PhD project at the University of Lisbon (CQE/IST)

PhD Project Title: Design of heterogeneous bioMOF catalysts for C-H valorization of terpenes

Principal Investigator: Prof. Alexander Kirillov

PhD Project description: Terpenes are abundant natural products and useful substrates for the synthesis of diverse value-added organic molecules for cosmetic, fragrance, and pharmaceutical industry.[1] Although various enzymatic or homogeneous catalysts have been developed for the transformation of terpenes, these catalytic systems are expensive and unrecoverable in many cases. To overcome this limitation, the present project will focus on the design, synthesis and characterization of new heterogeneous catalysts based on multifunctional bioMOFs (bioinspired metal-organic frameworks).[2] Catalytic performance of these catalysts will be tuned by adjusting porosity and type of active sites, thus targeting a selective oxidative C-H functionalization of terpenes and related model substrates.

Description of the work: The PhD student will develop heterogeneous catalysts for C-H activation via 1) synthesis of new bioMOFs based on Cu, Fe, and other 3d metals; 2) design of selective terpene oxidations using newly accessed bioMOFs (in collaboration with Prof. G. Poli); 3) improvement of the catalytic activity by use of cocatalysts or additives (e.g., carboxylic acid linker integrated into the bioMOF structure[3]); 4) structure/activity study to adjust the catalytic properties of bioMOFs by tuning their porosity and active sites. Synthesis of selected bioMOFs using “crystalline” reactor as well as catalytic tests under micellar conditions will also be explored (in collaboration with Dr. F. Gallou).

Relevant skills that will be considered are:

  • Strong theoretical background and practical skills in coordination chemistry and catalysis
  • Experience in synthesis & characterization of coordination compounds (IR, XRD, ESI-MS, TGA)
  • Desirable experience in analysis of catalysts and catalytic reaction mixtures (GC, NMR, GC-MS)
  • Good level of English proficiency (understood, spoken and written)
  • Skills in scientific writing (reports, papers, etc.)
  • Team spirit and collaborative predisposition

Planned secondments:

  1. 1 secondment (3 months) at Sorbonne University (group of Prof. G. Poli)
  2. 1 secondment in Novartis (Dr. F. Gallou)


[1] Bicas, J. L.; Dionisio, A. P.; Pastore, G. M. Chem. Rev. 2009, 109, 5418.

[2] a) Bour, J. R.; Wright, A. M.; He, X.; Dinca, M. Chem. Sci. 2020, 11, 1728; b) Huang, Y.-B.; Liang, J.; Wang, X.-S.; Cao, R. Chem. Soc. Rev. 2017, 46, 126.

[3] a) Kirillov, A. M.; Shul’pin, G. B. Coord. Chem. Rev. 2013, 257, 732; b) Gu, J.Z.; Wen, M.; Cai, Y.; Shi, Z.; Nesterov, D. S.; Kirillova, M. V.; Kirillov, A. M. Inorg. Chem. 2019, 58, 5875.

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