Biotechnology/Materials Engineering: Fully Funded DSTL PhD Scholarship at Swansea University: Development of advanced corrosion-resistant coatings with synthetic biology-inspired protein technologies

  • Phd
  • The scholarship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend of ÂŁ17,700
  • 6 August 2018

This scholarship is funded by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).
Subject areas: Biochemistry, biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials science, coatings, corrosion, interdisciplinary science and technology
Start date: October 2018
We have developed proof-of-concept for synthetic biology-inspired materials as environmentally friendly and sustainable adhesives and coatings. The synbio-material is based on self-assembling nano-structured bacterial amyloid protein fibres with wide-ranging functionalities and application potential, which appears most functional when used as synbio-composites. Corrosion prevention, maintenance and repair of military platforms is costly, and affects readiness and operational time negatively.
This PhD studentship will therefore develop these protein-based synbio coatings and adhesives into advanced corrosion-resistant coating systems for structural and lightweight metals. The project will take advantage of newly developed coating depositing methods as fast-curing, lightweight synbio-composite adhesive, which would also allow application to less than ideal surfaces. Specifically, the student will:
optimise the composition and deposition of synthetic biology-inspired composite materials (proteins, polysaccharides, small molecule inhibitors, fillers) onto metal coupons, andcharacterise anti-corrosive properties and durability of the composite materials using standard and advanced methodologies.
By exploiting the natural multifunctional properties of novel synbio-composites, this project aims to reduce corrosion costs, and extend the operating window and lifetime of defence platforms in harsh environments, while simplifying the production process.
This PhD project will therefore enable the student to develop skills and expertise in a highly interdisciplinary research environment, including life sciences, materials engineering, and with relevant industries to the defence and security sector. Depending on background, the student will be encouraged to enrol on specific theoretical postgraduate courses to strengthen their theoretical knowledge, e.g. bioinformatics, functional coatings, manufacturing of metals, which will be supplemented with dedicated hands-on and advanced skills training in the life sciences and materials engineering and personal development opportunities, which will include public outreach.
The project will be supervised by Dr Geertje van Keulen (Associate Professor in Biochemistry in the Institute of Life science) and Dr David Penney (Associate Professor in Materials Engineering in the College of Engineering). The supervisors are experienced in successfully supervising award-winning interdisciplinary projects, thereby linking bacterial protein biochemistry to functionalized material surfaces, including manufactured and natural soil surfaces.
Applicant interviews will take place on Wednesday, 8 August 2018.
Please note that the successful applicant will be offered a conditional studentship due to the funder’s background in the defence and security sector. The successful applicant is therefore required to submit Personal Particulars documentation in a timely manner, which are for final approval by DSTL.


Candidates should have a minimum of upper second class BSc or BEng degree in life sciences, biochemistry, genetics, microbiology, (bio)materials science, corrosion, bioengineering, or a related discipline.
Applicants should have a demonstrable interest in research, innovation and interdisciplinary research. It is desirable for the successful applicant to demonstrate experience, knowledge, and/or interest of relevance to the project, e.g. synthetic biology, protein engineering, microbiology, bio(nano)technology, (bio/nano)materials engineering and/or functionalized (bio)coatings.
We would normally expect the academic and English Language requirements to be met by point of application. For details on the University’s English Language entry requirements, please visit –
Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to UK/EU candidates only.


Do you wish to become an international student next year?
Demonstrate your English skills with IELTS.


The scholarship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend of ÂŁ14,777. There will be additional funds for other research expenses.


Please visit our website for more information.

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