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Fully-Funded (Home Rate) PhD Studentship (Fixed Term)

EPSRC ICASE Studentship - Multi-Dimensional Electron Diffraction: New Technology and Data Analytics for Improved Pharmaceutical Understanding and Performance

Sponsor: supported by GSK through an EPSRC Industrial CASE award University Supervisor: Prof Paul Midgley Start date 1 October 2021

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 4 years in the first instance. Determining the atomic structure (and hence properties) of small molecule compounds is at the core of analytical and materials science activities across the pharmaceutical industry. Single crystal X-ray diffraction is regarded as the 'gold standard' structure determination technique but generally requires (relatively large) custom-grown crystals, which can be a significant bottleneck and may not be representative of the material that results from manufacturing, processing and subsequent formulation. The emerging technique of low-dose multi-dimensional electron diffraction, with its ability to study nanoscale-sized crystals, has the potential to be a major step-change for structure determination for the pharmaceutical industry.

In this project we will we develop two forms of multi-dimensional electron diffraction. Firstly, 3D electron diffraction (3D-ED), or 'diffraction tomography', will be used to determine the atomic structure of sub-micron small molecule crystals by acquiring electron diffraction patterns as a function of specimen tilt. Secondly, 4D scanning electron diffraction (4D-SED) will be used to study the heterogeneous microstructure of pharmaceutical material, investigating grain orientation, boundaries and interfaces, and crystal defects - all of which play a role in determining the materials' properties. This project will focus also on how best to analyse these large multi-dimensional datasets, harnessing digital technologies and developing 'big data' methods of machine learning and artificial intelligence that are optimised for electron diffraction.

The successful candidate would have interests in combining data analysis with experimental electron diffraction. Previous experience in data analysis, using python, and some knowledge of electron microscopy, would be highly desirable. We are looking for candidates interested in collaborative work as the project will involve interacting closely with industrial partners.

Applicants should have (or expected to be awarded) an upper second or first class honours degree at the level of MSci, MEng (or overseas equivalents) in a relevant science subject (e.g. Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science).

EPSRC ICASE studentships are fully-funded (fees and maintenance) for eligible students. A fixed sum of £10,000 per annum for four years (exclusive of VAT) will be paid by GSK to support the Studentship. This will be used to supplement the annual maintenance (up to £3,000 pa) and support research expenses. Further details about eligibility and funding can be found at:

The PhD will be supervised jointly by Prof Paul Midgley, University of Cambridge, and by Drs Roy Copley and Duncan Johnstone, GSK.

Both the University of Cambridge and GSK are passionate about recruiting the best talent irrespective of their background. We actively support equality, diversity and inclusion and encourage applications from all sections of society.

For more information about the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy in Cambridge, please visit: Informal enquiries about this studentship can be made to Prof Paul Midgley at: or to Dr Rosie Ward at:

Applications should be submitted via the University of Cambridge Applicant Portal, with Prof Paul Midgley identified as the potential supervisor. Note that the University charges a £70 fee for PhD applications.

Please quote reference LJ25238 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.