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Research Studentship in Biotechnology and Control Engineering

Department of Engineering Science

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Prof H Steel No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Research Studentship in Biotechnology and Control Engineering

3.5-year D.Phil. studentship

Project: Building feedback control systems that link cellular life and robotics.

Supervisors: Prof Harrison Steel

This project will focus on solving challenges at the interface of Control Engineering, Synthetic Biology, and Robotics – and their applications to the engineering of cellular communities (i.e. microbiomes). The approaches taken will depend on the candidate’s skills and interests, but may include genetically engineering cellular communities to change form and function (if the candidate has a strong biological background), or building new robotic measurement and control tools for communities (if the candidate has experience in robotics or electrical engineering). The candidate will be supported by a multidisciplinary team of academic and industrial experts with experience in related areas of biotechnology. Potential project extensions include applying directed evolution to optimise community function, and working on applications of engineered communities in medicine and agriculture. The project will enable candidates to build a broad skillset in the design, engineering, and application of new biotechnologies, providing an ideal foundation for future careers in academia, the bioscience industry, or entrepreneurship/start-ups.

This studentship is funded through the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnership and is open to Home students (full award – home fees plus stipend). Full details of the eligibility requirements can be found on the UK Research and Innovation website:

There is very limited flexibility to support international students. If you are an international student and want to apply for this studentship please contact the supervisor to see whether the flexibility might be available for you.

Candidate Requirements

Prospective candidates will be judged according to how well they meet the following criteria:
• A first class (or strong 2:1) degree in any of Engineering, Materials Science, Physics, Biology/Biotechnology, Chemistry.
• Excellent English written and spoken communication skills.

It is desirable that candidates possess expertise in some (but not all, or even most) of the following areas:
• Applied Mathematics and Control Engineering
• Microbiology, Bacteriology, Synthetic Biology
• Biological laboratory skills
• Computer programming
• Electrical engineering (including design/fabrication of PCBs)

Application Procedure

Informal enquiries are encouraged and should be addressed to Prof Harrison Steel ([Email Address Removed]).

Candidates must submit a graduate application form and are expected to meet the graduate admissions criteria. Details are available on the course page of the University website:

Please quote 21ENGCO_HS in all correspondence and in your graduate application.

Application deadline: noon on 22 January 2021

Start date: October 2021

Funding Notes

Award Value

Course fees are covered at the level set for Home students (c. £8290 p.a.). The stipend (tax-free maintenance grant) is c. £15285 p.a. for the first year, and at least this amount for a further two and a half years.
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