Recruiting Post-doctoral Researcher

With the award of an EPSRC grant to support our research we are on the hunt for two post-doctoral fellows to join our team. The first position opened for applications today – Details below!

Full details and information on how to apply:

University of Edinburgh Vacancies

A fixed-term postdoctoral research position is available for an outstanding and ambitious individual in the School of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh on a project led by Dr Michael Shaver and Prof Guy Lloyd-Jones. The successful candidate will be required to develop on a recent discovery in our research group on a new route to the synthesis of sustainable, degradable aliphatic polyesters and to contribute more generally to the work of the Shaver and Lloyd-Jones groups. The project involves principally academic research, but will involve liaising closely with industry partners to develop impact from target functional polyesters.

Research in the Shaver group focusses on the development of sustainable polymer technologies through intelligent polymer and catalyst design. We work to develop both fundamental academic projects (controlled radical polymerisation, new-to-the-world polymers) and applied industry-driven projects (hydrogels in medical diagnostics, crystallisation controllers, latex stabilisers). This appointment will be working on the EPSRC funded grant: “Functional Polyesters from Renewable Monomers Through a New Reaction Mechanism”. It is further supported by Prof. Guy Lloyd-Jones as a co-investigator who will lead mechanistic investigations into these new reactions.

Applicants should have, or expect to receive by the start date, a PhD in synthetic polymer chemistry or a closely related field. Additional postdoctoral experience is an advantage but not necessary. They should be capable of working in a team alongside a desire and potential to lead others where required. The project will involve the use of inert atmosphere synthetic techniques, monomer synthesis, catalyst synthesis, polymer synthesis and materials characterisation. The project will run alongside mechanistic investigations and reaction scale-up, so an interest in this area would be beneficial. Expertise in ring-opening polymerisation or sustainable polymer synthesis is desired. A familiarity with polymer chemistry, catalysis synthesis and screening and organic chemistry is beneficial. The successful applicant will be expected to engage in collaborative work as part of an EPSRC-funded research program involving global academic and industrial collaborators.

The position is available for 24 months. Further information about the research team can be found at The position is available from May 1 2017. Initial enquiries should be made to Dr Michael Shaver (

New PhD Studentship

There is a new opportunity to work in the Green Materials Lab, with a PhD position available from 1 September 2017. Applications are only open to UK residents or EU citizens (under exceptional circumstances). Apply by sending your CV and contact details of two references to Mike ( Details below! 

Project Description: While polymer science underpins our material world through efficient reactions, these processes aren’t truly sustainable, even if the resultant polymers are biodegradable. There remains a great need for a broad scope synthetic strategy for preparing functional aliphatic polyesters (so called “green polymers”) as a critical resource. This project builds on a recent discovery in the Shaver group on a new strategy for aliphatic polyester synthesis. In particular, this studentship will sit at the interface between inorganic chemistry and polymer chemistry.

Catalyst design: Current catalysts explored are limited to simple Lewis acids, with the best first generation catalysts aluminium complexes of salen or salan ligands. We will explore both traditional ROP catalysts and develop new ligand frameworks and complexes for this key reaction. The student will exploit the exceptional air-sensitive synthetic equipment, characterisation facilities and our expertise in inorganic coordination chemistry, while rapid catalyst screening will be facilitated by in-house semi-combinatorial reactors.

Monomer scope: This project will importantly extend this reaction in three areas: amines, carboxylic acids and alkenes. Working on collaborative projects in our group, these monomers and their resultant polymers can feed into existing applied projects in collaborations in the pharmaceutical industry, water purification and functional polymers. In a property driven field like polymer science, where simply making a new structure is just the start of the challenge, it is essential to develop impact from the work, and thus building structure-property relationships is essential.

This project is a 3-year PhD studentship, supporting all tuition and fees and a generous stipend at current EPSRC levels. The candidate must satisfy EPSRC studentship eligibility requirements, having settled status in the UK and having been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the studentship. The ideal PhD candidate will be a recent or upcoming graduate with a strong interest in synthetic polymer chemistry and catalyst design and a willingness to learn in a multi-disciplinary environment. The successful candidate will have a demonstrated ability to work well in a team, excellent oral and written communication skills and an inherent desire to learn and strive to develop as a scientist and leader. The position is in the EaStCHEM School of Chemistry in Edinburgh.

New Studentships in the GML

The Centres for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter and Functional Interfaces and Critical Resource Catalysis are both exceptional learning environments and a hotbed of research activity. In this current intake we’ve been lucky enough to have four different projects on offer:

SOFI PROJECT 1: Monomers for Biodegradable Plastics: Green Production by Heterogeneous Catalysts – A project joint with Dr Russell Taylor at Durham University developing zeolites for cyclic ester synthesis.

SOFI PROJECT 2: Soft Matter inside Hard Matter – A project joint with Fabio Nudelman here in Edinburgh using soft matter self assembly to nucleate hard materials.

