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Brunel Centre for Advanced Solidification (BCAST)

PhD Studentship in Materials Science

Viral assisted synthesis of nanoceramic

Applications are invited for a full-time PhD Studentship in BCAST. The studentship is sponsored by Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). The successful applicant will receive an average annual stipend (bursary) of £16775 plus payment of the full university tuition fee for three (3) years. In order to meet the eligibility criteria of Dstl, the PhD studentship can only be offered to UK/EU nationals.


Applicants should hold a first class or upper second-class honours degree in suitable science discipline, e.g. bioscience, chemistry, materials science. A Masters level qualification is desirable but not essential.

Project Details

Recently, a new synthetic approach based on biological templates from viruses has gained popularity to generate new inorganic nanostructured materials because it is facile, environmentally benign and economic as compared to conventional method of material production. Filamentous viruses like Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV) and M13 bacteriophages have an exquisitely ordered protein capsid that self assembles to produce a rod-like morphology with lengths in excess of 1 m but with widths on the nanometre scale. In recent years, the materials science community starts to decorate non-biological groups including metal ions and atoms, chromophores and DNA onto these filamentous viruses for the development of novel nanostructured materials that exhibit properties ranging from energy storage and photovoltaic behaviour.

This project aims to exploit synthetic biology pathways using filamentous virus to develop a new type of superhard nanostructured boron carbide based ceramic with improved mechanical properties. The objectives are:

to design the optimum templates from the self-assembly of filamentous M13 bacteriophages;

to develop a novel processing route to convert M13 bacteriophages into boron carbide based powders; and

to understand the effect of chemical groups and processing conditions on the chemical composition and physical characteristics of the resultant ceramic powders.

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to work with a Biotechnology group at School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham to prepare M13 bacteriophages during this project.

Informal enquiries should be sent to Professor Isaac Chang at

How to Apply

If you wish to apply, please email the following to by 26th September 2016.

An up-to-date CV;

A single-page (A4), single-spaced personal statement setting out why you are interested in undertaking this project;

Names and contact details of two referees;

A copy of your highest degree certificate and transcript;

Copy of your English Language qualification, if appropriate (

Interviews will take place during the first week in October 2016. We would like the student to start in November 2016.

PhD Students

BCAST is always interested in recruiting full-time PhD students. Please view our staff page for a list of current PhD students and their contact details at BCAST.

If you are a home or EU student, there are a number of studentships available at BCAST through EPSRC CASE studentships. EPSRC funding is available for all UK and EU-nationals, normally resident in the UK. The funding covers both tuition fees and bursary for the three year duration of the PhD. The bursary can be up to £14,000 pa (tax free). For all the funding opportunities for postgraduate training from EPSRC, please see the EPSRC website.

If you are a non-EU student, please contact us directly to discuss about possible funding opportunities and research proposals.

Informal enquiries can be made to Dr Brian McKay ( at all times.

Page last updated: Thursday 08 September 2016