Mobile Robotic Chemists for Autonomous Synthetic Chemistry


Industrial chemistry labs have not changed significantly in the last 25 years. The vast majority of experimentation supporting late phase drug development activities is performed manually one reaction at a time. There have been significant advances in automation, but these have been primarily focused on small scale high-throughput chemistry. As chemistry processes are scaled up, the geometry and agitation characteristics of the reaction vessels become very important. Reactions that have been optimised on small scale may not be reproducible when scaled to more industrially representative vessels. In this project we will develop a new approach: the use of mobile robotic chemists to operate round bottom flasks and/or controlled laboratory reaction vessels to perform autonomous synthetic chemistry. This project will build on our recent progress in the area of mobile robotic chemists: Nature 2020, 583, 237–241 – videos of the autonomous system can be found in the supporting information section.

This project will involve the development of the hardware and the software needed to automate synthetic chemistry processes and will deliver training in organic synthesis and robotic technologies for industrially relevant synthetic methodologies. The student will graduate with a diverse skill set that could launch a career in either academic research or in industry. The project will take place in the Autonomous Chemistry Laboratory, which forms part of the Materials Innovation Factory a new £82 M research facility, where there will be multiple opportunities to interact with a range of experts in areas such as experimental chemistry, computational chemistry, robotics, algorithms, and artificial intelligence.

Candidates with a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree in Chemistry or a closely related subject are encouraged to apply. Prior research experience (such as a Masters research project or equivalent) in a synthetic chemistry laboratory is desirable. Ideally, the candidate will have strong programming abilities (e.g., in Java), but an interest in programming and a willingness to learn are essential.

This position will remain open until filled and so early applications are encouraged.

For any enquiries please contact: Dr. John W. Ward () and Prof. Andrew I. Cooper ()

To apply for this opportunity, please visit: Please quote Studentship Reference: CCPR006 in the Finance Section of the Application Form.


Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

The studentship is funded by the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) and GlaxoSmithKline (iCASE). The iCASE award will pay full tuition fees and a maintenance grant for 4 years (at ca. £16,000 p.a.). Applications from candidates meeting the eligibility requirements of the EPSRC are welcome – please refer to the EPSRC website: View Website