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PhD Studentship - Upgrading lignocellulose waste biomass using thermochemical and biological conversion routes

   School of Engineering & Applied Sciences

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  Dr Paula Blanco-Sanchez, Dr Alfred Fernandez-Castane  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a three-year Postgraduate studentship funded by the School of Engineering and Applied Science, to be undertaken within the European Bioenergy Research Institute at Aston University. The successful applicant will join an established experimental group working on biomass conversion and upgrading of products into high-value chemicals.

The position is available to start in either October or April or July, subject to negotiation

Background to the Project
Considering the shortage of fossil fuels and the increasing demand for fuels and chemicals, it has been necessary to explore alternative sources in order to cope with the fossil fuel deficit. Biomass is a widely available renewable feedstock, which can be processed to obtain bio-fuels or bio-chemicals.

This research project aims to experimentally explore different thermal and biological pathways to upgrade lignocellulosic biomass conversion products into high-value chemicals. The combination of biomass conversion and products upgrading is a common practice in biorefineries, where biomass is fractionated to make high-value products for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, transportation, energy sector, construction, etc. In this project, diverse experimental and analytic techniques will be used in combination in order to characterise and optimise both feedstocks and products.

This interdisciplinary PhD project will offer industrial technical support by a company interested in identifying potential routes to upgrade lignocellulosic biomass feedstock into high-value chemicals.

This studentship is offered in association with the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA), which is a collaboration designed to provide scholars with a broader grounding in their research area during their PhD. Some additional components of research training and specially tailored events will be provided by ERA. The successful candidate will be able to join the Supergen Bioenergy Hub and Early career bioenergy research network SHARE, which will offer additional career and research development opportunities.

Person Specification
The successful applicant should have a first class or upper second class honours degree or equivalent qualification in Chemical engineering ideally with some understanding of biochemical processes. A candidate with a first degree in chemistry or biochemistry with a Master’s level in a similar subject can be also considered. Preferred skill requirements include knowledge/experience of thermal conversion processes, reaction engineering, biological reactions, and biomass characterisation.

We would particularly like to encourage applications from women seeking to progress their academic careers. Aston University is committed to the principles of the Athena SWAN Charter, recognised recently by a prestigious Silver Award to EAS, and we pride ourselves on our vibrant, friendly and supportive working environment and family atmosphere.

Contact information
For formal inquiries about this project contact Dr Paula Blanco by email at [Email Address Removed] or Dr Alfred Fernandez-Castane by email at [Email Address Removed] Please add the advert number or project title to the email subject.

Submitting an application
Application process

If you are interested in a PhD project at Aston University, please read the guidance notes ( and complete the application form available in:

From the drop-down options, select School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; October; Full Time; Postgraduate Research; Research Chemical Engineering (Full Time April 2020- An option for July/ October 2020 is also possible).

The application must be accompanied by a “research proposal” statement. An original proposal is not required as the initial scope of the project has been defined (read description above), candidates should take this opportunity to detail how their knowledge and experience will benefit the project and should also be accompanied by a brief review of relevant research literature.

If you require further information about the application process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Financial Support

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the Home/EU fees rate. Home students will also receive a maintenance allowance of £15,009 in 2019/20 (subject to eligibility).

Overseas Applicants

Applicants from outside the EU may apply for this studentship but will need to pay the difference between the ‘Home/EU’ and the ‘Overseas’ tuition fees, currently this is £12,573 in 2019/20.

As part of the application you will be required to confirm that you have applied for, or, secured this additional funding.
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