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Fabrication of tuneable biomaterial composites (Ref: SF20/APP/ZHANG)

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

Dr M Zhang Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Bacterial cellulose (BC) is a polysaccharide hydrogel with many fascinating material properties (e.g. High tensile strength, high water holding capacity, biocompatibility, etc.). The material properties of BC can be further expanded by blending with other molecules such as nanoparticles, proteins and polysaccharide. These composite blends lead to various properties and increase the functionality of BC. These extended properties have a wide range of applications including in medicine, electronics, textiles and potentially in the built environment. Most current methods for BC use variations in chemical and physical manipulations. However, we believe that these methods can be considerably expanded manipulating the biological processes directly.

The cellulose producing Komogataiebacter rhaeticus was proven to be tractable for genetic engineering and genetic tools were also developed to facilitate engineering of the species. This project aims to produce a bacterial chassis for the production of tuneable BC composites. The bacterial chassis will enable tuneable control over the production of other macromolecules in situ during the BC formation and allow the tuneable functional BC-composite materials to be synthesised in vivo. This project will involve the construction and optimization of a heterologous pathway to produce a target macromolecule in BC producing bacteria. Tuneability of the material will be achieved by engineering control elements with synthetic biology approaches.

The study is part of an exciting cross-disciplinary collaboration between two universities (Northumbria University and Newcastle University) to develop tuneable functional materials for the built environment. The successful candidate will be supervised by Dr Meng Zhang (Northumbria), Dr Joshua Loh (Northumbria) and Prof. Martyn Dade-Robertson (Newcastle) and the candidate will work very closely with engineers, architects and designers.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications should include a covering letter that includes a short summary (500 words max.) of a relevant piece of research that you have previously completed and the reasons you consider yourself suited to the project. Applications that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF20/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 1st July for October start, or 1st December for March start
Start Date: October or March

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Please direct enquiries to Dr Meng Zhang ()

Funding Notes

Please note, this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend; the studentship is available to Students Worldwide. Fee bands are available at View Website . A relevant fee band will be discussed at interview based on project running costs.

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