PhD scholarships

Heriot-Watt University offers 1 research scholarship opportunity in the School of Textiles and Design from September 2024. In addition, we consider self-funded applicants’ own projects proposals in the areas listed on this website.


Applicants must normally hold a Masters degree or equivalent in a cognate area by Autumn 2024. Selection will be based on academic excellence and research potential, and all short-listed applicants will be interviewed (in person or via Microsoft Teams) in June 2024. The James Watt scholarship covers UK fees only but applications from exceptional overseas applicants with match funding to make up the difference in overseas fees may be considered.

Level of award

The JWS scholarship offers an annual stipend payment of at least £19,237 per year for full time students and cover UK tuition fees for 3.5 years.

At this stage, we invite applications to the following projects, using the webportal or email the supervisors listed below each project for further information.

The deadline for applications to the scholarship is June 14 2024, with online interviews scheduled for the week after that.

School of Textiles and Design 

PhD Scholarship opportunities 2024

Accelerated Ageing: understanding how to increase the lifespan of textiles

Globally 100 billion garments are made every year, one third of which are never sold. Textiles make up only 4% of Scottish household waste, but these same textiles are responsible for 32% of the greenhouse gases associated with the production of household products consumed/discarded in Scotland. Thus, with 8 times the average product’s carbon footprint, textiles and fashion should not be considered as disposable, no matter how cheap they are to buy. Evidence suggests that garments sold are worn an average 7-10 times before they are discarded. Therefore, large parts of the Fashion Industry have evolved to design garments for short-term use (some brands design garments to last fewer than 3 wear and wash cycles). 

Consumers often see well-made products as over-priced because they don’t understand the production costs, processes and quality control measures in the product and because the market is flooded with unsustainable and unethically priced fast fashion. Some brands capitalise on this lack of transparency so that expensive price tags do not necessarily indicate sustainably or ethically made quality products, marketing budgets and economies of scale further complicate the picture. However, other brands, who are trying to act responsibly and make good quality products, currently have no way of artificially ageing textile materials to establish their likely longevity let alone any reliable method to communicate the success of their efforts in terms of how well the product will last. Therefore, it is almost impossible for consumers to discern whether a garment on the shopping rail in front of them will last well or fall apart after a few washes. This limits consumers ability to shop wisely and sustainably, even when they are motivated to do so.  

The proposed project would establish the mechanisms for textile ageing and establish methods for accelerating that ageing process.

Dr Lisa MacIntyre, Associate Professor, School of Textiles and Design
Dr Danmei Sun, Associate Professor, School of Textiles and Design

Please email for further information.

Design and Development for Continuous Blood Pressure Monitoring to Enhance the Well-being of Aging Individuals

Aging populations face unique health challenges, with hypertension being a significant concern due to its prevalence and associated risks. Continuous monitoring of blood pressure is crucial for effective healthcare management, but current wearable blood pressure monitors can be uncomfortable, inaccurate, and costly. Moreover, their designs often fail to meet users’ needs and are particularly unintelligible for older adults. Smart wearable garments with feedback technology offer a promising solution, providing a diverse array of platforms for the development of smart sensors to enable continuous monitoring and easy communication.

This novel SMARTWear system was successfully established in DY’s MoodWear project at RiFLEX. In this proposal, we delve into the integration of blood pressure monitoring sensors into garment design, situated at the intersection of smart healthcare technology, aging demographics, and user-centric design principles. This research seeks to explore garment design in relation to smart sensing material aspects tailored to meet the specific needs of aging individuals, with an emphasis on comfort, aesthetics, usability, acceptability, and accessibility throughout the development process.

Participating in this research endeavour, the PhD student will join the SMART Wearable Electronics Group (SWEG) at RiFLEX, gaining interdisciplinary experience, honing practical skills in smart garment design and user-centric approach, as well as contributing to innovative solutions for healthcare challenges.

Dr Danying Yang, Assistant Professor, School of Textiles and Design.
Prof George Stylios, Director of RIFLEX.
Dr Akshaya Aliyana, Research Associate, School of Textiles & Design.

Please email for further information.

Development of High-Performance Fabric TENGs with Aligned Nanofiber Integration and Plasma-Aided Inkjet Printed Bimetallic Nanoparticle Electrodes

In the domain of wearable technology, the development of sustainable and high-performance energy devices is important. This proposal sets out to pioneer the development of advanced fabric triboelectric nanogenerators (F- TENGs), integrating aligned nanofibers and plasma-aided inkjet-printed bimetallic nanoparticle electrodes, marking a significant stride in wearable technology innovation.

By using plasma-aided inkjet printing and portable nanofiber spinning techniques, this project enables the precise deposition of bimetallic conductive nanoparticles and nanofibers onto a variety of fabric platforms. Further, the utilization of rapid post-print plasma treatment on bimetallic nanoparticles offers a low- temperature alternative that substantially enhances conductivity and surface morphology. Aligned nanofibers play a pivotal role in augmenting the surface-to-volume ratio, particularly catering to the contact separation mode of fabric TENGs.

The Ph.D. candidate will have the opportunity to closely interact with researchers from Norfolk State University  and join a collaborative team of researchers, including 15 postdoctoral fellows and Ph.D. students, under the auspices of the EPSRC- funded TENGs project.

Prof George Stylios, Director of RIFLEX.
Dr Danying Yang, Assistant Professor, School of Textiles and Design.

Please email for further information.

Novel Self-Heating Fabrics Enabling Self-Sustainable Release of Antimicrobial Agents

SMART textile materials with self-heating and antibacterial properties have increased attention worldwide since the COVID- 19 epidemic. Fabric, with its porous fibrous structure, serves as a natural breeding ground for viruses and bacteria, posing threats to both human health and fabric integrity.

Self-heating textiles offer a promising solution for developing durable and efficient antibacterial fabrics for prolonged use. The objective extends beyond mere warmth provision; it includes the controlled release of antibacterial agents, facilitated by tribo-charged conductive core spun nano yarns. Conductive polymers, metals, and carbon materials are ideally incorporated into core-spun yarns to establish conducting pathways to an external power source for heat generation. However, dependence on portable batteries adds bulk and necessitates frequent recharging or replacement, undermining sustainability goals. Achieving self-heating capabilities in textiles through mechanical friction and the release of antibacterial agents via nanofibers represents a groundbreaking advancement in smart textiles, forming the core focus of this ambitious project.

The primary objective of the Ph.D. candidate is to utilize electrospinning and double spinning yarning technology to create nanocomposite-nanofiber-based core spun yarns. This technology is already established within RiFLEX, HWU, as part of the ongoing EPSRC research project (EP/V003380/1), specifically focused on advancing Next Generation Fabric Triboelectric Nanogenerators (F-TENGs), and the candidate will collaborate with a diverse team comprising 15 postdoctoral fellows and Ph.D. students under the auspices of the EPSRC-funded TENGs project.

Prof George Stylios, Director of RIFLEX.
Dr Akshaya Aliyana, Research Associate, School of Textiles & Design.

Please email for further information.

Revolutionizing Textile Industry Sustainability: Transforming Waste into Sustainable Fibres

With the global population projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, the textile industry faces a crucial challenge: meeting the escalating demand for fibres while tackling environmental concerns head-on.

Traditional methods of cotton farming and wood pulp production, essential for cellulose-based textiles, have proven unsustainable due to their heavy reliance on water, pesticides, and deforestation. In response, our aim is to explore innovative pathways by repurposing discarded cotton and cellulose rayon into high-quality cellulose fibres. Our efforts entail developing efficient techniques for cellulose extraction and dye recycling, with a firm commitment to reducing ecological footprints.

Through thorough characterisation processes, we will assess the suitability of the resulting cellulose fibres for various textile applications, providing a sustainable alternative to conventional options. This initiative holds significant promise in addressing the urgent need for sustainable textile materials while aligning with strategic priorities such as fostering circular economies and achieving net-zero emissions, both locally and globally.

Dr Danmei Sun, Associate Professor, School of Textiles and Design.
Dr Lisa MacIntyre, Associate Professor, School of Textiles and Design.

Please email for further information.

Transition Design for Textile and Fashion Manufacture

How can a transition design lab engage stakeholders to vision and design a local, just and resilient transition to net zero, regenerative and sustainable cultures in textiles? The research will develop expertise in the effectiveness of processes related to transition methodologies and make a significant contribution to our understanding of the wicked problem of manufacturing industries adapting to the planetary need of radically driving down consumption.

The successful candidate will be based in the school of Textiles and Design and collaborate with colleagues and peers in the NetZero+ Global research Institute at Heriot-Watt and the Island Centre for Net Zero/ Orkney in the School of of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society.

Dr Britta Kalkreuter, Director Research, School of Textiles and Design.
Prof Susan Krumdiek, Director of the Island Centre for Net Zero at the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society

Please email for further information.

Unlocking the Business Value of Design for the Second Quarter of the 21st Century

The business value of design for agencies, governments, charities, and organisations can often be overlooked or underused rather than maximised. In companies or departments where design is focused on products and services, part of the challenge is that there remains no clear way to connect design to business health, which brings reluctance to use often scarce resources to invest in design (McKinsey, 2023).

Design is a collaborator, product, service and system in the modern world. As a collaborator, the creative process and tools, combined with the designer's mindset, facilitate ideas across discipline boundaries and transform how we live, work, play, and interact with the world, and this PhD explores how we should communicate Design as a collaborator to enable more impactful engagement with business and other disciplines.

This PhD opportunity will be in the Design research group at Heriot-Watt University, Galashiels campus, with annual field trips to the Dubai campus. The project will use Heriot-Watt's different campus locations (rural and urban) and develop a global design leadership comparison study.

This work is part of a broader collaborative research practice with design as an agent of social, economic and environmental transformation, where industry and international collaborators explore the business value of design for the second quarter of the 21st century. Regular interactions with the industry and the opportunity for study exchange visits with HWU campuses will exist.

Prof. Louise Valentine, Head of the School of Textiles and Design, Dubai Campus.
Prof Fiona Robson, Head of the School of Social Sciences / Edinburgh Business School, Dubai.
Dr Euan Winton, Assistant Professor, School of Textiles and Design, Scotland.

For candidates who are able to self-fund their studies, or who have already secured a Scholarship elsewhere, we can facilitate PhDs in the following areas:

  • Sustainable business models for the fashion and textile industries
  • Sustainable textile materials
  • Design Pedagogy
  • Culture and heritage
  • Nano-textiles
  • Functional textiles innovation and evaluation
  • Immersive design
  • Smart/functional polymers, fibres and fabrics
  • Engineering design 2D/3D fabric structures for various applications
  • Modelling of textile materials, structures and prediction of properties
  • Micro/Nano encapsulation of PCM for thermal management textiles and clothing
  • High velocity impact mechanisms of flexible materials and structures
  • Plasma assisted technology for surface modification and low-carbon-emission processes
  • Textile dyeing, printing and finishing for added functionality and value
  • Design for assistive living

You can contact us about research in these topics. If you have a research proposal related to any aspect of technical textiles, sustainable design or cultural heritage we would be delighted to discuss it further with you.