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Research Studentship in Biotechnology and Control Engineering

University of Oxford

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Oxford
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: The stipend (tax-free maintenance grant) is c. £15609 p.a. for the first year
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 11th October 2021
Closes: 3rd December 2021
Reference: 21ENGCO_HS

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 application 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 UK students (full award – home fees plus stipend). Full details of the eligibility requirements can be found on the UK Research and Innovation website.

There may be 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.

Award Value

Course fees are covered at the level set for UK students (c. £8620 p.a.). The stipend (tax-free maintenance grant) is c. £15609 p.a. for the first year, and at least this amount for a further two and a half years. 

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:

  • Microbiology, Bacteriology, Synthetic Biology
  • Applied Mathematics and Control Engineering
  • 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 (

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 3rd December 2021 (In line with the December admissions deadline, set by the University)

Start date: October 2022

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