In 2022 OxICFM CDT hosted three UNIQ+ research interns for six weeks in the Department of Chemistry. Each intern worked on an inorganic chemistry research project and was supervised by an internationally leading academic from within the department. The three research projects were 'Cleaner biocatalytic methods for chemical synthesis' (supervised by Prof. Kylie Vincent), 'Bypassing white phosphorus – synthesis of phosphorus-containing compounds without the intermediacy of P4' (supervised by Dr Daniel Scott) and 'Using carbon dioxide to make plastics' (supervised by Prof. Charlotte Williams).
Find out more about the UNIQ+ graduate access programme, and our 2022 interns below.
UNIQ+ research internships are designed to provide students from under-represented and disadvantaged backgrounds who are ordinarily resident in the UK, with the opportunity to experience postgraduate study. UNIQ+ aims to provide a real day-to-day experience of postgraduate research. During the six-week programme (which will ran from 4th July in 2022), interns undertake a research project, attend training skills sessions and receive information on graduate study. They meet and work with researchers, academic staff, and graduate students from the University of Oxford.
In 2022, interns received:
Originally from South London, Shaun is in his final year of his MSci in Chemistry at the University of Bristol. He is interested in synthetic chemistry and undertook a placement year synthesising deuterated organic carbonates as electrolytes for battery applications at ISIS Neutron and Muon Source. Outside of the lab, Shaun enjoys cooking, reading, participating in outreach events, and playing American football.
Phosphorus-containing compounds are ubiquitous throughout both industrial and academic chemistry, with myriad uses that range from pyrotechnics to flame retardants and from fumigants to pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, in all cases the synthesis of these products relies on the use of white phosphorus (P4) as the ultimate P atom source. This is extremely undesirable: P4 is both toxic and notoriously pyrophoric, and its preparation via electric arc furnace reduction of phosphate is so hazardous that it is no longer performed anywhere in Europe. This project will therefore target the selective, partial reduction of molecular phosphate compounds directly to useful products, without the intermediacy of P4. Specifically, the project will target the synthesis of phosphites via reduction of molecular species such as tetra(alkoxy)phosphonium cations and phosphate-derived acid anhydrides, which are known to be accessible from phosphate starting materials.
Katherine is studying an MChem in Chemistry with Forensic science at the University of Leicester. She has completed a year long industrial placement working with an agrochemical company developing formulations such as suspension concentrates and oil dispersions. She is interested in research surrounding catalysis, materials and metals used in medicine. In her spare time, Katherine enjoys horse-riding, climbing and socialising.
Enzymes are already becoming established, alongside chemical catalysts, to help with steps in the production of fine chemicals such as pharmaceuticals and flavour-fragrance molecules. They are particularly valuable for reduction of double bonds where a chiral product is desired, including C=O, C=C and C=N bonds. Although enzymes offer impressive selectivity for a given functional group in a molecule, they are often expensive to operate because they depend on costly cofactors, NADH or NADPH, which must be recycled, often with glucose as a carbon-intensive reductant. We have established cleaner methods for running biocatalysis, using hydrogen gas as a reductant. We also immobilise enzymes on carbon supports so that they can be used interchangeably with supported metal catalysts for hydrogenation reactions. This project will implement hydrogen-driven biocatalytic methods for making amine products and amino acids. Reactions will be run on a small scale under a mild hydrogen atmosphere, and products will be analysed by NMR, gas chromatography (GC) and HPLC.