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Nature-Inspired Chemical Engineering for Sustainable Development

Department of Chemical Engineering

London United Kingdom Biomedical Engineering Chemical Engineering Mechanical Engineering Chemistry Materials Science Physics

About the Project


The Department of Chemical Engineering at University College London (UCL) is a world-leading, highly collaborative department with state-of-the-art facilities at one of the world’s top-ranked universities.

The department has an extensive research portfolio across a wealth of areas, related to energy, materials, sustainable manufacturing, health and more, covering scales from molecules to devices, and complex systems. For more information see Over the past few years, the department has been undergoing rapid growth. It is the home of the NICE (Nature-Inspired Chemical Engineering) group at the heart of the UCL Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering (CNIE), which receives its core funding from an EPSRC “Frontier Engineering: Progression” Award (one of only two in the UK), and where this PhD studentship is offered.

Research in the NICE group is highly interdisciplinary. It utilises the CNIE’s unique, systematic nature-inspired solution methodology, which encompasses the application of fundamental mechanisms underpinning desirable features in biological and other natural systems (like scalability, robustness and efficiency) to solve challenging engineering problems. Most CNIE projects are collaborative and involve researchers from different disciplines, from catalysis and biomedical engineering to architecture. There is a lot of collaboration with industry, and a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. More details and examples of current projects can be found on our website:

We are looking for a PhD candidate, who is expected to have a keen interest in nature-inspired solutions, complex systems and sustainability, with a background in chemical, energy, environmental or biomedical technology, or related fields. We expect candidates to be outward looking, with strong fundamentals, outstanding interdisciplinary research aptitude, exceptional creativity, analytical and problem-solving skills. 

The NICE group is highly diverse, and we strongly encourage applications from underrepresented groups.



The A&BK Studentship funding the project is a gift from a generous donor, whom we gratefully acknowledge. As per stipulation of the A&BK Studentship, the selection of the successful candidate will be based both on academic capability and on financial need. Interested candidates should explicitly discuss how they align with these criteria in their application through their cv and a two-page essay. In the essay, you are encouraged to discuss your background, and aspirations in whichever way you like, and indicate what you are interested in, why you are interested in this position and in nature-inspired engineering, and why you think you would be an excellent fit? Unusually, thanks to the nature of the funding, this project is not fixed on one subject at the stage of application. Therefore, you could, but do not have to propose some topics of interest to you, in the context of the CNIE.

This studentship is fully funded (stipend + fees) for 3.5 years. The post holder will present the research results at international conferences and in peer-reviewed journal articles. An entrepreneurial attitude is encouraged.




The successful candidate will have completed a first-class degree at the MEng or MSc level in Chemical/Mechanical/Biological/Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, Materials Sciences, Physics or related disciplines, or an interdisciplinary background (e.g., combined with data or computer science, architecture, or other areas…).

The candidate is expected to have a keen interest in nature-inspired solutions, complex systems and sustainability. Candidates should be outward looking, with demonstrable strong fundamentals, outstanding interdisciplinary research aptitude, exceptional creativity, analytical and problem-solving skills. 

The candidate should be able to work independently, but also work well in teams, be resourceful and collaborative.

To apply, please send your CV and the two-page essay outlined above to Prof. Coppens:

In addition, you need to submit your full application through the following link:

Please nominate Prof. Marc-Olivier Coppens as academic supervisor in your application form. Your application must include a CV and the two-page essay outlined above.

For informal enquiries please contact Prof. Coppens:


First-class degree at the MEng or MSc level is required.

UK and Overseas students are eligible to apply.

Funds are only available to cover UK-equivalent fees.

Start date: July 2021 (or as soon as possible thereafter).

Funding Notes

Stipend: £18,609 per annum + UK fees
Duration of studentship: 3.5 years

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