Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Chemistry PhD, MScR

Awards: PhD, MScR

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Chemistry

Our EaStCHEM Joint Research School was formed by the Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews in 2004 to combine the research activities of two of Scotland’s leading schools of chemistry. EaStCHEM now provides the largest chemistry research unit in the UK.

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), EaStCHEM was one of only three chemistry units to achieve a 100% “world-leading” score for our research environment. This result rewards our:

  • provision of state-of-the-art facilities
  • recruitment of high-quality academic, research and professional services staff
  • collaboration across disciplines and with industry partners
  • support for career development
  • nurturing of talent

REF 2021 also assessed >99% of our research outputs as either “world-leading” or “internationally excellent” and 100% of the economic, social and environmental benefit in our impact case studies to be “outstanding” or “very considerable”.

In addition to gaining research skills, making friends, meeting eminent researchers and being part of the research community, a research degree will help you to develop invaluable transferable skills which you can apply to academic life or a variety of professions outside of academia.

The Chemistry/Biology Interface

This is a broad area, with particular strengths in the areas of:

  • protein structure and function
  • mechanistic enzymology
  • proteomics
  • peptide and protein synthesis
  • protein folding
  • recombinant and synthetic DNA methodology
  • biologically targeted synthesis
  • the application of high throughput and combinatorial approaches

We also focus on biophysical chemistry, the development and application of physicochemical techniques to biological systems. This includes mass spectrometry, advanced spectroscopy and microscopy, as applied to proteins, enzymes, DNA, membranes and biosensors.

Experimental & Theoretical Chemical Physics

This is the fundamental study of molecular properties and processes. Areas of expertise include:

  • probing molecular structure in the gas phase, clusters and nanoparticles
  • the development and application of physicochemical techniques such as mass spectoscropy to molecular systems
  • the EaStCHEM surface science group, who study complex molecules on surfaces, probing the structure property-relationships employed in heterogeneous catalysis

A major feature is in Silico Scotland, a world-class research computing facility.


This research area encompasses the synthesis and characterisation of organic and inorganic compounds, including those with application in:

  • homogeneous catalysis
  • nanotechnology
  • coordination chemistry
  • ligand design and supramolecular chemistry
  • asymmetric catalysis
  • heterocyclic chemistry
  • the development of synthetic methods and strategies leading to the synthesis of biologically important molecules (including drug discovery)

The development of innovative synthetic and characterisation methodologies (particularly in structural chemistry) is a key feature, and we specialise in structural chemistry at extremely high pressures.

Materials Chemistry

The EaStCHEM Materials group is one of the largest in the UK. Areas of strength include the design, synthesis and characterisation of functional (for example magnetic, superconducting and electronic) materials, such as:

  • strongly correlated electronic materials
  • battery and fuel cell materials and devices
  • porous solids
  • fundamental and applied electrochemistry polymer microarray technologies
  • technique development for materials and nanomaterials analysis

You will attend:

  • regular research talks
  • visiting speaker symposia
  • an annual residential meeting in the Scottish Highlands
  • lecture courses on specialised techniques and safety

You will be encouraged to participate in:

  • transferable skills and computing courses
  • public awareness of science activities
  • undergraduate teaching
  • national and international conferences while representing the School

Our facilities are among the best in the world, offering an outstanding range of capabilities. You will be working in recently refurbished laboratories that meet the highest possible standards, packed with state-of-the-art equipment for both analysis and synthesis.

For NMR in the solution and solid state, we have 10 spectrometers at field strengths from 200-800 MHz; mass spectrometry utilises EI, ESI, APCI, MALDI and FAB instrumentation, including LC and GC interfaces. New combinatorial chemistry laboratories, equipped with a modern fermentation unit, are available.

We have excellent facilities for the synthesis and characterisation of bio-molecules, including advanced mass spectrometry and NMR stopped-flow spectrometers, EPR, HPLC, FPLC, AA.

World-class facilities are available for small molecule and macromolecular X-ray diffraction, utilising both single crystal and powder methods. Application of diffraction methods at high pressures is a particular strength, and we enjoy strong links to central facilities for neutron, muon and synchrotron science in the UK and further afield. We are one of the world's leading centres for gas-phase electron diffraction.

Also available are instruments for magnetic and electronic characterisation of materials (SQUID), electron microscopy (SEM, TEM), force-probe microscopy, high-resolution FTRaman and FT-IR, XPS and thermal analysis. We have also recently installed a new 1,000- tonne pressure chamber, to be used for the synthesis of materials at high pressures and temperatures.

Fluorescence spectroscopy and microscopy instruments are available within the COSMIC Centre. Dedicated computational infrastructure is available, and we benefit from close links with the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre.

The School of Chemistry actively supports and guides its students in their career aspirations. A Chemistry-based research degree from Edinburgh gives you an excellent qualification for a wide career choice within science, industry, commerce and many more areas.

The valuable skillset of our Chemistry graduates is in demand from employers. At the end of your studies, you will have developed excellent analytical and practical skills, as well as problem solving, presentation and communication skills that will have you prepared to continue towards a PhD degree or for a career outside academia.

Alumni Profiles

Chemistry Career profiles

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

In general, any research area in the School of Chemistry will require you to have a degree in a related field. We may consider your application if your background is not directly related to chemistry; contact your potential supervisor for advice. Potential supervisor details can be found on the School website:

We highly recommend making personal contact by email with your potential supervisor prior to making your application.

PhD: A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in chemistry or a related field.

MSc Research: A UK 2:2 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in chemistry or a related field. If you successfully complete the MSc Research programme, you may be eligible for the PhD programme.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 59 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Academic Technology Approval Scheme

If you are not an EU, EEA or Swiss national, you may need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme clearance certificate in order to study this programme.

Additional programme costs

Students funding their own studies should discuss Bench Fees with their Supervisor at the time of making your application.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhDChemistry3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDChemistry6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
MScRChemistry1 YearFull-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of Chemistry
  • Joseph Black Building
  • David Brewster Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FJ

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

You must submit two references with your application.

After checking the key dates for research applications, you should then contact potential supervisors to see if they are willing to supervise your work. Check to see whether a separate application is needed for funding, then apply online.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • School of Chemistry
  • Joseph Black Building
  • David Brewster Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FJ