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Research Assistant/Associate in Prototyping for Thinking Soils

Requisition ID:  5417

Newcastle, GB

Contract Type:  Fixed Term
Working Pattern:  Full Time
Posted Date:  18-Nov-2020


We are a world class research-intensive university. We deliver teaching and learning of the highest quality. We play a leading role in economic, social and cultural development of the North East of England. Attracting and retaining high-calibre people is fundamental to our continued success.


Salary: Research Assistant: £28,331 - £30,046 per annum

            Research Associate: £30,942 - £31,866 per annum


Closing Date: 3 January 2021

The Role


We are seeking a dynamic and creative Researcher to join the Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment and the Thinking Soils Project with an interest in developing a demonstrator and prototype of our Thinking Soils System.  Imagine a column of sand saturated with billions of engineered bacteria cells. As a force is applied to the top of the column, bacteria in the sand detect an increase in pressure. The bacteria respond by synthesising a new biological material to bind the grains together and resist the load. The resulting structure would consist of a material where sand grains are only cemented where the forces through the material require. Our research proposes a proof of concept to show how we might design a manufacturing process where the material itself acts as manufacturer and designer, modelling and responding to its environment.  An initial pilot project was run, which attracted wide coverage across the scientific and popular media, including Science, The Times and Mail Online.


We are recruiting for a 10 month Research Assistant/Associate who will lead on the development of our final prototype demonstrator.  We are looking for creative, highly motivated and adaptable researcher with prototyping skills and a knowledge of biomineralization. Good communication skills are also a must – along with the ability to work with interdisciplinary teams. You will join one of the UKs leading groups on Biotechnology for the Built Environment and work alongside Designers, Engineers and Biologists. 


For more information of the research group and projects see our websites:




The post is full-time, fixed-term from Jan 2021 – October 2021.

Informal queries to: Professor Martyn Dade-Robertson (martyn.dade-robertson@ncl.ac.uk)

Key Accountabilities


  1. Lead on the development of the Thinking Soils demonstrator and prototype
  2. Communicate across the Thinking Soils project to audiences outside academia
  3. Work closely with colleagues in different disciplines across the Thinking Soils project
  4. Build relationships with other international researchers, external bodies and industry partners
  5. Publish original research at international conferences, exhibitions and in peer reviewed journals
  6. Help develop new funding bids and support the the next stage of Thinking Soils


The Person

Knowledge, Skills and Experience


  • Demonstrable design or engineering skills with evidence of prototyping or experience developing experimental apparatus in civil or mechanical engineering 
  • Skills and knowledge of microbiology and biomineralization (Desirable)
  • Experience communicating research or complex data and ideas through diagrams and other graphics (Desirable)
  • Experience publishing research through papers and/or design practice outputs (Desirable)
  • Excellent creative design and graphical skill demonstrable through a design portfolio (Desirable)
  • Experience in mechanical properties testing (Desirable)


Attributes and Behaviour


  • Demonstrable interest in new and emerging technologies
  • Good communication skills and ability to describe complex concepts to non-experts
  • Good team working ability, in particular an ability to work productively with people across many different disciplines
  • Flexibility and adaptability to respond to the needs of the project
  • Willingness to travel internationally




  • 2.1 Undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in Architecture, Engineering or related design fields 
  • Masters degree (or equivalent experience) Architecture, Engineering or similar
  • PhD for Associate level (or equivalent experience for Assistant level) in Creative Design related field which might include Graphic Design/Communication, Architecture (Desirable)



Newcastle University is committed to being a fully inclusive Global University which actively recruits, supports and retains staff from all sectors of society.  We value diversity as well as celebrate, support and thrive on the contributions of all our employees and the communities they represent.  We are proud to be an equal opportunities employer and encourage applications from everybody, regardless of race, sex, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, age, disability, gender identity, marital status/civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, as well as being open to flexible working practices.


Requisition ID: 5417