Research Scientist in Environmental Bioengineering(Prof. Ian Thompson)

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Job description and selection criteria

Job title

Research Scientist in Environmental Bioengineering

Research topic

Environmental Bioengineering


Environment and Biotechnology

Reporting to

Professor Ian Thompson

Group website

Salary Range

A competitive remuneration package will apply


Full time

Contract type

Fixed-term (1 year), with the possibility of extension.

Start date

1st July 2021

Application closing date

15 June 2021

Vacancy reference


Additional information



The role

The focus of the research interest is development of sustainable systems for treatment of industrial effluents, water recycling on site, decontamomation of soil and water and conversion of organic waste to bioenergy or other high value products. The emphasis is on exploiting microbial systems for enevironmental clean-up and converting waste to valued products such as bioplastics. An area of particular interest is the application of engineered, physical and chemical approaches for stimulating microbial activities and enhancing their rates of reaction and dealing with recalcitrant compunds.   This includes the application of nanomaterials and ultrasound for stimulating desirable microbial processes such as breakdown reactions of contaminants. A growing interest in the group is the biotransformation of CO2, plant materials and organics to bioenergy and bioplastics (PHA), and other high value polymers.  This includes combined technologies such as electrochemistry, biosensors and the development of novel bioreactors.

The main duties of this post-holder will include combinations of the following: 1) application of general microbiolgical and molecular biology techniques for isolating and culturing strains from environmental and bioreactors samples 2) establishing bioreactors for treating wastes and generating biogas and other high value products from waste biomass 3) exploiting physical-chemical approaches including application of nanomaterials and ultrasound to stimulate microbial processes. 4) application of chemical analysis approaches for monitoring microbial processes. The generic approaches developed will have potential applications in promoting exploitation of indigenous and genetically modified microorganism for develkoping more sustainable means of dealing with environmental problems.


  • Contributing to environmental engineering research in OSCAR and coordinate with other OSCAR research groups
  • Play a major role in the day-to-day running of the lab and research programme
  • Environmental microbiology, including culture methods for enriching and isolation
  • Molecular methods for profiling single isolates and whole communities
  • Basic chemical analysis (GC-MS, HPLC, BOD/COD) methods for assessing microbial biodegradation characteristics. Support the project team in integrating activities (internally and externally) across the partner organisations (in particularly the Synthetic Biology, Accoustic and Biotransformations Teams), including liaison between research teams and carry out administrative roles as required
  • Prepare summary technical and progress review reports for project steering meetings and industrial collaborators, including preparation and delivery of oral presentations at such meetings
  • Prepare papers for journals, presentations and other research outputs either inhouse or at national/international conferences or seminars, to disseminate research findings
  • Contribute to the maintenance of the project web pages for the consortium.
  • Provide help to other researchers in the same or related field of research, as requested by the project PI
  • Be up to date with regards academic papers, journals and textbooks and attend conferences to keep up-to-date with new developments in the field
  • Undertake other duties to be assigned by the project team, as required including supervising and training more junior staff/students
  • Adapt existing and develop new scientific techniques and experimental protocols
  • Test hypotheses and analyse scientific data from a variety of sources, reviewing and refining working hypotheses as appropriate
  • Use and help maintain specialist scientific equipment in a laboratory environment
  • Make links laboratories across China and foster collaborations
  • Assist in dealing with intellectual property issues.


Additional duties:

  • Coordinate OSCAR activity with PI and Oxford research team, in particular the teams lead by Profs Wei Huang, Roy and Wong
  • Manage own academic research and administrative activities. This involves small scale project management, to co-ordinate multiple aspects of work to meet deadlines
  • Contribute ideas for new research projects
  • Help with communication within OSCAR and outside
  • Develop ideas for generating research income, and present detailed research proposals to senior researchers
  • Collaborate in the preparation of scientific reports and journal articles and occasionally present papers and posters
  • Act as a source of information and advice to other members of the group on scientific protocols and experimental techniques
  • Represent the research group at external meetings/seminars, either with other members of the group and collaborative industrial partners
  • Carry out collaborative projects with colleagues in partner institutions, and research groups and in particular with industry
  • Play a lead role in establishing and running an effective, productive and happy laboratory


