Skip to main content
Ian Thompson Professor of Engineering Science


Ian Thompson BSc, PhD, FRSA, FRSB

Professor of Engineering Science

Fellow of St Edmund Hall

TEL: 01865 283789


Professor Thompson trained in ecology and specialised in microbial ecology for his PhD investigating community dynamics in soils.

He worked in Shell and then moved to Oxford NERC Institute of Virology and Environmental Microbiology, where he become the Head of Environmental Biotechnology.

He joined the Department in 2008 when he became Professor of Engineering Science and established the Environmental Biotechnology Group.

Research Interests

Professor Thompson’s group focus their research on the development of sustainable methods for generating clean energy from waste, clean-up of contaminated wastewaters/soils and recovery of resources from end-of-pipe production processes.

This focuses largely on exploiting microbial processes and assembly of consortia for transforming potential environmental contaminants, so they are harmless, or converting them to high value products such as bioplastics and bioenergy.

A particular area of expertise is the application physical and chemical applications such as ultrasound and nanomaterials to optimise engineered microbial processes, and scale-up for real world and commercial applications.

A key area of interest is the rethinking of the design of current Anaerobic Digestors, which have changed little in decades and are inefficient, so they resemble more closely the processes occurring in a cow’s rumen, which have significantly higher bioconversion rates.

Research Projects

  • EPSRC. Liquid Fuel and bioEnergy Supply from CO2 Reduction: A £2.3M project combining electrochemistry and microbiology to convert CO2 and wastewater organics to high value products such as alkanes and bioplastics.
  • Reinventing the agriculture-energy nexus in Africa: In association with the Oxford University Martin School, this £996,000 programme is working to generate biogas and high value volatile acids from dryland plants in Africa.
  • Generation of biogas and volatile fatty acids from Crassulacean Acid Metabolism plants
  • Ultrasound manipulation of microbial communities.

Significant Publications

  1. Lueangwattanapong K, Ammam F, Manson PM, Whitehead C, McQueen-Mason S, Gomez LD, Smith JAC & Thompson IP (2020). Anaerobic digestion of Crassulacean plants: exploring alternative feedstocks for semi-arid lands. Bioresource Technology 297, 122262.
  2. Rampley CPN, Whitehead PG, Softley L, Hossain MA, Lin L, David J, Shawal S, Das P, Thompson IP, Huang WE, Peters R, Holdship P, Hope R & Alabaster G (2020). River toxicity assessment using molecular biosensors: Heavy metal contamination in the Turag-Balu-Buriganga river systems, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Science of the Total Environment 703. 134760
  3. Elijamal O, Thompson IP, Maamoun I, Shubair T, Eljamal K, Lueangwattanapong K & Sugihara Y (2020). Investigating the design parameters for a permeable reactive barrier consisting of nanoscale zero-valent iron and bimetallic iron/copper for phosphate removal. Journal of Molecular Liquids 299, 112144.
  4. Fan C et al (2020) Chromosome-free bacterial cells are safe and programmable platforms for synthetic biology. PNAS 117, 6752-6761.
  5. Ng, CK, Xu JB, Cai Z, Yang L, Thompson IP, Huang WE & Cao B (2020) Elevated intracellular cyclic-di-GMP level in Shewanella oneidensis expression of c-type cytochromes. Microbial Biotechnology DOI: 10.1111/1751-7915.13636.
  6. Martin LK, Huang WE & Thompson IP (2021) Bacterial wax synthesis. Biotechnology Advances 46, 107680.
  7. Ng CN, Putra S, Kennerley J, Habgood R, Roy R, Raymond JL, Huang WE & Thompson IP (2021). Genetic engineering biofilms in-situ using ultrasound-mediated DNA delivery. In press Microbial Biotechnology