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Development of next generation bioreactor models

Industrial biotechnology is increasingly being seen as a way in which we can sustainably produce the products we need. These include plastics, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, food ingredients and many others. A key challenge in this area is developing modelling tools which can be used to describe the complex processes occurring inside large-scale industrial bioreactors.

The aim of this project would be to build on previous work to develop the next generation of bioreactor models. Existing models have generally been developed for well characterised microorganisms (e.g. Saccharomyces cerevisiae or Escherichia coli) producing simple products. There is a need to extend these models to both the production of different microorganisms, as well as the production of a broader range of products.

This project will be primarily computational, but may involve some lab-based work. Students working on this project will:

  1. Develop models that relate the design and operating parameters of a bioreactor to the process performance.
  2. Validate these models against either industrial datasets or experimental data.


Applicants should have a First Class or Upper Second Class Honours degree, or an MSc in chemical engineering, biotechnology or a related discipline. Applicants would ideally have some experience with mathematical modelling and computer programming. Applicants should be able to work independently, have good written and oral communication skills and be self-motivated.


  • Nadal-Rey, G., McClure, D.D., Kavanagh, J.M., Cornelissen, S., Fletcher, D.F., and Gernaey, K.V. (2021). Understanding gradients in industrial bioreactors. Biotechnology Advances 46, 107660.
  • Nadal-Rey, G., McClure, D.D., Kavanagh, J.M., Cassells, B., Cornelissen, S., Fletcher, D.F., et al. (2022). Computational fluid dynamics modelling of hydrodynamics, mixing and oxygen transfer in industrial bioreactors with Newtonian broths. Biochemical Engineering Journal 177, 108265.


How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you woold be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.

Meet the Supervisor(s)

Dale McClure - I joined the Chemical Engineering Department at Brunel University in May 2021, after moving from the University of Sydney where I was employed at the Centre for Advanced Food Engineering, working in the area of industrial biotechnology. Prior to that I completed my PhD at the University of Sydney in 2014 and my undergraduate degrees in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering in 2010. My research is in the area of industrial biotechnology, with a focus on the safe, sustainable and cost-effective production of high-value compounds for the food, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries. A key focus of my work is sustainability and transforming what would be otherwise considered wastes to valuable products. I have extensive experience in the design, scale-up and modelling of bioreactors, and have developed advanced computational models of industrial systems. I have worked extensively with industry and many of the projects I have worked on have been successfully commercialised.   Awards and Honours:
  • 2018 Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry
  • 2016 Winner of European Society of Biochemical Engineering Bioprocess Engineering Design Prize
  • 2011 Australian Postgraduate Award
  • 2009 MIPPs Scholarship
  • 2008 Dean’s List of Excellence in Academic Performance
  • 2008 Amcor Prize for Greatest Proficiency in Chemical Engineering Practice
  • 2007 Dean’s List of Excellence in Academic Performance