Selection criteria


  • Strong background in basic environmental microbiology techniques
  • Strong background on molecular microbiology
  • Some experience of chemical analysis for assessing biodegradation
  • Be fluent in Chinese and English
  • Hold a relevant PhD/DPhil (or be near completion)
  • Possess sufficient specialist knowledge in the discipline to work within established research programmes and help train/supervise junior members of the lab
  • Ability to manage own academic research and associated activities
  • Previous experience of contributing to publications/presentations
  • Ability to contribute ideas for new research projects and research income generation
  • Excellent communication skills, including the ability to write for publication, present research proposals and results, and represent the research group at meetings



  • Some experience of anaerobic microbiology
  • Experience of independently managing a discrete area of a research project
  • Experience of working with the commercial sector and/or government agencies


Recent publications

  • Guo H, Yu Z & Thompson IP (2014).  A contribution of hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis to the biogenic coal bed methane reserves of Southern Qinshui Basin, China.  Applied Microbiology & Biotechnology 21, 9083-9093.
  • Mason MP, Glover K, Smith JAC & Thompson IP (2015).  The potential of CAM crops as a globally significant bioenergy resource: moving from ‘fuel or food’ to fuel and more food’.  Energy & Environmental Science 8, 2320-2329.
  • Thill PG, Ager DK, Vojnovic B, Scott T & Thompson IP (2016).  Hybrid biological, electron beam and iron nanoparticles for treatment of metal working fluids. Water Research 93, 214-221.
  • Ortega-Calvo JJ, Jimenez-Sanchez C, Pratarolo P, Pullin H, Scott TB & Thompson IP (2016). Tactic response of bacteria to zero-valent iron nanoparticles.  Environmental Pollution 13, 438-445.
  • Adapa LM, Azimi Y, Singh S, Porcelli D & Thompson IP (2016). Comparative study of chemical and physical methods for distinguishing between passive and metabolically active mechanisms of water contaminant removal by biofilms. Water Research 101, 574-581
  • Chan AC, Cadena MB, Townley HE, Fricker MD & Thompson IP (2017). Effective delivery of volatile biocides employing mesoporous silicates for treating biofilms.  J. of the Royal Society Interface 14, 126, 20160650.
  • Song YZ, Kaster AK, Vollmers J, Song YQ, Davison PA, Frentrup M, Preston GM, Thompson IP, Murrell JC, Yib HB & Huang WE (2017). Single-cell genomics based on Raman sorting reveals novel carotenoid-containing bacteria in the Red Sea. Microbial Biotechnology 10, 125-137.
  • Rampley CPN, Davidson PA, Qian P, Preston GM, Hunter CN, Thompson IP, Wu LJ & Huang WE (2017).  Development of SimCells as a novel chassis for functional biosensors.  Scientific Reports 7, 7261. 
  • Song Y, Cui Li, Siles Lopez JA, Xu JB, Zhu YG, Thompson IP & Huang WE (2017).  Raman-Deuterium isotope probing for in-situ identification of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in Thames River.  Scientific Reports 7, 16648.
  • Jing XY, Gou HL, Gong YH, Su XL, Xu L, Ji YT, Song YZ, Thompson IP, Xu J & Huang WE (2018). Raman-activated cell sorting and metagenomic sequencing revealing carbon-fixing bacteria in the ocean.  Environmental Microbiology 20, 2241-2255.
  • Zhang Q, Amor K, Galer SJG, Thompson IP & Porcelli (2018). Variations of stable isoptope fractionation during bacterial chromium reduction processes and their implications.  Chemical Geology 481 155-164
  • Cadena MB, Preston GM, Van der Hoorn RA, Townley HE & Thompson IP (2018).  Species-specific antimicrobial activity of essential oil and enhancement in mesoporous silica nanoparticles.  Industrial Crops and Products 112, 582-590.
  • Caden MB, Preston GM, van der Hoorn RA, Townley HE & Townley (2018).  Species-specific antimicrobial activity of essential oils and enhancement by encapsulation in mesoporous silica nanoparticles.  Industrial Crops and Products 122, 582-590.
  • Chen X, S, Steel H Wu Y-H, Papachristodoulou A, Thompson IP & Huang WE (2019).  Development of aspirin-inducible biosensors in Escherichia coli and SimCells.  Applied and Environmental Microbiology 85 (6).
  • Zhang Q, Amor K, Galer SJG, Thompson IP & Porcelli D (2019).  Using stable isotope fractionation factors to identify Cr(VI) reduction pathways: metal-mineral-microbe interactions. Water Research 98-109.
  • Zhang Q. Song Y, Amor K, Porcelli D & Thompson IP (2019).  Monitoring Cr toxicity and remediation processes- combining a whole cell bioreporter and Cr isotope techniques.  Water Research 295-303.
  • Rampley CPN, Whitehead PG, Softley L, Hossain MA, Lin L, David J, Shawal S, Das P, Thompson IP, Huang WE, Peters R, Holdship P, Hope R & Alabaster G (2020). River toxicity assessment using molecular biosensors: Heavy metal contamination in the Turag-Balu-Buriganga river systems, Dhaka, BangladeshScience of the Total Environment 703. 134760
  • Elijamal O, Thompson IP, Maamoun I, Shubair T, Eljamal K, Lueangwattanapong K & Sugihara Y (2020).  Investigating the design parameters for a permeable reactive barrier consisting of nanoscale zero-valent iron and bimetallic iron/copper for phosphate removal. Journal of Molecular Liquids 299, 112144.
  • Fan C et al (2020) Chromosome-free bacterial cells are safe and programmable platforms for synthetic biology.  PNAS 117, 6752-6761.
  • Ng, CK, Xu JB, Cai Z, Yang L, Thompson IP, Huang WE & Cao B (2020) Elevated intracellular cyclic-di-GMP level in Shewanella oneidensis expression of c-type cytochromes.  Microbial Biotechnology DOI: 10.1111/1751-7915.13636.


