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PhD Studentship (3 years) Sustainable biomanufacturing of biogenic magnetic nanomaterials

College of Engineering & Physical Sciences - Studentships

Location:  Aston University Main Campus
Basis:  Full Time
Closing Date:  23.59 hours GMT on Monday 31 January 2022
Reference:  R210573
Release Date:  Friday 17 December 2021

Supervisor: Alfred Fernandez-Castane 

Project Reference: Fernandez-Castane_biomanufacturing

Key words: Bioprocess engineering; biogenic nanoparticles; microbiology; sustainable biomanufacturing of functional materials

Applications are invited for a three-year Postgraduate studentship with the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, to be undertaken within the Engineering and Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI) at Aston University. The successful applicant will join an established experimental group working on an interdisciplinary project encompassing research in bioprocess engineering, biogenic nanoparticles and microbiology, toward sustainable biomanufacturing of functional materials

The position is available to start in either October 2022, or January, April or July 2023 subject to negotiation.

Financial Support

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the Home fees rate and a maintenance allowance (subject to eligibility). The figures for 2022/23 are yet to be confirmed. For reference, in the 2021/22 academic year, the maintenance allowance was £15,609 and the Home fees were £4,500. 

Overseas Applicants

Overseas applicants may apply for this studentship but will need to pay the difference between the ‘Home’ and the ‘Overseas’ tuition fees. The difference between ‘Home’ and ‘Overseas’ tuition fees for 2022/23 is yet to be confirmed. For reference, in the 2021/22 academic year, the difference was £13,100.

As part of the application, you will be required to confirm that you have applied for or secured this additional funding. 

Background to the Project

Many types of bacteria are studied scientifically and used industrially to make products such as medicines, plastics and fuels, and to clean waste streams. There exists a family of bacteria called magnetotactic bacteria (MTB) that make tiny crystals of iron called magnetosomes which can be extracted and used in a wide range of biotechnological and biomedical applications thus, representing an alternative to chemically-synthesized magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs). This is advantageous as MNPs often require synthesis at high temperatures, use of organic solvents and generate hazardous waste. In contrast, magnetosomes possess unique properties: they are ferrimagnetic, biocompatible and are wrapped in an organic layer that prevents self-aggregation. However, efficient magnetosome bioprocessing is hindered by low productivities and complex biomanufacturing. The main focus of the project is to develop novel bioprocessing strategies using renewable biomass resources for enhanced production of functional magnetosomes. The project will involve: (i) Identifying what process parameters lead to MTB cease growing and hence stop magnetosome production. Physiological changes to external stimulus will be studied using flow cytometry. Nutrients consumption and product formation will be evaluated using HPLC, GC-MS and ICP-OES. Magnetosomes will be characterised using DLS and TEM. (ii) Developing alternative production strategies to achieve higher magnetosome yields. Different cultivation strategies and bioreactor configurations will be evaluated. (iii) Develop functional magnetosomes for biocatalysis applications. Functional magnetosomes will be designed using chemical coupling to functional groups or genetic engineering to express functional peptides on the magnetosome surface.

Person Specification

The successful applicant should have been awarded, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree in a relevant subject with a 60% or higher weighted average, and/or a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution) in Biochemistry or Bioprocess Engineering or Microbiology. Preferred skill requirements include knowledge/experience of Biochemistry or Bioprocess Engineering or Microbiology. Experience in biocatalysis and bioreactors would be valuable. 

We would particularly like to encourage applications from women seeking to progress their academic careers. Aston University is committed to the principles of the Athena SWAN Charter, recognised recently by a prestigious Silver Award to EPS, and we pride ourselves on our vibrant, friendly and supportive working environment and family atmosphere.

Contact information

For formal enquiries about the projects contact Alfred Fernandez-Castane:

Submitting an application

As part of the application, you will need to supply:

  • A copy of your current CV
  • Copies of your academic qualifications for your Bachelor degree, and Masters degree; this should include both certificates and transcripts, and must be translated in to English.
  • A research proposal statement*
  • Two academic references
  • Proof of your English Language proficiency
  • A Personal Statement: Please include the supervisor name, project title, and project reference in your Personal Statement

Details of how to submit your application, and the necessary supporting documents can be found here

Please select “Research – Chemical Engineering” from the application form options.

*Applications must also be accompanied by a research proposal giving an overview of the main themes of the research as detailed in the Background to the Project section above. This should demonstrate your understanding of the research area and how your knowledge and experience will benefit the project.

If you require further information about the application process, please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at

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Aston University is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applications from all sections of the community.  It promotes equality and diversity in all aspects of its work. We are committed to the principles of the Athena SWAN Charter, recognised by a silver award, and we are a Disability Confident Employer Level 2. We strive to have robust inclusivity strategies in place, including race and sexual orientation, to encourage colleagues to have the confidence and freedom to be themselves in the workplace. For more information, visit:

As users of the disability confident scheme, we guarantee to interview all disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria for the vacancy.

If you require the job details document or an application form in an alternative format please contact the recruitment team at



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