PhD Studentship in Geoscience: Mineral defects in low temperature hydrothermal systems: a key to unlocking sustainable nitrogen and carbon fixation?

Newcastle University

Award Summary

100% home fees and a minimum tax-free annual living allowance of £17,668 (2022-23 UKRI rate).


Interested in using inspiration from mineral catalysts at natural hydrothermal systems to explore more sustainable methods to generate chemicals for industry? Alkaline hydrothermal systems are widely regarded as a likely site for early organic molecular synthesis and the origin of life on Earth, and potentially elsewhere in our solar system. Experiments mimicking the mixing of pressurised hydrogen-rich alkaline hydrothermal fluids with oxygen-free CO2-rich seawater have demonstrated the rapid fixation of inorganic carbon to organic molecules, and of oxidised nitrogen compounds to ammonia. Importantly, such reactions provide a novel potential alternative to, for example, traditional gas phase Fisher-Tropsch reaction pathways used in industrial organic chemical synthesis. In this PhD studentship you will focus on the role of transition metal defects within mineral catalysts in increasing the yields and specificity of organic molecule and ammonia synthesis, using mild hydrothermal conditions similar to those of natural alkaline hydrothermal systems. You will assess their relevance for both natural systems and for industry. You will receive training and gain skills in experimental design (including heated pressurised flow through reactors), inorganic and organic molecular analyses, and geochemical modelling.

Number Of Awards


Start Date

18th September 2023

Award Duration

3.5 Years

Application Closing Date

24th March 2023


Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)


 Dr Jon Telling (School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University)

Eligibility Criteria

You must have, or expect to gain, a minimum 2:1 Honours degree or international equivalent, or a Master’s degree, in a relevant science subject (e.g. Earth Sciences, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Biology, or similar). Enthusiasm for research, the ability to think and work independently, excellent analytical skills and strong verbal and written communication skills are also essential requirements. This studentship is available for home students only, no International allocation is available.

How To Apply

You must apply through the University’s Apply to Newcastle Portal  

Once registered select ‘Create a Postgraduate Application’.  

Use ‘Course Search’ to identify your programme of study:  

  • search for the ‘Course Title’ using the programme code: 8314F
  • select ‘PhD Geoscience (FT)’ as the programme of study 

You will then need to provide the following information in the ‘Further Questions’ section:  

  • a ‘Personal Statement’ (this is a mandatory field) – upload a document or write a statement directly in to the application form  
  • the studentship code SNES251 in the ‘Studentship/Partnership Reference’ field  
  • when prompted for how you are providing your research proposal – select ‘Write Proposal’. You should then type in the title of the research project from this advert. You do not need to upload a research proposal.  

Contact Details

 Dr Jon Telling: [email protected]

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