The study of bio-molecular interactions for the development of novel biological adhesives

An opportunity to apply for a funded full-time PhD in the Faculty of Health and Applied Science, UWE Bristol.  The studentship will be funded by UWE Bristol/GKN. Ref: 1920-OCT-FET06.

The expected start date of this studentship is 1 December 2019.

The closing date for applications is 6 October 2019.

About the studentship

Applications are invited from ambitious, self-motivated and enthusiastic candidates, with a background in biochemistry, protein chemistry or bio-interactions to work on a fully-funded PhD studentship. Funding and stipend are provided jointly from the Institute of Bio-Sensing Technology at the University of the West of England, Bristol and GKN Aerospace. The PhD will focus on novel approaches to adhesive bonding through the development of bio-adhesives for multiple applications such as medical devices and future aerospace applications. The PhD researcher will be primarily based at the Institute of Bio-Sensing Technology, but will be expected to directly engage with industrial colleagues at GKN Aerospace on a regular basis.


Biologically derived or inspired adhesives have the potential to provide novel solutions to contemporary engineering structural bonding challenges, as well as in medical applications, such as tissue reconstruction. For structural bonding, current generation adhesives generally require good surface cleaning and preparation to achieve an acceptable quality bond and typically require applied temperature, pressure or other stimulus to achieve cure. These processes are time consuming and often require expensive capital equipment. High adhesion strength, reliability, reversible attachment, attachment to any surface, including those in harsh environments, are all advantages that could be realised with biological derived bonding. Adhesives found in nature frequently achieve good bond strengths in warm, wet and dirty environmental conditions. The use of biological adhesives is likely to be less harmful to the environment, use fewer chemicals and reduce safety concerns associated with chemical toxicity and solvent flammability.     

The types of active molecules found in biological adhesives are diverse; however, there are relatively few that employ two components. Two component adhesives are advantageous as they typically have a longer life and allow better control of the bonding and curing process. One example is the reaction between fibrinogen and thrombin which naturally produce fibrin clots in the body. 

This PhD programme will focus on the development of novel two part adhesives based on the strong binding energies between biological molecules such as biotin and streptavidin. Factors affecting the properties of the bio-adhesive will be investigated in terms of the bio-components, stability, and binding strength. To achieve future exploitation these adhesives will need to demonstrate potential to meet aerospace requirements. The aim of the PhD is to deliver not only high quality research outputs, but also to demonstrate research impact by proposing a technology development and exploitation roadmap for GKN Aerospace.

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please email

Funding details

The studentship is available from 01/12/2019 for a period of three years, subject to satisfactory progress and includes a tax exempt stipend, which is currently £15,009 per annum. 

In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for up to three years (Home/EU rates only).

Eligibility criteria

This opportunity is available to UK/EU applicants only.

Candidates should have (or expect to have) a first-class or 2.1 honours degree or a masters qualification in chemistry, biochemistry or related subject.

A recognised English language qualification is required.

How to apply

Please submit your application online. When prompted use the reference number 1920-OCT-FET06.

Supporting documentation: you will need to upload your research proposal, all your degree certificates and transcripts and your proof of English language proficiency as attachments to your application so please have these available when you complete the application form.

References: you will need to provide details of two referees as part of your application. At least one referee must be an academic referee from the institution that conferred your highest degree. Please ensure that your nominated referees are willing and able to provide references before you submit your application. 

Closing date

The closing date for applications is 06/10/2019.

Further information

Interviews will take place in Mid October.  If you have not heard from us by 20th October 2019, we thank you for your application but on this occasion you have not been successful.

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