Chemical Engineering: Fully Funded EPSRC iCASE and DSTL PhD Scholarship: Development of Protein-Based Adhesives for Defence-Focussed Materials Engineering Applications (RS574)

  • DeadlineDeadline: 17 April 2024
  • WalesWales


Closing date: 17 April 2024

Funding providers: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) iCASE and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl)

Subject areas: Materials, Bioscience, Chemical Engineering, Microbiology, Biochemistry or subjects aligned to these 

Project start date:

  • 1 October 2024 (Enrolment open from mid-September)


Aligned programme of study: PhD in Chemical Engineering

Mode of study: Full-time

Project description:

This project seeks to pioneer the development of innovative, environmentally friendly adhesives inspired by nature. Specifically, the focus is on crafting protein-based adhesives tailored for challenging materials in the defence and engineering sectors, to surpass the limitations of conventional adhesives in terms of durability and ecological impact.

Background and objectives: Engineering biology exploits and manipulates biological systems to solve real-world problems in sectors such as energy, environment, food, healthcare, and manufacturing. In this project an engineering biology approach will be used to develop unique adhesives inspired by nature. The study will specifically concentrate on crafting protein-based adhesives for bonding materials such as silicon, glass, and ceramics. Traditional adhesives often require complex surface preparations and may degrade over time. The innovative bioadhesives aim to eliminate the need for intricate cleaning and priming processes, overcoming challenges related to durability and variations in wetting and thermal expansion rates among bonded materials. Additionally, the project explores the unique advantage of these adhesives to cure and remain adhered underwater. The emphasis will be on materials used in defence, but broadly applicable throughout engineering sectors.

Technical approach: Adhesives will be based on microbes that naturally employ functional amyloid peptides for adhesion and biofilm formation. These proteins will be engineered to create a suite of novel and unique bioadhesives for effective bonding without the drawbacks associated with traditional adhesives. Microbes will be grown in the presence of solid substrates to screen for potential bioadhesives. Adhering microbes will then be analysed via protein enrichments and proteomics to determine the nature of their functional amyloid peptides. The engineering biology principles of design, build, test and learn will be employed for creating a tunable set of adhesives via genetic/chemical engineering of peptides and linkers to design biocomposites that are able to bridge interfaces between materials. State-of-the-art facilities at Swansea University and Dstl will be used to characterise material and mechanical/adhesion properties, with scalable deposition methods trialled for practical application.

Project Team: This multi-disciplinary project spans engineering and microbial biochemistry concepts, welcoming applications from backgrounds in engineering, biology, and physical sciences, with a preference for those with multidisciplinary interests. The PhD student will have the opportunity to develop skills and expertise in a highly interdisciplinary research environment encompassing life sciences, chemical and materials engineering. A comprehensive training program will be provided by the interdisciplinary supervisory team with complementary interests and expertise in materials, deposition techniques and mechanical testing (Dr Phillips), biochemistry (Dr van Keulen), and analytical methods and imaging (Dr Powell and Professor Johnston). Training in all techniques will be provided along with mentorship and personal development.

For more details please see here:

Entry Requirements

Candidates must hold an undergraduate degree at 2.1 level (or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University) in engineering, biological sciences or other relevant science discipline. If you are eligible to apply for the scholarship (i.e. a student who is eligible to pay the UK rate of tuition fees) but do not hold a UK degree, you can check our comparison entry requirements (see country specific qualifications).

We will consider applications from undergraduate, taught master’s and MSc by research students working towards their qualification.

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to UK nationals ONLY (dual nationals cannot be considered). 

If you have any questions regarding your academic or fee eligibility based on the above, please email with the web-link to the scholarship(s) you are interested in.


This scholarship covers the full cost of UK tuition fees and an annual stipend of £18,622 plus £2,000 iCASE enhancement.

Additional research expenses will also be available.

How To Apply

To apply, please complete your application online with the following information:

1. Course choice – please select Chemical Engineering / PhD / Full-time / 3 Year / October

In the event you have already applied for the above programme previously, the application system may issue a warning notice and prevent application, in this event, please email where staff will be happy to assist you in submitting your application.

2. Start year – please select 2024
3. Funding (page 8) –

  • ‘Are you funding your studies yourself?’ – please select No
  • ‘Name of Individual or organisation providing funds for study’ – please enter ‘RS574 – Engineering Applications’

*It is the responsibility of the applicant to list the above information accurately when applying, please note that applications received without the above information listed will not be considered for the scholarship award.

One application is required per individual Swansea University led research scholarship award; applications cannot be considered listing multiple Swansea University led research scholarship awards.

We encourage you to complete the following to support our commitment to providing an environment free of discrimination and celebrating diversity at Swansea University:

As part of your online application, you MUST upload the following documents (please do not send these via email):

  • CV
  • Degree certificates and transcripts (if you are currently studying for a degree, screenshots of your grades to date are sufficient)
  • A cover letter including a ‘Supplementary Personal Statement’ to explain why the position particularly matches your skills and experience and how you choose to develop the project.
  • Two references (academic or previous employer) on headed paper or using the Swansea University reference form. Please note that we are not able to accept references received citing private email accounts, e.g. Hotmail. Referees should cite their employment email address for verification of reference.
  • Confirmation of EDI form submission (optional) 

Informal enquiries are welcome, please contact Dr Chris Phillips ( or Dr Geertje van Keulen (

*External Partner Application Data Sharing – Please note that as part of the scholarship application selection process, application data sharing may occur with external partners outside of the University, when joint/co- funding of a scholarship project is applicable.

Who is eligible to apply?

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to UK nationals ONLY (dual nationals cannot be considered). 

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