams@sheffield.ac.uk.