A Robotic Soft Matter Scientist: Transforming the Sustainability of Personal Care Products


The world needs to increase the sustainability of its consumer goods without compromising on quality. We have recently shown that by complexing certain active ingredients (the often-expensive molecules in a formulation that give improved performance) with metal ions, we can incorporate them into a product as solid particles in a way that drastically reduces waste.

In this project, you will develop an experimental platform that marries robotics with cutting-edge techniques in data science and computer vision. Your work will feed directly into Unilever’s Climate Transition Action Plan to achieve a 42% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from its formulations by 2030.

You will delve into the formation of metal-active complexes and their evolution into solid suspensions using computer vision, light scattering, and microscopy to study how these systems develop over time. The increased throughput and digital insight gained from your automated approach will enable the application of cutting-edge machine learning techniques to interpret your experiments. Your work will be further underpinned by developing a rigorous understanding of the fundamental physical chemistry governing your system, and you will have the opportunity to develop theoretical and/or computational models of the processes you are studying in the lab.

You will undertake this 4-year project as part of the University of Liverpool’s Doctoral Training Centre in Digital and Automated Materials Chemistry. You will be based in the Materials Innovation Factory (MIF), the largest industry-academia colocation in UK physical science, and work in close collaboration with scientists at Unilever R&D in Port Sunlight. We welcome applicants from a broad range of sciences and engineering backgrounds, including Physics, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Robotics, Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, or related disciplines. Some familiarity with basic programming, especially Python, is essential.


Applicants are advised to apply as soon as possible with applications considered when received and no later than 30/06/2024

Please apply by completing the online postgraduate research application form here: How to apply for a PhD - University of Liverpool 

Please ensure you include the project title and reference number CCPR129 when applying.


We want all of our staff and Students to feel that Liverpool is an inclusive and welcoming environment that actively celebrates and encourages diversity. We are committed to working with students to make all reasonable project adaptations including supporting those with caring responsibilities, disabilities or other personal circumstances. For example, if you have a disability you may be entitled to a Disabled Students Allowance on top of your studentship to help cover the costs of any additional support that a person studying for a doctorate might need as a result.




Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

The EPSRC funded Studentship will cover full tuition fees of £4,786 per year and pay a maintenance grant for 4 years, starting at the UKRI minimum of £19,237 pa. for 2024-2025. The Studentship also comes with access to additional funding in the form of a research training support grant which is available to fund conference attendance, fieldwork, internships etc.
EPSRC Studentships are available to any prospective student wishing to apply including international students. Up to 30% of our cohort can comprise of international students and they will not be charged the fee difference between UK and international rate.