Exit Menu

Synthetic Biology PhD

Enquire now How to apply

Apply full time

Apply part time

MPhil option - apply full time

MPhil option - apply part time

Subject area: Biomedical Sciences
Mode of study

3-year full-time; 6-year part-time

UCAS code

SYNTHBIODFTD

Start date

Location of study

Brunel University London campus

Synthetic Biology PhD

MPhil option available This course has an MPhil option

Overview

PhD student loans

The UK Government has recently introduced PhD loans of up to £25000 to UK and EU nationals, residing in England, for postgraduate research programmes starting in the academic year 2018-19. Read more here

About the course

Research students are welcomed to Brunel as valued members of our thriving, research-intensive community. A research degree provides the opportunity to investigate a topic in depth, and contribute new knowledge to your discipline. A PhD involves demonstrating through original research or other advanced scholarship the creation and interpretation of new knowledge, a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge at the forefront of an academic discipline or professional practice, the ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the general of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline. Both full-time (3 years) and part-time (6 years) study routes are available.

MPhil option
Research students are welcomed to Brunel as valued members of our thriving, research-intensive community. A research degree provides the opportunity to investigate a topic in depth, and contribute new knowledge to your discipline. An MPhil involves the exploration of a research topic and is typically studied over a shorter period of 1 year for a full-time student and 2 years for a part-time student. MPhil students are required to demonstrate a systematic understanding of knowledge and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights informed by the forefront of their discipline, field of study or professional practice.

Research profile
The overall aim of the Synthetic Biology theme is to address major environmental, health and societal challenges by engineering biological systems such that they display functions that do not exist in nature, as well as re-designing existing biological systems so that they perform new functions. Our research focuses on three key areas of activity.

  1. Gene therapy: Some diseases and disorders happen because certain genes work incorrectly or no longer work at all. We are designing therapeutic interventions for human diseases and disorders by developing the technologies to correct defective genes. Our current projects within this area look at vector development for effective gene therapy, assessing and avoiding the risks of gene therapy (genotoxicity) and using the technologies of gene therapy to give new insights into cancer development.
  2. Microbial bioengineering: The most exploitable and engineerable organisms are bacteria, so we want to harness their capacity and diversity to create white technologies –those which cause no harm. Our research uses integrated genomics strategies to direct bacterial engineering for a number of translational applications. We look at possible ways to create novel bacteria –bacteria that can produce clean proteins, for example, or bacteria that can improve the performance of cement. Using bioengineered microbes, we look at ways to degrade environmental pollutants; generate products using alternatives to petrochemicals; and reuse waste biomaterials from biomass and biodiesel manufacture. There are even investigations within our theme into ways of addressing antibiotic resistance in medically important bacteria. We are exploring other areas, and are open to developing new lines of research that will make the best use of the strain and widely applicable tools for strain assessment and development, especially when they are directed at projects that have sustainability as part of what they seek to achieve.
  3. Computer sciences, statistics and maths: We are working on data analysis, bioinformatics, and system modelling to inform synthetic system 30 design and efficient laboratory engineering strategies. These outcomes will support our other strands of research.

We welcome all multidisciplinary topics in the area of Biomedical Engineering.

Find out more

Enquiries

Contact our Enquiries team.
Course Enquiries: +44 (0)1895 265599 (before you submit an application)
Admissions Office: +44 (0)1895 265265 (after you submit an application)


Course content

Research degrees evolve in different ways according to discipline. Find out about what progress might look like at each stage of study here: Research degree progress structure

Employability

PhD+ Award – An internship to work in the industry or perform a research outreach or enterprise activity.

PhD Plus is a career development scheme designed to provide an opportunity for excellent PhD students to undertake work experience and mentoring, and to facilitate their transfer into a career area of their choice. The awards are targeted at exceptional PhD students who have submitted their thesis within the expected submission date and will provide up to three months’ funded support for the period after submissions of their thesis and before the confirmation of the award. The precise number awards each year will depend on the quality of the applicants, up to a maximum 8 awards. The maximum amount to be awarded will be in line with RCUK rates for research training support grants: http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/skills/training/

At Brunel we provide many opportunities and experiences within your degree programme and beyond – work-based learning, professional support services, volunteering, mentoring, sports, arts, clubs, societies, and much, much more – and we encourage you to make the most of them, so that you can make the most of yourself.

