Postdoctoral Research Associate, Chemistry, Heterogeneous Catalysis

Durham, United Kingdom
£34,304 - £38,587 per annum
Friday, 10 September 2021
End of advertisement period
Friday, 1 October 2021
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Chemistry

Grade 7: - £34,304 - £38,587 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: Up to 14 months
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 01-Oct-2021, 6:59:00 AM

Durham University

Durham University is one of the world's top universities with strengths across the Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences. We are home to some of the most talented scholars and researchers from around the world who are tackling global issues and making a difference to people's lives.

The University sits in a beautiful historic city where it shares ownership of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, the greatest Romanesque building in Western Europe. A collegiate University, Durham recruits outstanding students from across the world and offers an unmatched wider student experience.

Less than 3 hours north of London, and an hour and a half south of Edinburgh, County Durham is a region steeped in history and natural beauty. The Durham Dales, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are home to breathtaking scenery and attractions. Durham offers an excellent choice of city, suburban and rural residential locations. The University provides a range of benefits including pension and childcare benefits and the University’s Relocation Manager can assist with potential schooling requirements.

Durham University seeks to promote and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment for work and study that assists all members of our University community to reach their full potential. Diversity brings strength and we welcome applications from across the international, national and regional communities that we work with and serve.

The Department

Durham Chemistry is one of the very best UK chemistry departments with an outstanding reputation for excellence in teaching, research and employability of our students. The Department was ranked 5th overall in REF2014 in terms of grade point average and 1st for impact. It routinely features high in national league tables and is 3rd in the Complete University Guide 2020. Our research spans the range of organic, inorganic, physical and theoretical chemistry.

The Role

An exciting Postdoctoral Research Associate position is available in an industrially funded research project looking at the selection, synthesis, characterisation and development of heterogeneous catalysts. The overall goal is to undertake fundamental research exploring a number of ideas that aim to provide improved yields for an industrially important (usually metal oxide catalysed) reaction. The work is funded by Sinopec, a major global chemical company.

The work will be supervised by Dr Philip Dyer and Dr Simon Beaumont (https://www.durham.ac.uk/departments/academic/chemistry/about-us/our-people/ ).

The successful applicant will be expected to conduct careful experimental design, synthesis of catalysts and catalytic performance measurements using an in-house assembled gas flow reactor, as well as performing a range of catalyst characterization measurements. The project will also involve working closely with members of the industrial collaborator, Sinopec, (based in the UK and China) to share results (including the production of written and oral reports), plan future experiments, discuss the project progress and participate actively in regular meetings. In order to facilitate sharing between the Durham team and the Chinese members of the industrial team, the post-holder is expected to be fluent in Mandarin.


The main duties and responsibilities of the job involve conducting individual and collaborative research.

The post-holder will have specific responsibility for the following areas of research:

  • To undertaking laboratory work: synthesis and characterisation of catalysts, catalytic performance measurements using a gas phase flow reactor (it is anticipated this will be approx. 80% of the RA’s time per year).
  • To apply critical thinking and problem solving, especially related to (a) the design of experiments; (b) understanding structure-activity relationships, discussing with the Research Supervisors and industry sponsor and offering creative or innovative solutions.
  • To manage, plan and prioritise research within the project, including planning and meeting deadlines.
  • To conduct a research project under the direction of the Research Supervisors and industry sponsor.
  • To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to the team or group of people through reports, presentations and discussions that may also lead to the presentation of research papers in conferences and publications.
  • To write detailed, accurate and accessible reports of experimental work and data analysis undertaken and draw conclusions from the results obtained.
  • To publish high quality outputs, including writing, or assisting with writing, the results of the research in a form suitable for presentation at meetings, patents and manuscripts for submission to world-class journals under the direction of the Research Supervisors and industry sponsor .
  • To liaise with research colleagues and make internal and external contacts to develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration.
  • To prepare and deliver presentations on research outputs/activities to various academic and non-academic audiences, interacting closely with project partners, presenting results during meetings or video calls where appropriate (in both English and Mandarin).
  • To contribute to the general day-to-day running of the laboratory to a high standard, as a senior member of our team. This will involve, for example, ensuring a safe working environment, passing on expertise to other colleagues, sharing resources, maintaining supplies and equipment.
  • To deliver training in research techniques/approaches to peers, visitors (including from the industrial sponsor) and students as appropriate.
  • To work with the Research Supervisor and other colleagues, as appropriate to identify areas for research, develop new research methods and extend the research portfolio.
  • To be involved in student supervision, as appropriate, and engage in continuing professional development by participation in the undergraduate or postgraduate teaching programmes or by membership of departmental committees, etc. and by attending relevant training and development courses.
  • To contribute to fostering a collegial and respectful working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the department and wider discipline.
  • To undertake other duties commensurate with the post as requested by the Research Supervisor and to contribute to the overall activities of the research team and department as required.

This post is fixed term for up to 14 months duration as the project is time-limited with an expected end date of the project of 15 December 2022. It is anticipated further research funding will be sought for follow on projects, but this is not currently confirmed and may depend on factors external to the project performance.

The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project which will be led by other colleagues (Dyer/Beaumont). Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas/adaptation and development of research protocols.

Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post as soon as feasible after 01 October 2021.

How to Apply

For informal enquiries please contact Philip Dyer and/or Simon Beaumont (p.w.dyer@durham.ac.uk , Simon.Beaumont@durham.ac.uk ). All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.

We prefer to receive applications online via the Durham University Vacancies Site. https://www.dur.ac.uk/jobs/As part of the application process, you should provide details of 3 (preferably academic/research) referees and the details of your current line manager so that we may seek an employment reference.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University.

What to Submit

All applicants are asked to submit:

  • A MAXIMUM 2-page A4 CV and 1-page A4 covering letter which details your experience, strengths and summarises relevant details and information of your career to date.
  • A table (e.g. prepared as a word document) to provide key factual evidence in a concise format of how you meet each of the essential requirements and any of the desirable requirements for the role.
  • Additional papers/theses or unrequested application documents should not be included as they may result in your application being disregarded.

All documents should be submitted as PDFs.

Next Steps

The assessment for the post will include a 5 minute presentation and an interview. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview and assessment. The indicative date for interviews to be held is early-mid October.



  1. An awarded (or exceptionally post-viva) PhD in the general area of catalysis in a Chemistry, Chemical Engineering or similar department.


  1. Expertise and experience in synthesis, rate measurement and characterisation of heterogeneous catalysts and an excellent knowledge of fundamental catalyst science.
  2. Demonstrated ability to conduct, publish, and otherwise disseminate high-quality research.


  1. Demonstrated ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings and guiding more junior co-workers.
  2. Fluent in English and Madarin



  1. Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.
  2. Experience of catalyst synthesis (especially metal oxides) and gas phase rate measurements on heterogeneous catalysts
  3. Familiarity with interpreting data from and hands on experience using characterisation methods such as Nitrogen porosimetry, GC, GC-MS, DRIFTS, ICP, powder XRD, electron microscopy and XAS.


  1. Demonstrable ability to plan, manage independent research and meet deadlines.
  2. Proven commitment and ability to keep abreast of contemporary developments in the field.

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.