Students undertake a series of intensive training modules during their first year. We have taken a new approach to teaching, developing a comprehensive course which enables students to rapidly obtain an advanced level of modern organic chemistry and a core knowledge and conceptual understanding of biology.
In total, 23 new courses were developed for the SBM CDT by academics from Oxford Chemistry and our industrial partners, comprising over 5,500 slides. The SBM CDT taught course material provides a useful resource for graduate students and the overall teaching and research community, and it is available to download for free!
Please see below more information about rights of use and attribution.
All courses are delivered by leading researchers, mainly academics from the Department of Chemistry. Additionally, relevant courses and workshops encompassing the science of pharmaceutical and agrochemical research are delivery by some of our industrial partners. Courses are delivered using a mixture of lectures, workshops and projects, and also include visits to manufacturing and research and development industrial sites.
All modules involve some aspect of formal assessment, taking a wide variety of forms, including written reports, problem solving, practical write-ups, and group and individual presentations.

Expand the boxes for more information on each module and slides (where available).
Prof Jon Burton
General refresher on many aspects of stereocontrol: from diastereocontrol with alpha-chiral aldehydes and alkenes, to the aldol reaction, enantioselective oxidation and reduction and much more.
Modern Heterocyclic Chemistry
Prof Tim Donohoe
Overview of the myriad of methods available for the synthesis of heterocycles, including a recap of traditional methods for the construction of heterocyclic systems. State-of-the-art contemporary methods including C-H activation and transition metal mediated heterocycle assembly will also be covered.
Pharma Disconnections
Prof Ed Anderson
Overview of retrosynthesis strategy with a particular focus on the synthesis of pharmaceutical scaffolds.
Modern Pericyclic Chemistry
Prof Jon Burton and Prof Martin Smith
Recap and overview of the basics of pericyclic reactions and the Woodward-Hoffmann rules. Subsequently, the evolution of methods for stereocontrol in pericyclic reactions will be covered, including stoichiometric and catalytic asymmetric methods for cycloadditions, sigmatropic rearrangements and electrocyclizations.
Prof Jeremy Robertson
Fundamentals of radical chemistry, focusing on their generation and application in target synthesis of natural products and other bioactive substances, including pharmaceuticals. Discussion will include chemically-generated ‘free’ radicals and radical-ions, as well as similar intermediates produced by electrochemical, biocatalytic and photochemical methods. There will be an emphasis on complexity-generating transformations based on the opportunities offered by radical (-ion) chemistry to combine known, fast reaction steps in sequence.
Modern Carbanion Chemistry
Prof David Hodgson
Preparation and use of organolithiums in synthesis, especially their use in asymmetric synthesis. Organochromium chemistry will also be covered, to illustrate how changing the metal provides opportunities for selectivity in synthesis using carbanion chemistry.
Metal Catalysis
Prof Michael Willis and Prof Stephen Fletcher
Overview of how the metallic elements of the periodic table are exploited in catalysis for organic synthesis. Processes that demonstrate new reactivity, and also enantioselectivity will be considered. The emphasis will be on utility in synthetic chemistry, although mechanistic considerations will also be discussed.
DFT & Mechanism
Prof Rob Paton
A hands-on introduction to the application of computational chemistry, demonstrating how computations can support experimental research. This workshop will focus on the interrogation of organic structures and reaction mechanisms and barriers. The Gaussian package will be introduced through worked problems taken from organic chemistry literature. Theoretical details will be kept to a minimum, with the emphasis on model building, and running and interpreting the results from calculations. The computations can support experimental research.
Modern Total Synthesis
Prof Darren Dixon and Prof Martin Smith
Focus on the strategic aspects of assembling complex natural products, including a disconnection approach to illustrate how efficient and elegant total syntheses are accomplished. Discussions will include: redox, step and atom economy, appropriate use of protecting groups and limitations of current synthetic methods.
Prof John Brown
A mechanism-based approach. This course will cover background and development, control of stereochemistry through catalyst or substrate, Rh, Ru, Ir and their different personalities as catalysts, ligand design. It also covers dehydrogenation, borrowing hydrogen as a general coupling reaction, and hydrogenation upscale in industry.
Metal Free Catalysis
Prof Darren Dixon and Prof Martin Smith
An outline of the underlying concepts in metal- free catalysis and their application in the synthesis of enantioenriched materials. The course will include: iminium catalysis, enamine catalysis and Brønsted acid and Brønsted base catalysis. We aim to cover catalyst design and methods development, and their application in complex molecule synthesis.
Prof Stuart Conway
An introduction to epigenetics including both the modification of DNA and post-translation modification of histones. We will deal with writer and eraser enzymes and reader protein modules. Examples of the development of small molecule probes to interfere with epigenetic processes will be reviewed.
Prof Mark Moloney
This workshop provides an introduction to the fundamental concepts relating to antibacterial agents, drug discovery and their therapeutic application.
Fluorine Chemistry
Prof Veronique Gouverneur
An overview of organofluorine chemistry. The course will include a survey of methods for the formation of the C-F bond, and will also cover the physical and electronic attributes of organofluorine compounds. Applications of fluorine-containing compounds in medicine and imaging will also be discussed.
Prof Harry Anderson and Prof Stephen Faulkner
An introduction to the biology and chemistry of the human brain. It will introduce the main techniques used in electrophysiology and illustrate the many applications of organic synthesis in this field, both for gaining greater understanding of the brain and for treating neurological diseases. Imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission topography (PET) will also be included.
Prof Tom Brown
NMR Spectroscopy & Mass Spectrometry
Prof Tim Claridge and Prof James McCullaugh
An introduction to the primary techniques of NMR and MS used in the research environment. It will include practical training in the use of NMR and Mass spectrometers, use of modern software for data processing and will be combined with problem solving workshops.
Dr Kenny Ling, Syngenta
Introduction to agrochemistry; lead generation; physical properties; lead optimization and evaluation; case studies and new developments.
Drug Discovery
Dr David Hirst, GSK
Process Chemistry
Dr William Goundry, AstraZeneca
Process development in the lab, pilot plany and manufacturing environments: how to scale from 1mg to 1kg; optimization and analysis.
Cells, Signals & Systems
Prof Gail Preston and Prof Esther Becker
Fundamental concepts in molecular and cellular biology and genetics, and in the structural and functional aspects of biological systems.
Creative Commons Licence
Course material developed for the EPSRC CDT in Synthesis for Biology & Medicine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Licence. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
I applied to the SBM course since I hoped that the lecture courses on emerging organic chemistry would give me a really good understanding of where my strengths were, and provide access to work at the very edges of the department. It's been great so far and I've really enjoyed getting to know the rest of the cohort, who I hope I will be friends with beyond these four years.
Sarah Morrow, 2014 Cohort
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Department of Chemistry
Chemistry Research Laboratory
12 Mansfield Road
Oxford, OX1 3TA
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