Chemical and Process Engineering Research PhD

Key information

Full-time - 4 years

Start dates

October 2022
January 2023
April 2023

Part-time - 8 years

Start dates

October 2022
January 2023
April 2023

Why choose this programme

With the oldest continuing chemical engineering programme in England, we’re a highly respected and award-winning department with a wealth of experience and expertise in the subject.

Our interdisciplinary research work involves activities with cross-cutting themes, investigating materials and devices with the Advanced Technology Institute while addressing challenges in information technology.

Research in the Department is highly multi-disciplinary and we enjoy excellent collaborations with the Department of Chemistry, the Ion Beam Centre, the Surrey Space Centre, the Centre for Environment and Sustainability and the 5G/6G Innovation Centre, as well as access to their facilities.

We are internationally recognised for our water research, for which the University was the recipient of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize. We have also taken the first step towards ‘industrial sixth sense’ with a £1million project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which aims to develop technology enabling companies to ‘see into the future’ to prevent industrial disasters.

Much of our research is computationally based and we have the latest software and hardware. Our modern laboratories include high headroom areas for pilot plant, and specialist laboratories exist for microbial systems, water and particle technology.

The University’s strengths in chemical engineering include membrane filtration and ultrasound processing. Key members in the Department have extensive expertise in these areas and strong industry links with projects looking into the implementation of water processing technology.

You’ll benefit from comprehensive training and transferable skills development offered through the Faculty Graduate School, which serves to support your future career and create a friendly social environment for the Faculty’s large cohort of postgraduate research students. You’ll have opportunities to present and exchange your research with others within the Department, as well as socialise and network with others at various events and forums.

Postgraduate Research at Surrey

Frequently asked questions about doing a PhD

What you will study

If you join us, you’ll have opportunities to investigate topics ranging from fuel cell systems, biorefining and reverse osmosis to positron emission particle tracking.

As a PhD student, you’ll go through a confirmation process in which you’ll need to produce a report to demonstrate your understanding of the research field and your project results. Your ability to carry out critical literature reviews, demonstrate scientific writing skills, and research and produce meaningful results will be evaluated by your supervisor and two examiners. Once you’ve passed the confirmation stage, your PhD research project can begin.

At the end of the second year, you’ll be expected to submit a scientific manuscript draft containing your most important results, as well as a solid plan for writing up your PhD thesis. This will be evaluated by your supervisor and examiners, and necessary support will be provided.

You’ll be encouraged to complete your PhD within 36 months, and you should submit your PhD thesis within 48 months. Your PhD thesis will be evaluated by two examiners (one external to the University). There will be also a formal meeting for you to defend your thesis with the two examiners questioning. The two examiners will then make recommendation based on their evaluation.

The Department of Chemical and Process Engineering offers a dynamic and friendly environment for research. You’ll be provided with the necessary support to carry out your research projects and have access to expertise and facilities across the University, and externally when necessary.

Depending on the nature of your project, you’ll work in labs, offices and in external institutions. If your project is experimental in nature, you’ll spend a lot of time in labs carrying out the research. If your project is computational in nature, you’ll work mainly within offices with computers. You’ll also have opportunities to work externally if your project involves such collaborations.

The PhD programme is organised to support your progress as a student. There will be a review with your supervisors every six months to discuss past progress, research directions, difficulties encountered and support needed.

Your supervisor will offer their expertise in the research field, support in establishing necessary equipment and research conditions, guidance in the project overall research direction and results interpretation, and support in scientific writings.


Your final assessment will be based on the presentation of your research in a written thesis, which will be discussed in a viva examination with at least two examiners. You have the option of preparing your thesis as a monograph (one large volume in chapter form) or in publication format (including chapters written for publication), subject to the approval of your supervisors.

Research support

The professional development of postgraduate researchers is supported by the Doctoral College, which provides training in essential skills through its Researcher Development Programme of workshops, mentoring and coaching. A dedicated postgraduate Careers and Employability team will help you prepare for a successful career after the completion of your PhD.

Research themes

There are four main research themes: 

We also participate in research with the Department of Chemistry in energy and materials and health and food themes.

