HyBioSol PhD Studentship, School of Chemistry, NUI Galway

Applications are invited from suitably qualified candidates for a PhD studentship within the School of Chemistry/ChemLight group at the National University of Ireland, Galway. We are looking for a talented and highly motivated student with an interest in biotechnology, electrochemistry and photoelectocatalysis to develop a novel hybrid platform for solar energy-driven CO2 reduction to green chemicals. The position is available from 1st September 2021.

The Project:

The aim of the project is to develop and optimize a novel bio-photoelectrochemical technology, consisting of a gas diffusion biocathode and a photoanode divided by an ion exchange membrane, to convert CO2 to green fuels and chemicals using solar light as power source. The candidate will take over three-chamber hybrid cells already in operation in the lab, and will carry out, with the support of the team, a multidisciplinary approach to solve key bottlenecks including:

  • Improve CO2 capture and biological conversion to biofuels by using tailored gas diffusion cathodes, which will be modified in order to increase their specific surface;
  • Evaluate the use of highly conductive electrolytes to reduce energy losses of the cell, and assess their influence on bioelectrochemical CO2 conversion in terms of production rates, coulombic efficiency and microbial community composition and dynamics;
  • Participate in the development of a photoanode capable of delivering enough current density to drive the cathodic bioreaction with minimum external bias;
  • Operate the hybrid bioreactor equipped with the modified GDE cathode and the photoanode developed during the project.

Job Description:

The successful candidate will work under the supervision of Dr Pau Farràs (ORCID 0000-0003-3859- 2868) and Dr Paolo Dessì (ORCID 0000-0002-9935-3038) to develop a PhD project on the topic “Hybrid bio-solar cells for CO2 conversion to green chemicals”.


  • Modify gas diffusion electrodes with carbon-based materials aiming to increase the surface area available for the attachment of microorganisms; characterize and test the developed electrodes in bioelectrochemical cells;
  • Investigate highly conductive electrolytes containing high concentration of Na, K, P and Mg salts to reduce the ohmic resistance of the cell while maintaining the activity of the microorganisms;
  • Participate with the research team on the development of photoanodes for water splitting and/or oxidation of organic pollutants;
  • Develop and operate hybrid cells equipped with the gas diffusion cathode and photoanode and evaluate its performance and energy savings in comparison to bioelectrochemical cells equipped with traditional anode materials;
  • Keep appropriate records as directed and in line with University policy;
  • Contribute to the research project’s dissemination in whatever form – report, papers, chapters, book;
  • Participate and contribute to weekly meeting with the research group, as well as individual meetings with the supervisory team.

Qualifications/Skills required:

The candidate must have a MSc degree or equivalent in Engineering, Biotechnology or related disciplines. He/she must be highly motivated to perform multidisciplinary research and demonstrate excellent written/oral English and team work skills. Previous experience with bioelectrochemical systems is highly appreciated.

Essential Requirements:

  • MSc degree in Engineering, Biotechnology or related disciplines;
  • Evidence of experience in bioreactor operation;
  • Excellent English speaking and writing abilities;
  • Evidence of team working skills;
  • Eligible for enrolment in the Structured PhD in Chemistry programme at NUI Galway.

Desirable Requirements:

  • Experience in bioelectrochemical systems and/or photocatalysis;
  • Experience in bioprocess design;
  • Ability to work in a focused and supportive team and the willingness to maintain the friendly and supportive atmosphere of the group.

Employment permit restrictions apply for this category of post Salary range: PhD stipend €18,500 per annum + Academic Fees Start date: Position is available from September 2021.

Continuing Professional Development/Training:

Researchers at NUI Galway are encouraged to avail of a range of training and development opportunities designed to support their personal career development plans.

Further information on research and working at NUI Galway is available on Research at NUI Galway

Further information about ChemLight group is available at www.nuigalway.ie/chemlight.

Informal enquiries concerning the post may be made to Doctor Pau FARRÀS e-mail pau.farras@nuigalway.ie

To Apply:

Applications to include a motivation letter, CV, BSc and/or MSc diploma and contact details for two referees should be sent, via e-mail (in word or PDF only) to Dr Pau Farràs (pau.farras@nuigalway.ie) and Dr Paolo Dessì (paolo.dessi@nuigalway.ie). Please put reference number HyBiosol-PhD- scholarship in subject line of e-mail application.

Closing date for receipt of applications is 5.00 pm on Monday 31st May 2021.

Interviews are planned to be held on week starting on 7th June 2021.

All positions are recruited in line with Open, Transparent, Merit (OTM) and Competency based recruitment

National University of Ireland, Galway is an equal opportunities employer.