CRITICAT PROJECT 1: A New Route to Sustainable Polyesters – A project capitalising on our recent discovery of a new synthetic strategy to prepare functional polyesters with exceptional thermal properties, involving catalysis, ligand design, polymerisations and property characterisation.

CRITICAT PROJECT 2: Catalytic Conversion of Carbon Dioxide to Oxygenated Polymers – A project led by Dr Jenni Garden here in Edinburgh developing catalytic coupling of new partners to waste CO2 to make novel plastics.

Applications are made directly to the CDTs, but I am happy to help out as much as I can. Get in touch if interested!

Water Purification Studentship

We have a new studentship on offer for a September 2016 start. The project joins collaborator Prof. Neil McKeown and industrial partner Industrial Chemicals Laboratory to develop polymers for water purification applications, specifically to target emerging pollutants.

More details here:

NOTE! This is a rare studentship as it is open to ALL EU STUDENTS with appropriate backgrounds – no UK residency requirements!

Zhejiang University Trip

Thanks to sponsorship from the Royal Society for Chemistry here in the United Kingdom and the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs in China, I recently travelled to Hangzhou, China, for a visit to the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering at Zhejiang University.

Zhejiang University is one of the top universities in China, and the foundation of academic polymer research within the country. With a long history of significant accomplishments in polymer chemistry, it was an appealing location from a scientific perspective. As one of the more beautiful cities in China, it was also an appealing location for my first trip to China as well!

Arriving late in the day on Monday 18 April, I was greeted at the airport by Li Chenglin, a graduate student at Zhejiang University. With the nickname “Listening”, Li proved to be a thoughtful guide throughout my trip, with truly interesting and thoughtful discussions befitting his moniker. Exhausted from the three flight journey (Edinburgh-London-Hong Kong-Hangzhou), I slept well in the Ling Feng Hotel.

In the morning I was able to get a bit more of my bearings. The Ling Feng Hotel has a strong association with Zhejiang University, located very close to the campus, and was full of prospective students visiting the campus and groups attending short courses. On my first day I was lucky and got to play tourist and visit beautiful Hangzhou. This is truly a wonderful city highlighted by West Lake – an area protected from the expansive growth of the city – and featuring ten iconic scenes that tie Hangzhou to China’s long history (see Photo 1). The lake itself is especially beautiful at sunset, especially after Listening and I spent three hours in a tea house talking science and life (see Photo 2). My iPhone told me that we walked for 17km throughout the day, making me feel slightly less guilty about the delicious authentic Chinese food we ate!

Photo 1Photo 2

On day two it was time to get to work. My host for my visit was Professor Qi Wang from the aforementioned Department of Polymer Science and Engineering. In the morning I presented a lecture to interested staff and students, discussing both my scientific work in sustainable polymer synthesis and the work of the Royal Society of Chemistry as a publishing house and a facilitator of international scientific connections (see Photo 3). In the afternoon I met with faculty in charge of graduate education at Zhejiang University. We discussed best practice in terms of graduate education. As a proud Canadian, and with experience as an educator on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, I was able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both the UK and North American systems – in particular, the rapidity that the UK can produce excellence in PhD graduates was a major selling point! As the current Head of the Graduate School for the University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry I was able to highlight the cultural, scientific and administrative changes I’ve recently championed to promote change within our School. The meeting produced from strong potential actions, and I learned quite a bit too from their best practice!

Photo 3

On day three it was off to the new Zhejiang University campus (see Photo 4). While the old campus was very close to the beautiful West Lake, the new campus has much more room to grow. With the excellence in Zhejiang making existing buildings a struggle to fit into, a new Polymer Science building will be finished in 2019 and allow for growth in undergraduate and graduate student numbers, faculty research efforts and an increased focus on international engagement and collaboration. The new modern campus also contains an educational museum that captures both Zhejiang Universities storied past, including the mobile university efforts during World War II that saved thousands of books and traversed thousands of miles, and features many of the technological advances pioneered in Hangzhou (see Photo 5, a screen capture of myself and Qi Wang as part of a modern alumni engagement system). After an afternoon at a picturesque wetland area it was off to dinner – a “romantic” restaurant called LeFleur. Here I had the best dish of the trip – a chicken stewed in a broth featuring a unique tiny peppercorn with no supposed English translation. While not overly spicy, the dish numbed the palate to comedic effect. It was delicious and supremely unique (Photo 6). Off to bed before my early flight out the next day. Three more flights on my return gave me time to reflect (and write this blog post!)…

Photo 4

Photo 5

Photo 6

I was impressed by the grand size and excellent science at Zhejiang University, the majesty of Hangzhou and West Lake but most of all by the graciousness of my hosts. I thank Li Chenglin and Qi Wang immensely for their hospitality and hope I can collaborate with both of them in the future. We’ve already started a small collaboration at the interface between our two research programs!

A second thank you also goes to the RSC and SAFEA for support for the trip – my first to China, but hopefully not my last!