PhD Studentship: Opportunity in Harnessing Non-Growing Metabolically-Active and Chemically Beneficial Bacteria in Colloidal Polymer Biocoatings

Job Overview

Guildford, England
Job Type
Full Time
Date Posted
10 days ago

Additional Details

Job ID
Job Views

Job Description

University of Surrey

Qualification Type:PhD
Funding for:UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount:£18,609 in the first year, followed by annual increments, rising to £20,056
Hours:Full Time
Placed On:17th February 2021
Closes:15th April 2021

Studentship description 

Bacteria can perform many useful functions, such as cleaning water, removing toxins from the environment, and recovering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. For bacteria to be applied in useful applications, they must be contained and controlled. In this project, bacteria will be encapsulated in polymer coatings so that their metabolism is active but they are non-growing. The research will investigate improved ways to make these biocoatings to prolong the bacterial metabolic activity - taking an interdisciplinary approach. A range of applications, such as the production of biofuels (e.g. hydrogen) or biomass (small organic molecules), will be explored.

A biocoating is a synthetic polymer layer that encapsulates non-growing, metabolically-active bacteria. The coating is deposited from polymer particles and bacteria in medium. Challenges in the manufacture of biocoatings include maintaining sufficient permeability to allow the hydration of the bacteria cells, and great enough adhesion to the polymer phase to prevent the escape of the bacteria. The microorganisms in a biocoating are confined to prevent their uncontrolled growth and fouling of their surroundings, which can also cause mechanical stress.

The research will investigate the encapsulation of species of bacteria, including genetically-modified variants and altruistic mixed species, that can generate hydrogen gas (useful as a biofuel), synthesise organic molecules (biomass), or capture gases and toxins from the environment. The viability and metabolic activity of the bacteria within the biocoatings will be characterised and optimised. Confocal and scanning electron microscopies will be used to determine the microstructure of the bicoatings. Assays will be used to characterise the metabolic activity of the bacteria. The output of products will be measured using bioreactors.

This project will suit someone with interests in interdisciplinary research at the boundaries of the physical, chemical and biological sciences. The research will use the Soft Matter laboratories and also the Microbiology laboratories at the university. The project will be conducted in collaboration with the industrial sponsor Johnson Matthey (‘JM’), which is a FTSE 100 specialty chemicals company. It is a leader in sustainable technologies, underpinned by science and with a reputation for world-class innovation. The PhD student will be supervised both by Professor Joe Keddie (Soft Matter Physics) and Dr Suzie Hingley-Wilson (Microbiology).

This is a 4-year project starting in October 2021. 

Entry requirements 

Applicants are expected to hold a first or upper-second class degree in chemistry, microbiology, or relevant field of engineering, or a lower-second plus a good master’s degree (distinction normally required). Some experience in techniques of both chemistry and microbiology is desirable for the project, but not essential, as training will be provided.

English language requirements: IELTS 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category. 


Full funding (tuition fees and stipend) is provided. The stipend is £18,609 in the first year, followed by annual increments, rising to £20,056. 

This is an EPSRC Industrial CASE studentship with sponsorship from Johnson Matthey. 

How to apply 

Applications can be made through our Physics PhD course page:

Please state the project title and supervisors clearly on all applications. Please notify Professor Keddie by e-mail ([email protected]) when you have submitted your online application.

Closing date for applications 

15th April 2021 

Application enquiries 

For application enquiries, please contact Professor Joe Keddie by emailing [email protected].

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