Thinking Soils

Thinking Soils: New PhD studentship Available

9 Sep , 2017   Video

We are pleased to announce a PhD studentship in a pioneering new EPSRC funded project: “Thinking Soils”. We are looking for highly motivated and talented Design Lead Researcher to join the team and take a leading role in a new field of Bio-Design by exploring the design potentials of living materials which respond to physical forces in their environment.

Imagine a column of sand saturated with billions of engineered bacteria cells. As a force is applied to the top of the column, bacteria in the sand detect an increase in pressure. The bacteria respond by synthesising a new biological material to bind the grains together and resist the load. The resulting structure would consist of a material where sand grains are only cemented where the forces through the material require. Our research proposes a proof of concept to show how we might design a manufacturing process where the material itself acts as manufacturer and designer, modelling and responding to its environment.

The initial pilot project attracted wide coverage across the scientific and popular media, including Science, The Times and Mail Online.

This three year studentship will develop new design concepts and will have an opportunity to work in a level two containment lab with genetically modified building prototypes and computational models.

We are looking for a highly motivated and adaptable PhD candidate to lead the Design aspects of the project. The appointee will join one of the UKs leading Synthetic Biology teams and be supervised across Architecture and Civil Engineering.

For more information of the research group and projects see our website:

 Required for Application

  • A full CV
  • A portfolio of relevant design work
  • A one page statement: “My approach to the Thinking Soils project would be”.


Main Duties and Responsibilities

  • Developing design concepts based on our “Thinking Soils” technology.
  • Develop prototypes using live genetically modified bacteria and a range of materials including hydrogels and soils.
  • Develop computational models using Processing or other equivalent software based on data from the project.
  • Support the development of the new Design Lab at Newcastle university.
  • Publish original research in international conferences and journals.
  • Help develop new funding bids and support the growth of the research group.


Person Specification

Knowledge (inc qualifications)


  • 2.1 degree (or equivalent) in Architecture, Civil Engineering (or combination) or subjects related to Bio Design.
  • Experience in bio-inspired or bio design demonstrable through a portfolio.
  • Master in Architecture, Design or related field.

Skills (professional, technical, managerial, practical)


  • Excellent research skills in terms of planning and executing a research project and analysing the results.
  • Experience conducting mechanical experiments and ability to plan and collect data from experimental work.
  • Communication skills and ability to describe complex concepts to non-experts.
  • Good team working ability to work with people across many different fields.
  • Flexibility and adaptability to a challenging research environment.


  • Experience designing with living organisms in and prototyping in a biological lab.
  • Experience working with bacteria and biomineralisation.
  • Computational and mathematical modelling skills.




  • Available for international travel and occasional evening and weekend work.


Value of award

£15,000 per year for 3 years. The scholarship is payable towards 100% of tuition fees, with the remainder awarded as living expenses.

Closing date

20 October 2017

How to apply

You must send the following to Marian Kyte by email to  Please quote reference code APL21 in the email heading.

  • A full CV
  • A portfolio of relevant design work
  • A one page statement: “My approach to the Thinking Soils project would be”.

You should also apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system. To do this please click on the link ‘Create a new account’.  Select ‘PhD School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape’ full time.



For further details, please contact:
Dr Martyn Dade-Robertson
School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5926



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