Postdoctoral Research Associate in Supramolecular Gel Chemistry

We are seeking an experienced Postdoctoral Researcher with expertise in relatively straightforward synthetic organic chemistry, crystallization, soft materials chemistry and molecular dynamics calculations. The primary technical responsibilities include undertaking gelator synthesis, solid state characterisation of molecular organic solids and of gels using techniques such as XRPD, single crystal X-ray diffraction, rheology, IR and Raman spectroscopy, thermomicroscopy, AFM and particularly electron microscopy (SEM, TEM). The post holder will analyse and interpret data, prepare written and oral reports on progress and potentially contribute to the preparation of beam time applications for large scale facilities. They will also supervise PhD and MChem students in the laboratory and oversee routine maintenance on local instrumentation and liaise with equipment service professionals.

Think about how useful braiding has been on the macroscopic scale in the context of the evolution of human society. The transformation of natural fibres into ropes, plaits and weaves has given rise to huge advances in construction, exploration, textiles and art. In Chemistry there has been a great deal of interest in molecules that mechanically interlock. The 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry showed the enthusiasm for such topologically complex architectures as a route to molecular machines. However, the open-ended nature of braid topology means that braided chemical systems are poorly understood, difficult to create and underutilised. It is true that everybody knows about DNA - a simple two-stranded double helical braid - and chemical braids have been well described in crystalline, high symmetry, coordination polymers. However, our understanding of how to create and understand complex braids in fibrous soft matter is lacking, despite the importance of bunched fibrils such as amyloids. This project seeks to create braided soft matter and understand the relationship between braid topology and materials properties particularly within the context of fibrous supramolecular gels. The assembly of fibrous materials such as gels, proteins and DNA is commonly attributed to specific supramolecular interactions. Hydrogen bonding of amides and ureas, for example, drives anisotropic aggregation by producing tape motifs along a single axis. Although these processes are important, the appearance and mechanical properties of these materials are strongly dependent on self-assembly on a larger scale. Interactions between fibrils can affect their ability to propagate, and are therefore an important consideration in the study of prion diseases and other protein misfolding pathologies. The formation of defects and branches in fibre assembly leads to nodes and increased network interconnectivity and hence stiffer mechanical properties.

The post-holder is employed to work on research/a research project which will be led by another colleague. 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.


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Durham University

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