Chemistry PhD/MPhil/MRes

PhD/MPhil/MRes Chemistry
Join a thriving research environment and access state-of-the-art facilities.

Fact file

PhD/MPhil/MRes Chemistry
Entry requirements
2:1 (or international equivalent) in an MSci/MChem; 2:2 for MRes
6.0 (no less than 5.5 in any element) If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
Please contact the school
University Park or Jubilee Campus
Other requirements



Discover Nottingham

  • Join a thriving research environment with 160 postgraduate students and 60 postdoctoral researchers from all corners of the globe
  • 95% of the School of Chemistry's research activity was judged to be 'internationally excellent' or 'world-leading' (Research Excellence Framework, 2014)
  • Access state-of-the-art facilities including the GlaxoSmithKline Carbon Neutral Laboratory

Our research

The School of Chemistry covers four major research themes:

  • biological chemistry
  • materials chemistry
  • molecular bonding and spectroscopy
  • synthesis and catalysis

Research within these themes includes the following specific topics:

Inorganic and Materials Chemistry

Research in inorganic chemistry at the University of Nottingham is very wide-ranging and interdisciplinary with many national, European and international collaborations.

Research interests encompass a diverse range of interests which interface with physics, biology, pharmacy, materials and computational science and chemical engineering.

The common feature of inorganic chemistry at Nottingham is the use, study and understanding of novel molecular interactions or unusual synthetic or engineering procedures to yield new compounds, properties, catalysis and function.

Coordination, organometallic and supramolecular Chemistry
  • The synthesis of transition metal and f-element complexes and complexes that challenge the traditional views of bonding and reactivity
  • Small molecule activation and homogeneous catalysis by organometallic complexes
  • Single isomer chiral metal complex chemistry
  • Surface, solution and solid-state supramolecular self-assembly, including crystal engineering
  • Photochemistry and time-resolved spectroscopy to probe both excited states and reaction mechanisms
Biological Inorganic Chemistry
  • The chemistry of the catalysis accomplished by metal centres in enzymes, especially in oxygen atom transfer at Mo or W and activity that requires a metal and a phenoxyl radical
  • Coordination complexes as mimics for NiFe hydrogenase and catalytic hydrogen/proton interconversion for fuel cells
  • Complementary spectroscopic and theoretical techniques to probe the electronic structure of transition metal complexes and metalloenzyme active sites
  • Metal intercalators as IR probes of DNA damage, sensors of biological molecules and models of water splitting by photosystem II.
Nanomaterials, Solid State and Polymer Chemistry
  • The synthesis, processing and characterisation of carbon nanotubes and fullerenes
  • Nanostructure formation via self-assembly of molecular hosts: molecular entrapment and organisation on surfaces
  • Nanomaterials and light framework polymers for gas (hydrogen, methane, VOC) storage, absorption and extraction
  • Sudies of internal surfaces in mesostructural materials
  • Polymer synthesis and processing using supercritical carbon dioxide: from drug delivery devices, tissue engineering scaffolds, unique polymer blends and photonic materials
  • The synthesis of new magnetic oxides and ionic conducting materials with tailored structures.

Green and Analytical Chemistry and Clean Technology

  • Development of cleaner reaction chemistry in supercritical water
  • Continuous reactions in supercritical CO2 from lab-scale to commercial plant
  • UHV spectroscopic techniques for the characterisation and in-situ monitoring of catalytic processes in ionic liquids
  • Solution XPS to measure controlled changes in physical properties for sensor and imaging application
Structural Chemistry
  • Single crystal X-ray diffraction and structural studies at low temperature, high pressure
  • Experimental charge density studies

Organic and Biological Chemistry

Organic and biological research at Nottingham is very broadly based, and spans the whole spectrum of activity from medicinal chemistry, target organic synthesis, catalysis and development of new synthetic methodology through to mechanistic enzymology, chemical genetics, chemical biology, protein biochemistry, protein engineering and structural biology.

Organic chemistry is especially strong in the areas of target synthesis, natural product chemistry, and asymmetric synthesis. Complex natural products and their analogues continue to present a fascinating challenge to the synthetic chemist.

Research groups at Nottingham are probing new strategies and developing new methodologies for the synthesis of such molecules, with emphasis on compounds with significant biological activity.

In particular, we are interested in novel compounds with antibacterial, anticancer and antimalarial properties. In biological chemistry, we address problems at the interface of chemistry and biology, to define the molecular interactions that determine the specificity and control of biological processes.

The department is well supported through UK Research Council and EU funding, and has strong links to the pharmaceutical industry. Key themes include:

Synthesis and Natural Products
  • The design and application of novel synthetic methodologies for the synthesis of naturally occurring target molecules, including antibiotics, alkaloids, terpenes and marine natural products.
Sustainable Synthesis and Catalysis
  • The design of new reagents and catalysts to effect diastereoselective and enantioselective reactions, involving alkylations, C-H oxidation, reduction, and rearrangement processes, with an emphasis on efficiency and sustainability: including biocatalysis and biotechnology. 
  • Some of this research is supported in the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Chemistry.
Biological and Medicinal Chemistry, and Chemical Biology
  • Studies of the fundamental properties of biomolecules, for example the folding of proteins and the binding of antibiotics to DNA
  • Synthesis of enzyme inhibitors, antisense DNA, and hapten design for generation of catalytic antibodies.
  • Novel compounds with antibiotic, anticancer and antimalarial properties.

Physics and Theoretical Chemistry

This field of chemistry provides a quantitative framework for understanding and appreciating the static, dynamical, and chemical properties of gases, liquids and solids. These can be as simple as a collection of rare gas atoms or as complex as DNA, but in every case knowledge of their physical state and how it might respond to change, such as the absorption of a photon, can only be gained using advanced experimental or computational methods.

