A Holistic Doctoral Training Centre for Chemical Synthesis

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Chemistry


Chemical Synthesis (CS) is an area upon which much of modern society relies as it enables the customized fabrication of products that are the ubiquitous materials of life and society. These include new drugs and medicines, new materials and polymers, nanomaterials, and a vast range of fine and effect chemicals on which the texture and quality of our lives depend. Without future core developments in the chemical sciences, UK plc and societal progress will stall and be left behind in a ferociously competitive modern world. We now plan to train a new generation of world-class PhD students so that the UK chemical industry can maintain its competitive position in the world as a place for highly innovative and creative research. One of the hardest aspects of CS is mastery of the vast 'synthetic tool box' of techniques required to become a professional chemist. The perfect chemist would be akin to highly skilled F1 mechanic with a state of the art toolbox and the ability to design and engineer from scratch - a molecular mechanic if you like. However in reality a student is often focussed too narrowly towards a particular area of synthesis and as a result can end up with a budget toolkit and a limited range of experience. We wish to explore CS by adopting a new 'Holistic' research approach that will be integrated with a revolutionary e-learning framework in a way that has not been previously articulated in the field of Chemistry. Instead of a traditional 'one PI - one-student - one idea' programme, we wish to bring together a group of internationally renowned chemists from organic, inorganic, physical and theoretical backgrounds to pool their skills in order to design from the ground up new and useful solutions for chemical synthesis. Our Research Opportunities Group (ROG) at Bristol does exactly this by bringing together staff from across and outside the chemistry discipline to discuss potential research areas in a Brainstorming format customized to our needs. We have found that this has been highly effective and has led to new research that simply would not have blossomed in a traditional approach. We now wish to instill our ROG philosophy and modus operandi into our students. Our aim is to get these students to think about their research as a collective rather than as isolated individuals working in separate research groups. The benefits of this will be enormous, not least in that they will all play an active role in the design of each-others projects as well as being exposed to a pool of supervisory experience of great breadth and experience. Key to the training experience will be the design and implementation of a revolutionary e-learning resource called the postgraduate Dynamic Laboratory Manual (pgDLM). The pgDLM will allow students to carry out a virtual version of an essential, often complex, experimental technique before experiencing it in the laboratory thus gaining a much deeper understanding of an experiment before they carry it out for real . By creating a pgDLM with an evolving library of online techniques we will not only enable students to embrace new techniques confidently but also simultaneously establish a valuable resource which will be made available to all practitioners of CS in both academe and industry. Industry will play a key role in defining the focus and contemporary relevance of the csDTC and will be broadly represented on a Steering Group. These external advisors will play an active role in project selection, assessment and will participate in the training programme. By producing the right product and working closely with industrial partners from the outset, the csDTC will be well positioned to leverage external support to sustain the Centre beyond the EPSRC funding period. Through this vision we aim to produce a new generation of industrial and academic leaders and, by delivering this goal, secure Bristol as a premier centre for Chemical Synthesis.


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