Postgraduate research opportunities Understanding & Deploying Nickel Catalysis for Cross-Coupling


Key facts

  • Opens: Monday 2 March 2020
  • Number of places: .
  • Duration: 36 - 48 months


The student will investigate and quantify structure/reactivity relationships in nickel catalysis using a range of techniques including organic/organometallic synthesis, physical organic chemistry, and density functional theory, as appropriate.
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A good first degree (BSc(Hons), MChem, MSc, or equivalent) is required and research experience such as an industrial placement and/or an honours/Masters project in an academic laboratory is strongly desired. This project would suit a student with interests across the organic/organometallic chemistry interface with interests in both synthetic chemistry and reaction mechanisms.

THE Awards 2019: UK University of the Year Winner
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Project Details

Nickel catalysis is an exciting field of research with possible applications across pharmaceutical, agrochemical, and materials chemistry. The underlying mechanisms and structure/reactivity relationships are poorly understood, and so the Nelson Group ( are undertaking a programme of research in this area. Applicants with their own funding, or who can apply to secure personal fellowships/studentships, are encouraged to contact David and discuss a possible PhD project.

Topics currently under investigation include:

  1. Understanding how the structure of the ligand affects reactivity. This includes a recently-established collaboration with the Stradiotto group at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada) to understand why the “DalPhos” series of ligands are so effective. A PhD project in this area would involve the synthesis of pre-catalysts and model nickel(0) species to understand how ancillary ligand choice affects the rate of reaction and of fundamental steps such as oxidative addition. We have published a detailed study of the reactivity of dppf-Ni(0) complexes (Organometallics 2017, 36, 1662)
  2. Understanding how different functional groups affect reactivity and selectivity in catalysis. Our recent work has highlighted π-acidic functionality as a particular issue for nickel catalysts; this can be a hindrance to otherwise productive reactions or can be leveraged to achieve site-selective cross-coupling (e.g. Chem. Sci. 2020, 11, 1905). A project in this area would explore a wider range of functional groups
  3. Understanding the reactivity of sp3­-electrophiles with nickel. A project in this area would involve the synthesis and study of model nickel complexes in reactions relevant to sp3-sp3 and sp2-sp3 cross-couplings

These projects are all somewhat flexible and can be tailored to the applicant’s skillset and interests and can have both experimental and theoretical components.

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Funding details

This project is not funded. The applicant would need to secure funding to cover tuition fees, living costs and bench fees, but support is available to prepare applications for appropriate schemes

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Dr David Nelson

Senior Lecturer
Pure and Applied Chemistry

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Please contact Dr David Nelson for further information. Please include in your email: an up-to-date CV; a statement of the research area(s) in which you are interested; and a note of scholarship funding details and deadlines.

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Contact us

Dr David Nelson: