System optimisation and decision-support for optimal future biorefineries and bioeconomy towards a net-zero UK

Two fully funded PhD projects for UK/settled students in waste and biomass valorisation topics, based on process systems engineering approaches to processing and future biomass supply chains.

Start date

1 January 2023


3.5 years

Application deadline

Funding source

EPSRC Doctoral Training Program and University of Surrey

Funding information

  • UKRI stipend (e.g. £15,609 2021/22)
  • Home fees covered (UK candidates only)
  • £3,000 Research Training Support Grant
  • £3,000 Bench fees


Conversion of biomass to fuels and value-added chemicals is key to support net-zero aspirations globally and within the UK. However, the biorefinery concept is challenged with valorisation of complex waste streams; the requirement for new, biobased supply chains; integration of biorefinery systems within established systems; and complex modelling requirements.

Dr Short’s research group uses mathematical optimisation and systems engineering to develop decision-support software and is looking for motivated candidates to work on:

  1. Optimal multi-period, flexible biorefinery process synthesis using dynamic optimisation and surrogate modelling techniques for multi-product, multi-feedstock bioproducts in the UK.
  2. The long-term impacts and optimal processing routes of global biomass supply chains will be researched in consideration of future carbon trading.

There will be opportunities to collaborate with world-class researchers at other leading academic institutions, as well as with industrial partners. We are seeking enthusiastic and motivated applicants with an interest in computational optimisation and process systems engineering. A degree in Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Mathematics or other engineering/science disciplines with significant computational elements, and some coding experience in a programming language (e.g., Python, GAMS, MATLAB, or Julia) are essential for the role. Experience in mathematical optimisation modelling, open-source software, and/or process simulation is desirable.

  1. The successful candidate will be supervised by Dr Michael Short at the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering. The department has a history of excellence in computational and process systems research. We have an interdisciplinary group of researchers working in several areas to solve global problems. The Information and Process Systems Engineering Research Theme holds regular research seminars and social events to provide a supportive and friendly team atmosphere. You will receive comprehensive research training and opportunities to participate in conferences, workshops, and seminars to develop professional skills and research network.

Eligibility criteria

Home student (UK, EU pre-settled or settled status, indefinite leave to remain) with a 2:1 or better

English language requirements

6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category (if not graduated from UK institution).

How to apply

If you are interested in a particular area please send your CV and email directly to Dr Michael Short (

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Application deadline

Contact details

Michael Short
03 BC 02
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 689864

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