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PhD Studentship in Bio-Design - Exploring the Design Potential of ‘Thinking Soils’

Value of award

£15,000 per year for 3 years. You will be required to pay your tuition fees from this award with the remainder of the studentship being awarded as living expenses. UK/EU tuition fees for 2017- 18 are £4,540. International tuition fees for 2017-18 are £12,680. 

Number of awards


Start date and duration

8 January 2018 for 3 years.

Application closing date

20 October 2017.


We are pleased to announce a PhD studentship in a pioneering new EPSRC funded project: “Thinking Soils”. We are looking for highly motivated and talented Design Lead Researcher to join the team and take a leading role in a new field of Bio-Design by exploring the design potentials of living materials which respond to physical forces in their environment.

Imagine a column of sand saturated with billions of engineered bacteria cells. As a force is applied to the top of the column, bacteria in the sand detect an increase in pressure. The bacteria respond by synthesising a new biological material to bind the grains together and resist the load. The resulting structure would consist of a material where sand grains are only cemented where the forces through the material require. Our research proposes a proof of concept to show how we might design a manufacturing process where the material itself acts as manufacturer and designer, modelling and responding to its environment.

The initial pilot project attracted wide coverage across the scientific and popular media, including Science, The Times and Mail Online. 

This three-year studentship will develop new design concepts and will have an opportunity to work in a level two containment lab with genetically modified building prototypes and computational models.

We are looking for a highly motivated and adaptable PhD candidate to lead the Design aspects of the project. The appointee will join one of the UKs leading Synthetic Biology teams and be supervised across Architecture and Civil Engineering.

For more information of the research group and projects see our website:


School of Architecture,Planning and Landscape and School of Engineering,(Civil Engineering and Geomatics) 

Name of supervisor(s)

Dr Martyn Dade-Robinson, School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape.
Dr Helen Mitrani, School of Engineering (Civil Engineering and Geomatics)

Eligibility Criteria

The studentship is open to UK, EU and international applicants who propose to study for their PhD on a full-time basis.

Applicants must have:

•a 2.1 degree in Architecture, Civil Engineering (or combination) or subjects related to Bio Design.
•experience in bio-inspired or bio design demonstrable through a portfolio.
•we also require an additional qualification at Masters level in the relevant subject area of Architecture, Design or a related field.
• IELTS 6.5 overall (with 6.5 in writing and a minimum of 5.5 in all other sub-skills) if English is not your first language

How to apply

You must apply through the University's online postgraduate application system. To do this please 'Create a new account'

All relevant fields should be completed, but fields marked with a red asterisk must be completed. The following information will help us to process your application. You will need to:

You must send the following to Marian Kyte by email to Please quote reference code apl021 in the email heading.

•a full CV
•a portfolio of relevant design work
•a one page statement: “My approach to the Thinking Soils project would be”


Dr Martyn Dade-Robertson
School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5926

Eligible Courses