» More about Employability

Entry criteria 2019/20

The general University entrance requirement for registration for a research degree is normally a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree. All international students must show evidence that they meet the English requirement for their course of study. The Senate reserves the right to assess the eligibility of applicants on an individual basis.

Research statement

As part of our application process for entry on our research degree (MPhil and PhD) programmes, we ask you to provide a 500-1,000 word research statement, excluding any references/bibliography you may include, setting out your research motivation, ideas and aspirations. Learn how to prepare a research statement here.  

Entry criteria are subject to review and change each academic year.


International and EU entry requirements

If your country or institution is not listed or if you are not sure whether your institution is eligible, please contact Admissions

This information is for guidance only by Brunel University London and by meeting the academic requirements does not guarantee entry for our courses as applications are assessed on case-by-case basis.

English language requirements

  • IELTS: 7 (min 6 in all areas)
  • Pearson: 64 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 70% (min 60% in all areas)

You can find out more about the qualifications we accept on our English Language Requirements page.

If you require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK, you must prove knowledge of the English language so that we can issue you a Certificate of Acceptance for Study (CAS). To do this, you will need an IELTS for UKVI or Trinity SELT test pass gained from a test centre approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and on the Secure English Language Testing (SELT) list. This must have been taken and passed within two years from the date the CAS is made.

Should you wish to take a pre-sessional English course to improve your English prior to starting your degree course, you must sit the test at an approved SELT provider for the same reason.

We offer our own BrunELT English Test and have pre-sessional English language courses for students who do not meet requirements or who wish to improve their English. You can find out more information on English courses and test options at the Brunel Language Centre.

Teaching and learning

Supervisors with insight
Our supervisors create knowledge and advance understanding, and equip research students with the confidence to apply what they have learnt for the benefit of society. Browse all potential supervisor profiles further here: Synthetic Biology Theme Members Profiles.

Find out more about working with the Supervisory Team here.

Special features

Partnerships
We are collaborating closely with SynbiCITE, an industrial translation engine created to accelerate innovation and commercialization of synthetic biology. SynbiCITE matched Brunel University funding for a project designed to identify critical components for future design and construction of optimized strains of bacteria for a variety of industrial applications. This complements an additional award from SynbiCITE to establish platform resources to support future collaborative projects involving 19 universities, 25 SMEs, and 10 business corporations. The project focuses on the most useful 6-10 species of interest to the SynbiCITE partners. Strain collections and search-in libraries that will be developed in this programme include: three species of Bacillus; two species of Pseudomonas; and at least two species of Streptomyces. Our collaboration with Professor Christof von Kalle and Dr Manfred Schmidt at the Division of Oncology DKFZ, Heidelberg, Germany supports our safe vector insertion site (IS) research.

Access and use of the strain collections and CBG resources
We support and encourage the use of our strain collections wherever they can contribute to the development of other project, especially in the development of the sustainable bioeconomy, green and white technology, circular economy models, and bioremediation.

Study environment for research students
Find out more: Study environment for research students

Excellent research support and training
Extensive training and support is offered to all research students by the Graduate School, with regular Masterclasses and individual advice on academic issues as part of the Researcher Development Programme. Read more about the available Research Support and Training.

Library services
Brunel's library is open 24 hours a day, has 400,000 books and 250,000 e-books, and an annual budget of almost £2m. Subject Information Specialists train students in the latest technology, digital literacy, and digital dissemination of scholarly outputs.

  • state-of-the-art research information management tools including a research publication and grant database
  • one of the largest UK’s full text repository
  • an integrated data management system
  • analytical tools such as Altmertic and InCites
  • Open Access centrally managed fund

Facts and figures

Brunel University London REF2014 Submission: Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The results of the REF2014 have been made public in December 2014, replacing the previous REF conducted in 2008.  The next REF will be undertaken in 2020. Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 - A Guide for PhD Students

Fees and funding

Fees for 2019/20 entry

2019/20 Fees:

Home/EU students

Full time: TBC / Part time: TBC

International students                     

Full time: £18,720 Part time: £9,360

 

2018/19 Fees:

Home/EU students

Full time: £4,260 / Part time: £2,130

International students                     

Full time: £18,000 Part time: £9,000

 

Research funding

We offer a range of PhD studentships, partial scholarships, and academic prizes, to help with your research fees.  Explore external funding, particularly the Research Councils, as well as other support.

Some courses incur additional course related costs. You can also check our on-campus accommodation costs for more information on living expenses.

Fees quoted are per year and are subject to an annual increase.