PhD position in Conformationally Controlled Chemistry in the Gas Phase at the University of Basel, Switzerland

A PhD position is available in the group of Prof. Stefan Willitsch at the University of Basel (Switzerland) within our controlled chemistry research programme. The project aims at controlling and exploring the role of individual molecular conformations on the chemical reactivity and dynamics of reactions in the gas phase. 

Project description

The relationship between structure and reactivity is one of the central tenets of chemistry. In spite of the long history of inquiries into this problem, there is still a glaring lack of experimental data on structure-reactivity relationships studied under single-collision conditions. In particular, complex molecules possess multiple conformers (rotational isomers) that interconvert through hindered rotations about covalent bonds. It is well established that the molecular conformation can have a pronounced influence on the chemical reactivity. However, in room-temperature solution- or gas-phase experiments, conformers often interconvert into one another through thermal motion leading to mixtures in which all specificity is lost. 
The present PhD project will employ new experimental methods developed by our group for studying chemical reactions of individual conformers prepared by electrostatic deflection in the gas phase. Such gas-phase studies are the cleanest and most accurate approach to disentangle different aspects contributing to chemical reactivity and are, therefore, vital for understanding the microscopic details of chemical processes. The present studies will focus on reactions of specific conformations of prototypical organic molecules with free radicals, metastable species or ions in order to gain an in-depth understanding of fundamental aspects of conformer-specific reactivity in selected model systems. 

Further information and applications

For further information, please refer to recent publications, e.g.,

A. Kilaj, J. Wang, P. Straňák, M. Schwilk, U. Rivero, L. Xu, O. A v. Lilienfeld, J. Küpper, and S. Willitsch, "Conformer-specific polar cycloaddition of dibromobutadiene with trapped propene ions", Nat. Commun. 12 (2021), 6047
L. Ploenes, P. Straňák, H. Gao, J. Küpper and S. Willitsch, ”A novel crossed-molecular-beam experiment for investigating reactions of state- and conformationally selected strong-field-seeking molecules”, Mol. Phys. 119 (2021), e1965234
A. Kilaj, H. Gao, D. Rösch, U. Rivero, J. Küpper and S. Willitsch, "Observation of different reactivities of para- and ortho-water towards trapped diazenylium ions", Nat. Commun. 9 (2018), 2096
Y.-P. Chang, K. Dlugolecki, J. Küpper, D. Rösch, D. Wild, S. Willitsch, ”Specific Chemical Reactivities of Spatially Separated 3-Aminophenol Conformers with Cold Ca+ Ions”, Science 342, 98 (2013) 

consult the group’s website at or contact Prof. Stefan Willitsch.
Applications should be sent to Prof. Stefan Willitsch ( Candidates should have (or soon obtain) a masters degree in physical chemistry, atomic/molecular/chemical physics or a related field. Applications should include a curriculum vitae, transcripts of degree certificates and grades, a letter of motivation and the contact details of at least two referees.