Skip to main content

Research Studentship in Biotechnology and Control Engineering

Research Studentship in Biotechnology and Control Engineering

Building new robotics to control and interact with biology

3.5-year DPhil studentship 

Supervisor: Professor Harrison Steel

This project will focus on solving challenges at the interface of Control Engineering, Synthetic Biology, and Robotics – and their application to outstanding global challenges relating to the environment, food security, and materials production. The approaches taken will depend on the candidate’s skills and interests, but might include building robotic tools that interface sensors, actuation hardware, and AI to dynamically control biological systems (e.g. bacteria), and/or building synthetic biological systems that implement new capabilities in bacteria. The candidate will be supported by a multidisciplinary team of academic and industrial experts, and will be able to collaborate widely with other researchers working in robotics and biotechnology.

Potential project extensions include applying directed evolution to optimise biological system function, and developing AI and statistical tools to better understand how complex biological system behave over time. 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 the UK student (c. £8,960 p.a.). The stipend (tax-free maintenance grant) is c. £17,668 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, Computer Science, Physics, Biology/Biotechnology, Chemistry/Biochemistry, Mathematics.
  • 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:

  • Electrical engineering or robotics
  • Computer programming or software engineering
  • Applied Mathematics and Control Engineering
  • Biological laboratory skills
  • Microbiology, Bacteriology, Synthetic Biology

Application Procedure

Informal enquiries are encouraged and should be addressed to Professor 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 23ENGCO_HS in all correspondence and in your graduate application.

Application deadline: noon on 9 December 2022 

Start date: October 2023