Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher (PhD Studentship)

University College London

United Kingdom


Duties and Responsibilities
Applications are invited for a 36-month PhD Studentship fully funded by the H2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action and available from March 2019. The successful candidate will be based in the Department of Chemistry at UCL and be registered as a PhD student at UCL. The successful candidate will also go on secondments (lasting 1 to 2 months) to different teams of the ProtoMet Consortium.

A novel strategy for functional peptides synthesis in water will be used to investigate rate enhancement, network control and redox reactivity in key steps of triose glycolysis and related metabolic pathways. Triose glycolysis is a core metabolic pathway central to energy transduction and amino acid, sugar, nucleotide and lipid biosyntheses; this project will build upon our previous work, published in Nature Chemistry (Coggins & Powner Nat. Chem. 2017, 9, 310-317), reconstituted triose glycolysis in high yield under mild, prebiotically plausible conditions.

This is an exciting opportunity for a student with a strong chemistry background to tackle one of the biggest problems in science. A Chemistry-based degree with a strong knowledge of Organic Chemistry is an essential requisite, while some expertise in nucleotide or peptide chemistry is highly desirable.  The successful candidate will join a group of highly motivated scientists (5 post-doctoral Research Associates, 6 PhD students and 3 MRes students) working at UCL to elucidate the chemistry that underpins the Origins of Life on Earth. The student will gain experience of direct collaboration within the EU Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ProtoMet; GA # 813873), which is a European Training Network offering the opportunity to motivated international Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) to address the tremendous challenge of understanding how prebiotic chemistry gave rise to life by training a new generation of scientists to think big, but also to work methodically and logically alongside colleagues from academia and industry. The student will contribute to the design, development and implementation of new chemical methods to explore catalysis, the chemical origins of life, peptide synthesis, nucleotide synthesis and reaction networks.

Additionally, Dr Powner is an investigator of the Simons Foundation (New York, USA), and the student would gain experience of broader international collaborative interactions within the on-going Simons Foundation Collaboration on the Origins of Life (

The starting date for the contract is expected to be 1st June 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Key Requirements
The successful candidate must demonstrate eligibility according to the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions[1] eligibility requirements as an Early-Stage Researcher (ESR). At the date of recruitment[2], the candidate must be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research career and have not been awarded a doctoral degree. A Master degree (MSc or MChem) in Chemistry or related area as well as knowledge of modern research techniques in Organic Chemistry is essential.

[1] Guide for applicants Marie Sk³odowska-Curie Actions Innovative Training Networks (ITN) 2018, at the link

[2] The first day of employment of the Fellow for the purposes of the project (i.e. the starting date indicated in the employment /fellowship contract or equivalent direct contract).

The applicant can be of any nationality, but must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the UK for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the date of recruitment[1].

[1] Compulsory national service, short stays such as holidays, and time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention are not taken into account.

Candidates must be able to demonstrate their eligibility to work in the UK in accordance with the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006. Where required this may include entry clearance or continued leave to remain under the Points Based Immigration Scheme.

Further Details
Interested candidates are strongly advised, prior to applying, to read carefully the Job Description & Person Specification below.

Applicants should include a CV and cover letter clearly explaining their interest in the ESR position and in investigating the origins of life and outline their eligibility for the ESR position.

To apply please click on the 'Apply Now' button below.

Informal inquiries can be directed to Dr Matthew Powner - Any queries on the application process can be directed to Judith James at, and

UCL Taking Action for Equality

We will consider applications to work on a part-time, flexible and job share basis wherever possible.

Closing Date                                                                24 May 2019
Latest time for the submission of applications             23.59
Interview date                                                              TBC

Our department holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award, in recognition of our commitment to advancing gender equality.

This appointment is subject to UCL Terms and Conditions of Service for Research and Support Staff. 

Please use these links to find out more about UCL working life including the benefits we offer and UCL Terms and Conditions related to this job.

In your application, please refer to


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