PhD position in Radical Main-Group Chemistry

PhD position in Radical Main-Group Chemistry

Published Deadline Location
2 Mar 15 Mar Amsterdam

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Job description

Methane is an inert greenhouse gas that warms up the atmosphere, yet there are very few practical processes for converting this natural gas directly into more valuable products. Therefore, methane is often wasted and over 90% is simply burned. The challenge of controlled methane activation is caused by the inert character of the methane molecule; it is non-polar with a high C–H bond strength (BDE = 105 kcal/mol), a high ionization potential (12.6 eV) and low proton affinity (132 kcal/mol). These properties generally result in harsh reaction conditions, which are undesired while producing more reactive products compared to the starting material.

New processes for methane upgrading to platform molecules are therefore urgently needed, which is why we át the Van't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) of the Faculty of Science are seeking a PhD candidate who is interested in exploring new methods for the activation and functionalization of inert C–H bonds using main-group Lewis acids and bases.

In particular, we are interested in Lewis acid/base combinations that can form charge-transfer complexes that are susceptible to thermal or photo-induced single-electron transfer enabling the formation of radical ion pairs. We set out to target and generate such long-lived radical ion pairs and then explore their subsequent reactivity. To reduce synthetic chemistry’s dependence on noble, scarce and toxic elements, we aim at developing systems based on abundant and benign main-group elements. By doing so, this project sets out to develop a new research domain: main-group (photo)redox chemistry and -catalysis, which we will explore for the homolytic bond activation and subsequent functionalization of the greenhouse gas methane.

What are you going to do?

You are expected to:

  • be active in the fundamental research of our sustainable main-group chemistry group, publishing in high level international journals, presenting at leading conferences and supervising BSc and MSc students;
  • study the generation of main-group radicals and radical ion pairs using single-electron transfer experimentally and computationally;
  • study the reactivity of main-group radicals promoting the homolytic cleavage of inert C–H bonds experimentally and computationally;
  • design efficient functionalization/coupling protocols enabling the use of methane as feedstock.


University of Amsterdam (UvA)


What do we require?

  • A MSc in Molecular Chemistry;
  • a strong scientific expertise in physical organic chemistry;
  • demonstrated experience in reactive intermediate chemistry and computational chemistry;
  • the ability and willingness to acquire all skills needed for molecular main-group chemistry;
  • you are able to show enthusiasm and scientific rigor that meets the requirements of the project.

Conditions of employment

Our offer

We offer a temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 4 years (initial contract will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of 4 years) and should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and master students. 

The salary, depending on relevant experience before the beginning of the employment contract, will be €2,395 to €3,061 (scale P) gross per month, based on a full-time contract of 38 hours a week. This is exclusive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable.

Are you curious about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits like our excellent opportunities for study and development? Then find out more about working at the Faculty of Science.


University of Amsterdam

With over 5,000 employees, 30,000 students and a budget of more than 600 million euros, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) is an intellectual hub within the Netherlands. Teaching and research at the UvA are conducted within seven faculties: Humanities, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Economics and Business, Law, Science, Medicine and Dentistry. Housed on four city campuses in or near the heart of Amsterdam, where disciplines come together and interact, the faculties have close links with thousands of researchers and hundreds of institutions at home and abroad.  

The UvA’s students and employees are independent thinkers, competent rebels who dare to question dogmas and aren’t satisfied with easy answers and standard solutions. To work at the UvA is to work in an independent, creative, innovative and international climate characterised by an open atmosphere and a genuine engagement with the city of Amsterdam and society.


Faculty of Science - Van't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 7,000, as well as 1,600 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.

The Van't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) is one of eight institutes of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) Faculty of Science. HIMS performs internationally recognized chemistry and molecular research, curiosity driven as well as application driven. This is done in close cooperation with the chemical, flavour & food, medical and high-tech industries. Research is organized into four themes: Synthesis & Catalysis, Analytical Chemistry, Computational Chemistry and Molecular Photonics.

The Synthetic Organic Chemistry (SOC) group is part of the Sustainable Chemistry research theme. As part of SOC and sustainable chemistry, the Slootweg group focuses on developing sustainable main-group chemistry, ideally suited to realize a circular economy. The mission of Slootweg group is to educate students at the intersection of fundamental physical organic chemistry, main-group chemistry, and circular chemistry.

Our research in this new project is dedicated to the development of novel and sustainable synthetic methodologies for methane valorization. Therefore, we are recruiting a PhD student to strengthen our research project “a radical approach to methane activation and functionalization”. Parts of this research is conducted in close collaboration with a company.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2395—€3061 per month
  • University graduate
  • 21-099


University of Amsterdam (UvA)

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