Research Supervisor Connect

Total Synthesis of Plant Growth Promoters


Opportunities exist to take a leading role in the development of next-generation agrochemicals by synthesizing naturally occurring plant growth promoters and their analogues.


Associate Professor Christopher McErlean.

Research location

School of Chemistry

Program type



Plants, including important food crops such as wheat and rice, form symbiotic relationships with fungi which allows for nutrient transfer. Critical to this symbiotic relationship is a family of molecules called strigolactones. If agricultural scientists could access plant-specific strigolactones, they could ensure that only target crops uptake soil nutrients. This PhD project will entail the synthesis of all canonical strigolactones based on a late stage C-H activation strategy. This will enable our collaborators in plant science to identify key strigolactones and enable us to design next generation agrichemicals. for further information see:1. Accessing Single Enantiomer Strigolactones: Progress and Opportunities. Liam J. Bromhead and Christopher S. P. McErlean Eur. J. Org. Chem. (2017) DOI:10.1002/ejoc.201700865.2. Synthesis of highly enantio-enriched stereoisomers of hydroxy-GR24. Joanne C. Morris and Christopher S. P. McErlean, Org. Biomol. Chem. (2016) 14, 1236–1238.3. Chemistry of the synthetic strigolactone mimic GR24. Liam J. Bromhead, Jason Smith, and Christopher S. P. McErlean, Aus. J. Chem. (2015) 68, 1221–1227.4. Enantioselective synthesis of the strigolactone mimic (+)-GR24. Bromhead, Liam; Visser, Johan; McErlean, Christopher S. P., J. Org. Chem. (2014) 79, 1516–1520. 

Additional information

HDR Inherent Requirements

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2291