PhD Studentship - Assembling Synthetic Biological Systems that Respond to or Generate Electricity

The University of Edinburgh

Principal Supervisor: Dr Katherine Dunn

Assistant Supervisor: Dr Anthony Callanan

Degree: PhD

Research Institute: Institute for Bioengineering

Related Discipline: Mechanical

Contact email:
For interested applicants to request further details

Advertisement start date: ASAP

Advertisement end date: 19th January 2018 or when vacancy filled

Project description

This project will involve re-engineering biological molecules or systems for technological applications. It falls within the area of Synthetic Biology, a field that has the potential to contribute to the solution of major challenges such as electricity generation, climate change and the treatment of disease.

The focus of this project will be the creation of devices that are partly electrical and partly biological. Specifically, the aim will be to develop novel architectures and mechanisms that allow synthetic biological constructs to respond to or generate electric or ionic currents. This could lead to the development of new systems in which biological processes are initiated or stopped using an electrical signal. Potential applications of this technology include low power light emitters, new types of bioreactor and medical implants that synthesize therapeutic proteins on demand inside a patient’s body. Addressing the same overarching aim, an alternative avenue of research would involve the development of bio-inspired photovoltaics. This approach could offer significant advantages over more conventional technologies and could thus have the potential to make a considerable impact on the energy sector.

Applications are welcome from candidates with a background in engineering, a biological science, physics or a related subject. An ability to think ‘outside the box’ is highly desirable. The project will be carried out in the Institute for Bioengineering at the University of Edinburgh.

Further Information:

Dr Katherine Dunn’s web profile:


The standard stipend in Engineering is £16,160 per year in 2017, with annual increments. Any stipend will be at this rate, unless stated below.

Applications are welcomed from self-funded students, or students who are applying for scholarships from the University of Edinburgh or elsewhere

Funding is available for this project: Tuition fees + stipend are available for Home/EU students (International students not eligible)



First Class or 2:1 (or equivalent) undergraduate degree in engineering, a biological science, physics or a related subject, possibly supported by an MSc degree.

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