The group is always on the lookout for dynamic, motivated individuals of exceptional ability who wish to work on the mechanical properties of crystalline hybrid materials, or want to explore the crossover between porous hybrids and the non-crystalline domain.

Particularly, we are always happy to discuss offering support applications for fellowships – please get in touch with Tom (



PhD Studentships

Please send a cover letter and your CV to if you are interested in pursuing a PhD within the group. Speculative applications are welcomed, and advertised posts will also be shown in this section.

We will usually have a position open each academic year. The deadline for applying for project funding through University schemes is always at the start of December, please get in touch well in advance of this date.

Applications for support for the following schemes are particularly welcome:

China Scholarship Council

Commonwealth PhD Scholarship

The following. 42 month, fully funded PhD Studentship is available to start in October 2020. Applications (CV, Cover Letter) are actively sought. These should be emailed to

Fully Funded PhD Studentship:

Pair Distribution Function Measurements of Hybrid Materials Under ‘Extreme’ Conditions

Start date: October 2020 Duration: 3.5 Years

Supervisory Team:

Dr Thomas D. Bennett (University of Cambridge)

Dr. Simone Anzellini (Diamond Light Source)

Prof. David A. Keen (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory)

Prof. Christine Beavers (Diamond Light Source)

A 3.5 year fully funded PhD studentship (UK/EU only) is available in the following area. Please contact Tom ( in the first instance.

Soft microporous materials known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) consist of inorganic clusters or ions bridged by organic ligands in open three-dimensional arrays. This family, of over 70,000 compounds, is of great interest due to their potential for use in gas separation and storage, drug delivery, catalysis and sensing applications. We have recently produced the first two examples of high-pressure high-temperature phase diagrams, revealing liquid and glass phases of metal-organic frameworks (Fig. 1),1,2 by using powder X-ray diffraction and a resistively heated diamond anvil pressure cell at the Diamond Light Source.  The glasses are a ‘hybrid’ equivalent of silica glass and a fourth new family of glasses distinct from the known inorganic, metallic and organic glass families.3 Pair distribution function (PDF) techniques, which create atom-atom distance histograms of materials, have been demonstrated to be effective in the characterization of amorphous materials,4 and especially in creating atomistic configurations of MOF liquids and glasses.5

The PhD student will develop high-pressure PDF capabilities on a variety of porous hybrid materials, and investigate the room temperature collapse of metal-organic framework materials to glassy states under hydrostatic pressure. This will be used to build a picture of the mechanical response of these highly promising materials, to deduce mechanisms of collapse, and to synthesize an array of hybrid glasses through application of pressure. We will then further develop instrumentation and analytical techniques to make it possible to collect PDF data at high-pressure and high-temperature simultaneously, which will allow exotic amorphous and liquid states to be structurally characterized.

Figure 1. (a) Crystal structure of ZIF-4 [Zn(C3H3N2)2]. (b) Structure of a glass formed by melting ZIF-4 Zn – green, N – blue, C – grey. Porosity in yellow. Optical images of (c) a microcrystalline MOF powder and (d) a MOF-glass. (e) Pressure–temperature phase diagram of ZIF-4. The pressure range from 0 to 0.1 GPa has been magnified for better visibility. Symbols representing the experimental points are coloured according to the phases observed in situ. Coloured outlines of phase boundaries are drawn as guides to the eye. Dashed lines indicate irreversible, reconstructive transitions.  

Years 1 and 4 will be spent at the University of Cambridge, with Years 2 and 3 at the Diamond Synchrotron. Training will include the synthesis of hybrid materials and structural characterization skills such as Fourier transform Infra-red spectroscopy (FT-IR) and Raman spectroscopy. It will also include elemental analysis (CHN), nuclear magnetic resonance and UV-vis spectroscopy. This is in addition to differential scanning calorimetry, gas adsorption and variable temperature X-ray powder diffraction and X-ray single crystal diffraction. Collection and analysis of pair distribution function data at (i) ambient pressure and temperature, (ii) variable temperature and (iii) variable pressure will be taught at Diamond. 

References: 1 Widmer, Lampronti, Anzellini et al., Nature Materials, 2019, 18, 370. 2 Widmer, Lampronti, Chibani et al., Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2019, 141, 9330. 3 Bennett & Horike. Nature Reviews Materials, 2018, 3, 431. 4 Young & Goodwin. Journal of Materials Chemistry, 2011, 21, 6464. 5 Gaillac, Pullumbi, Beyer et al., Nature Materials, 2017, 16, 1149.

Post-Doctoral Research Positions

Details on various schemes you may apply for are given below.

  • College Research Fellowships (3-5 Years) become available from the end of August to January each year. Each college at Cambridge offers its own competition – details of which are usually found here.

Requests to act as the host institution for applicants holding, or wishing to apply for a China Scholarship Council (CSC) grant, should be discussed with Tom in the first instance. The group has a successful track record in this area.

Academic Visitors / Visiting Students

We are happy to welcome visitors to the group, for periods of two weeks for academic discussions. Year, or two-year long positions are also welcome, but must be handled on a competitive basis. Please do discuss with Tom well in advance.

Part III MSci Projects

The group offers around 2 projects each year, details on which can be found through the department website. Interested students are encouraged to contact Tom to discuss the projects.