About OSCAR (Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research)  

OSCAR, the University of Oxford’s first overseas research centre, is working closely with the Suzhou Industrial Park and both academic and industrial collaborators in China to progress a range of exciting societal and economic development opportunities.

As a multidisciplinary research, innovation and technology centre, OSCAR focuses on research challenges and technologies that both complement the Centre’s location in Suzhou Industrial Park and capitalise on current Oxford research strengths. Research will initially be focused around the areas of biomedical engineering, biomedicine, advanced functional materials, electronic/ optoelectronic/ photonic devices, environmental technology, energy, mathematical and computational applications in finance and in health, and other related science and engineering disciplines.

The Centre is positioned in Suzhou Dushu Lake Science and Education Innovation District (SEID), a district in southern SIP with a high concentration of science, education and innovation activity. SEID is the archetype of higher education internationalization in China which hosts 32 local and foreign universities and institutions. The Centre, housed in a nine-storey building with a gross space of 20,000m2, offers flexible access to facilities for multi-functional activities such as labs, seminars, workshops, training, public events, and administration, etc. 

Guidance for Applicants

Thank you for your interest in applying for posts at the Oxford-Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR).

Before applying: 

Please read the job description and selection criteria carefully to determine whether you have the required skills, knowledge, and experience for the advertised role. Please DO NOT apply for the posts which are currently unavailable. We typically receive many applications for each post, so your cover letter should be used to show how you meet the essential and desirable criteria in order to be shortlisted for interview.

How to apply:

Send your application to

  1. Email subject should be the title of the post for which you are applying
  2. Include your contact information, name, telephone number and your availability for interview in the email
  3. Attach a cover letter and CV (both in English) as PDF documents.


Cover letter (no longer than one page):

Use the cover letter to explain your motivation for joining OSCAR, and state how your skills and experience match these requirements. Provide evidence that you have the skills, knowledge, experience, qualifications to meet the requirements of the post, with examples from previous work.

Curriculum Vitae (no longer than 8 pages):

Check that your CV is up-to-date, tailored to the job for which you are applying, and within the page limit. Highlight the skills and experience that are relevant to the post for which you are applying. Give details of your education, employment history, publication record, lists of prizes, and voluntary experience.


After applying:

The information you supply on your application will be provided to a selection panel, who will use it to assess your suitability for the post against the published selection criteria. You may be contacted via e-mail at any date regarding your application.

Your information is held securely in a database owned by OSCAR. The data will not be passed to external organisations or individuals other than those acting in a capacity as agents for OSCAR for software support purposes, or where an external body is party to the recruitment process.

When you submit an application to OSCAR you confirm that you agree to these Terms and Conditions of Use, including the following declarations:

  • The information provided in the application materials is true and complete. I understand that any offer of employment may be conditional upon satisfactory screening. 
  • I consent to be contacted by OSCAR at any date regarding my application. 
  • I consent to the information given in this application being stored and processed in accordance with the data protection rules at OSCAR. 

Thank you for your interest in applying for a post at OSCAR.


Recruitment Office

Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research