EPSRC DTG PhD Studentship Microswimmers in Microfluidics: Enhancing the Engineering of Nano- and Micro-Scale Driven Transport Applications

An EPSRC DTG PhD Studentship (3.5 years) is available at the University of Strathclyde, to study the behaviour of swimming or ‘self-driven’ microorganisms in complex geometries, in order to enable enhanced engineering of applications including bioremediation (bacteria in soils), viral disease (eg transport of listeria), marine environment (algal blooms, diatoms and foodchain), energy (biodiesel derived from algae), waste treatment (using algae and bacteria to manufacture feedstock chemicals from waste) and bioreactor engineering.

In many of these applications the ‘microswimmer’ works as a ‘transporter’ navigating through a complex environment (porous soil, biotissue, complex process flow geometry), and the efficiency with which its swimming enables transport is the key factor in controlling the process. The role of ‘taxes’ (phototaxis, gyrotaxis, chemotaxis) and the low inertia (low Reynolds numbers) characteristic of fluid flows at the microscale mean that our understanding of the fundamental transport problem is limited, making development of soundly-based engineering solutions difficult. Enhanced understanding could also enable engineering of artificial ‘driven’ micro- and nano-species which would open up new applications in controlled nanoscale self-assembly, drug delivery, and bionanotechnology.

The initial focus of the project will be on the behaviour of algae in complex flows, as a model relevant to immediate applications. Direct applications of algae include waste water and biofuel processing and marine environment. However, through collaborations with other groups at Strathclyde, the project will also relate behaviour to other ‘microswimmers’ (bacteria in bioremediation, protozoa) and to artificial driven systems (enzyme-driven nanoassemblers). Research techniques will include microscopy, image processing, microorganism culturing, microfluidic design and control, data acquisition and analysis through software such as LabVIEW and MATLAB. Key science and engineering areas include fluid mechanics, motility, microfluidic design, and microscale process control and engineering.

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The project will be co-supervised by Dr Mark Haw, in the Dep. of Chemical and Process Engineering, and Dr Monica Oliveira, in the Dep. of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The project will also incorporate related expertise from leading groups at Strathclyde in the Departments of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Pure and Applied Chemistry.

Student eligibility: Due to funding, applicants must be UK or EU nationals and should have (or be close to obtaining) a 1st or 2:1 degree or equivalent in chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, bioengineering, physics or related areas. The annual stipend is £13,800 per year (tax free) for 3.5 years, with all other PhD fees paid. Start date by arrangement, ideally in 2013.

How to apply: To apply, please send a full Curriculum Vitae with the contact details of at least two academic referees, together with an application letter stating why you are applying for this Scholarship by email to Dr Mark Haw, mark.haw@strath.ac.uk, or Dr Monica Oliveira, monica.oliveira@strath.ac.uk, via the ‘Apply’ button below.

The deadline for application is the 25th of September.

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