Physical and theoretical chemistry research at Nottingham covers a broad range of subdisciplines, including surface science, computational and quantum chemistry, laser spectroscopy, solid-state NMR, and cluster science.

Within each of these areas, Nottingham has made major contributions in the advancement of physical and theoretical chemistry both in terms of our knowledge of basic processes and in the development of advanced instrumentation and computational techniques.

Spectroscopy and Dynamics

Including studies of:

  • fragmentation in isolated molecules using tunable laser and synchrotron light sources
  • time-resolved studies of intramolecular energy transfer
  • photoelectron studies of chiral molecules
Magnetic Resonance
  • The application of magnetic resonance spectroscopic and imaging techniques to the characterisation of structure and dynamics in polymers, nanocomposite materials and biomolecules.
Surfaces Science
  • UHV surface science, including surface structure using X-ray standing wave analysis, surface kinetics and dynamics.
Clusters and van der Waals complexes
  • Including chemical and spectroscopic studies of the gas phase solvation of metal dications, and the spectroscopy of weakly-bound complexes.
Theoretical and Computational Chemistry

The development of new methods in quantum chemistry, applications include benzene in superfluid helium droplets, buckminsterene fullerene adsorbed on silicon surfaces, and the spectroscopy of proteins.

The application of computational chemistry to biologically important molecules.

This research is undertaken with access to state-of-the-art experimental and computational facilities.

Current equipment includes a wide range of vacuum systems for surface, synchrotron, photoionisation, and cluster beam experiments, tuneable UV, visible and infrared lasers, ion traps, solid-state NMR spectrometers, mass spectrometers, and advanced computational facilities including access to the University's 1000-processor cluster.

Chemby research

Entry requirements

The usual minimum requirement for PhD/MPhil entry is an upper-second-class or first class honours degree (or International equivalent) in an MSci or MChem degree in chemistry.

The usual minimum requirement for MRes entry is a lower 2nd class honours degree (or International equivalent) in chemistry.

International research students need to achieve an IELTS score of 6.0 (with no less than 5.5 in each element).

The University runs a number of preparatory English programmes each summer and, for extra support during your degree, you can attend its free language classes. For more information, visit our Centre for English Language Education (CELE).

How to apply

Important: when applying for a postgraduate research degree in chemistry it is not necessary to provide a research proposal.

Please indicate the area of chemistry you are interested in (see above), and ideally identify a potential academic supervisor(s) working in that field.



  • Centre for Mass Spectrometry
  • Computational modelling with an ultra high powered GRID
  • Fluorometers and ToF SIMS
  • FTIR
  • Full range of workshop facilities
  • High-field NMR (up to 800 MHz)
  • Open access mass spectrometers and LC-MS
  • Powder X-ray diffractometers
  • Single crystal CCD
  • Solid-state NMR
  • SQUID magnetometer
  • State-of-the-art XPS
  • UHV and surface equipment
  • UV/VIS/Raman
  • World-class laser facilities
  • From UV to IR, with timescales from picoseconds to continuous wave

Research support

Student Services

Student Services provide a range of support and information to enhance your student experience. They are part of a comprehensive network of University services that includes academic and disability support, counselling, financial support and childcare services.

Centre for English Language Education

Accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK, the University's Centre for English Language Education provides high-quality preparation and English language support, as well as a social programme for its students.

Students' Union

The Students' Union is an important source of support with their own Student Advice Centre and dedicated Postgraduate Officer.

Researcher Development Programme

Working closely with academic schools, the Graduate School's dedicated training team contribute to faculty specific and doctoral training programmes. They deliver core training in line with the standards set out by the UK's major research funders through their researcher development programme.


Find a supervisor

We strongly encourage you to get in touch with a member of academic staff about your research interests before submitting an application. They may be able to help you with your proposal and offer support to find funding opportunities in your area.

Details of research supervisors in the School of Chemistry can be found on our academic staff contact page.


Fees and funding

UK/EU students

The University Graduate School operates two schemes of its own to help support current postgraduate research. The Graduate School Travel Prize and Universitas21 funding. For prospective students the University has introduced a new funding database.

The Graduate School also holds a list of other sources of funding. Studentship opportunities are also available. 

Visit our postgraduate funding page for further details.

As a student on this course, we do not anticipate any extra significant costs, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses. You should be able to access most of the books you’ll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies which you would need to factor into your budget. All essential safety equipment is provided. 

Government loans for doctoral study

The Government recently introduced doctoral student loans of up to £25,000 for PhDs and equivalent research programmes. Applicants must ordinarily live in England.

Doctoral training programmes

Linked to research councils, doctoral training programmes offer funding opportunities connected to our research priorities.

International and EU students

Research scholarships are available for outstanding international and EU students. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure your course application is submitted in good time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.



Visit the school page for additional opportunities.

Average starting salary and career progression

In 2017, 97.4% of postgraduates in the school who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £29,301 with the highest being £37,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2016/17. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career prospects and employability

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers** and can offer you a head-start when it comes to your career.  

Those who take up a postgraduate research opportunity with us will not only receive support in terms of close contact with supervisors and specific training related to your area of research, you will also benefit from dedicated careers advice from our  Careers and Employability Service.  

Our  Careers and Employability Service offers a range of services including advice sessions, employer events, recruitment fairs and skills workshops – and once you have graduated you will have access to the service for life.

** The Graduate Market 2013-2017, High Fliers Research.


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Get in touch

+44 (0)115 951 3505

This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

Student Recruitment Enquiries Centre

The University of Nottingham
King's Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

t: +44 (0) 115 951 5559
w: Frequently asked questions
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