Within these themes, our research looks at: 

  • Development and modelling of novel nanomaterials for solid oxide fuel cells, electrolysers, batteries and super-capacitors 
  • New generation of solar cells and membranes technology, custom-made catalysts for environmental and photocatalytic applications 
  • Biorefining, design and optimisation of the bioenergy supply chain 
  • Particulate materials manufacturing for pharmaceutical, food and minerals industry 
  • Multiphase flow, process modelling and optimisation using coupled DEM-CFD and FEM 
  • Particle mechanical property characterisation, powder flow and compaction, granulation and mechanistic modelling 
  • In vitro and in silico models for biological systems at molecular, cellular and organ levels 
  • Computation oncology and modelling radiotherapy 
  • Oral processes of food and pharmaceutical products 
  • Product structure and properties interplay with bio-substrate response 
  • Industrial symbiosis, optimisation and decision making 
  • Whole systems hierarchical modelling based on massive spatial-temporal data and time points 
  • Innovative waste water processing and recycling, including forward osmosis 
  • Use of ultrasonics to promote chemical and physical processing 
  • Membrane filtration and synthesis.

Our academic staff

See a full list of all our academic staff within the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering.

Research facilities

  • Bench and pilot plant filtration systems
  • Ultrasound processing equipment
  • Water testing facilities
  • Specialist laboratories for microbial systems, water and particle technology.

The developed technology will be demonstrated in an existing modular-built pilot miniplant in Surrey, which contains three sections: Feed preparation, reaction and downstreaming (purification/separation) processes, with a throughput of 50 litres/min and a reactor vessel operating volume of 300d/m3. It includes a heat exchanger network, pressure relief system, alarm management, fully automated with over 60 sensors and a DCS system.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold a first or upper-second class degree in a relevant discipline (or equivalent overseas qualification), or a lower second plus a good Masters degree (distinction normally required).

International entry requirements by country

English language requirements

IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.

View the other English language qualifications that we accept.

If you do not currently meet the level required for your programme, we offer intensive pre-sessional English language courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.

Selection process

Selection is based on applicants meeting the expected entry requirements, assessment of application, successful interview and suitable references where required.

Students are initially registered for a PhD with probationary status and, subject to satisfactory progress, subsequently confirmed as having PhD status.


Start date: October 2022


UK £4,596

Overseas £23,400


UK £2,298

Overseas £11,700

Start date: January 2023


UK £4,596

Overseas £23,400


UK £2,298

Overseas £11,700

Start date: April 2023


UK £4,596

Overseas £23,400


UK £2,298

Overseas £11,700

For fees payable in 2022/23, these will increase by 4 per cent, rounded up to the nearest £100 for subsequent years of study. Any start date other than October will attract a pro-rata fee for that year of entry (75 per cent for January, 50 per cent for April and 25 per cent for July).

Overseas students applying for 2022 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% rounded up to the nearest £100.

View a complete list of all fees for our research programmes.

Additional costs

There are additional costs that you can expect to incur when studying at Surrey. Find out more.


A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course.

How to apply

If you are applying for a studentship to work on a particular project, you should enter the details of the specific project that you wish to apply for rather than your own research proposal.

More information on the application process.

Code of practice for research degrees

Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees. The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.

Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF).

Terms and conditions

When you accept an offer of a place at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to comply with our policies and regulations, and our terms and conditions. These terms and conditions are provided in two stages: first when we make an offer and second when students who have accepted their offers register to study at the University. View our offer terms and conditions and our generic registration terms and conditions (PDF) as a guide as to what to expect.
Please note: our offer terms and conditions will be available in the September of the calendar year prior to the year in which you begin your studies. Our registration terms and conditions will vary to take into account specifics of your course.


This online prospectus has been prepared and published in advance of the academic year to which it applies. The University of Surrey has used its reasonable efforts to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content or additional costs) may occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for a course with us. Read more.

Course location and contact details

Campus location

Stag Hill

Stag Hill is the University's main campus and where the majority of our courses are taught. 

University of Surrey Admissions
Contact Admissions Team

University of Surrey
Surrey GU2 7XH