Research Technician in Environmental Bioengineering

Research Technician in Environmental Bioengineering


Job description and selection criteria

Job title

Research Technician 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 (3 years), with the possibility of extension.

Start date

20 August, 2020

Application closing date

31 July, 2020

Vacancy reference


Additional information



The role

The group was established 10 years ago when Ian Thompson joined the Department of Engineering Science of the University of Oxford, which is part of the Chemical Engineering grouping.  The focus of research interest is development of sustainable systems for treatment of industrial effluents, water recycling on site and conversion of waste to bioenergy.  A particular area of interest is exploiting microbial biodegradation potential for environmental bioremediation with particular emphasis on the application of engineered, physical and chemical approaches for stimulating their beneficial activities and killing unwanted microbial growth in engineered systems.  This includes the application of nanomaterials and ultrasound to stimulate microbial processes or kill unwanted microbial growth such as the formation of biofilms.   A growing interest in the group is the biotransformation of plant materials and organics in wastewater to bioenergy and bioplastics (PHA) and other high value polymers.  This includes combined technologies such as electrochemistry and the development of novel bioreactors.

The main duties of this post-holder will include: 1) microbial transformation of organic waste to high value products such as PHA and/or biogas, 2) enhancing biotransformation in bioreactors and 3) development of physical and chemical (ultrasound, nanomaterials methods) for stimulating bacteria and killing unwanted growth, in particularly biofilms. The generic approaches developed will have potential applications in treating contaminated soil and water, but also for improving the efficiency of anaerobic digestion for generating high value products such as methane and bioplastics.

The research will include exploiting the ability of indigenous microbial communities to biotransform and biodegrade organic contaminants in water and soil systems, and where appropriate introduction of inocula with proven remedial activity.  This will include working closely with Profs Wei Huang (Synthetic Biology) and Ron Roy (Physical Accoustics) employing molecular and synthetic biology approaches and developing biosensors for assessing contamination toxicity and dealing with treatment bottle-necks.


  • To assist and work closely with the Senior Reserch Scientis and PI.
  • Prepare cultures, media and carry routine lab care tasks including ensuring ordering supplies.
  • 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.
  • Asssiting in synthesise nanomaterials, and their application.
  • Support the project team in integrating activities (internally and externally) across the partner organisations (in particularly the Synthetic Biology Team), including liaison between research teams and carry out administrative roles as required.
  • Look after alb administration including updating protocol sheets.
  • Prepare summary technical and progress review reports for project steering meetings and industrial collaborators, including preparation and delivery of oral presentations at such meetings.
  • Provide help to other researchers in the same or related field of research, as requested by the project PI and Senior Research Scientist.
  • 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.
  • Use and help maintain specialist scientific equipment in a laboratory environment
  • Looks after routinme and Health and Safety issues and provide training to new staff and visitors.


Additional duties:

  • Coordinate OSCAR activity with PI and Oxford research team, in particular the synthetic biology team lead by Profs Wei Huang, Ron Roy and Luet 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
  • 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
  • Carry out collaborative projects with colleagues in partner institutions, and research groups and in particular with industry.


Selection criteria


  • Good background in basic environmental microbiology techniques.
  • Background on molecular microbiology.
  • Good background in chemical analysis for assessing biodegradation.
  • 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 research and associated activities
  • Ability to contribute ideas for new research projects and research income generation
  • Good communication skills, including the ability to write for publication, present research proposals and results, and represent the research group at meetings



  • Some experience of working ith nanomaterials.
  • Some field work experience.


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.
  • Zhang YM, Yu ZS, Zhang HX & Thompson IP (2017) Microbial distribution and variation in   produced water from separators to storage tanks of shale gas wells in Sichuan Basin, China.  Environmental Science-Water Resreach & Technology 3, 340-351.
  • Azimi Y & Thompson IP (2017).  Phosphorus depletion as a green alternative to biocides for controlling biodegradationof metal working fluids.  Environmental Science & Technology 51, 5695-5702.
  • Development of SimCells as a novel chassis for functional biosensors. Rampley CPN, Davison P, Qian P, Preston GM, Hunter CN, Thompson IP, Wu LJ & Huang WF (2017).  Scientific Reports 7, 7261.
  • Song Y, Yizhi, Li C, Lopez JAS, Xu JB, Zhu YG, Thompson IP & Huang WE (2017). Raman-Deutrium isotope probing for in-situ indentification of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in Thames River.  Scientific Reports 7, 16648.
  • Zhang Q, Amor K, Galer SJG, Thompson IP & Porcelli D. (2018). Variation of stable isotope fractionation during bacterial chromium reduction processes and their implications. Chemical Geology  418, 155-164.
  • Cadena M, Preston GM, Townley H & Thompson IP (2018) Species-specific antimicrobial activity of essential oils and enhancement by encapsulation in mesoporous silica nanoparticles. Industrial Crops and Productes, in press.


About OSCAR (Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research)  

OSCAR, the first overseas research centre of the University of Oxford, 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 prototype 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). Please read the following tips to help you proceed with the application process.

Before the application: 

Please read carefully the job description and selection criteria for the post for which you are applying at the OSCAR website: to determine whether you have the required skills, knowledge, and experience as advertised. Please DO NOT apply for the posts which are currently unavailable. We typically receive many applications for each post, and so you will need to show in a covering letter how you meet the essential criteria and the desirable criteria in order to be shortlisted for interview.

Required Application documents:

  1. Please submit a covering letter and CV (both in English and in PDF) by email attachment to
  2. Email subject: the title of the post for which you are applying. 
  3. Email content: please include your contact information, name, telephone number, and any dates for which you would not be available for interview.


Covering letter (no longer than one page)

Use the covering letter to explain your motivation for joining OSCAR, and state how your skills and experience match these requirements. Please provide evidence that you have the skills, knowledge, experience, qualifications that match the requirements of the post. The strongest applications provide examples of previous work that demonstrate how you meet the essential and desirable criteria.  Check your spelling and grammar; successful applications are typically proof-read to give the best impression to the selection panel.

Curriculum Vitae (CV, no longer than 8 pages)

Check that your CV is up-to-date and keep your CV within the page limit.  Highlight the skills and experience that are relevant to the post for which you are applying. Avoid sending a generic CV; the strongest applications are those for which CVs are tailored for the needs of the post for which the candidate is applying.  Give details of your education, employment history, publication record, lists of prizes, and voluntary experience.


After the application:

When you submit an application, 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 that is 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 must confirm that you agree to these Terms and Conditions of Use, including the following declaration. 

  • 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 again for your interest in applying for a post at OSCAR.


Recruitment Office

Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research