Current Members


Dr. Kes Gopalan

Kesavan GopalanPrior to joining the University of Bath in November 2014 as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Kes completed a PhD degree in Chemistry at the University of Nottingham. During the PhD, his research centred on carrying out organic reactions viz. Oxidations, Friedel-Crafts reactions, using a semi-automated continuous flow process using supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2) medium. The title of his PhD project was “Towards a Greener Synthesis of Ibuprofen”.

Kes is now part of a multidisciplinary collaborative project, “Diesel Fuel Degradation”, between the Chuck group in Chemical Engineering and with Chris Bannister in Mechanical Engineering. This project examines the effects of degradation of diesel fuel under real world conditions leading to a testable hypothesis and novel methods to offset this effect.

In his free time Kes enjoys socialising with friends and playing sports. You can contact Kes via email at or on his twitter account @g_kesavan.

Dr. Fabio Santomauro

Fabio obtained his PhD from the University of Naples “Federico II”. His PhD project involved the study of microbial biodiversity for the optimization of the fermentation of two typical wines, Aglianico and Fiano. As well as this, Fabio has worked on the industrial optimization of fruit juice production using biotechnology. From these experiences he became interested in biodiversity and sustainable industrial processes based on unusual microbes and has carried on this work in the Chuck Group, which he joined in 2012.

Joseph Donnelly

Joe obtained his PhD from the University of Bath iin the Chuck Group before deciding to stay on. Joe’s Ph.D. centred around the (Bio)catalytic synthesis of a novel diesel fuel substitute from industrially produced fermentation broths, and their sustainability and viability as determined through Life Cycle Assessment.

Joe is currently investigating a novel approach to pyrolysis in the lab and pilot scale.

In his free time Joe enjoys socialising with friends, playing sports and playing guitar (badly). You can contact Joe via email at or on his twitter account @joedonne1.

PhD Students

Nur Rinah Abd Ghaffar

rinaRina graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA in August 1996 with a B.Sc. in Biology, where her interest in biotechnology was fist sparked after a semester of a genetics lab course. Rina went on to pursue a M.Sc. in Conservation Biology in 1997 at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (National University of Malaysia). Following this, she lectured for 10 years at the Centre for Foundation Studies, International Islamic University in Malaysia. Some of her former students are now also undertaking postgraduate studies in the UK – Rina hopes that she inspired them in some ways to do this! She has always wanted to pursue a PhD in biotechnology, and fortunately the government of Malaysia has finally granted her the sponsorship to fulfil this dream.

Away from the lab bench, Rina loves to travel & enjoys cooking when it is not a chore. She has had the opportunity to travel around the east of America and Asia over the past few years.  She has however only visited a few cities in Europe, and thus is looking forward to discovering new places.  She is also the proud mother of a pair of cheeky kids, who are also showing an interest in Science & Technology.

Sonia Raikova

“Sonia graduated from the University of Bristol with a MSci in Chemistry in 2013. After a year working and travelling, she joined the Centre for Doctoral Raikova_Sofia csct pictureTraining in the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies in 2014, completing her MRes in 2015. During this time, she was involved in a project with the Chuck Group examining fuel production from algae previously used for the remediation of metal-contaminated mine waste.

Sonia is now working on her PhD, which is focused around designing a UK-based biorefinery for the conversion of seaweed to fuels and fertiliser using hydrothermal liquefaction. In addition to experimental work, the project will involve a life cycle assessment aspect to assess the overall environmental impact of the biorefinery operation.

Outside of university, Sonia enjoys cooking, films, and the occasional (very) leisurely cycle, and can be contacted on”

Rob Hicks

rob hicksRob graduated from the University of Exeter with a BSc in Biosciences in 2012 and has since been working in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries. After a time at Shell Global Solutions, where he investigated the use of synthetic biology for the creation of novel metabolic pathways for biofuel production, he joined UCB, where he expressed recombinant antibody fragments in bacteria for the development of novel therapeutic drugs.

With a keen interest in biotechnology, Rob’s PhD research now focuses on utilising renewable feedstocks to enhance lipid production within the oleaginous yeast Metschnikowia pulcherrima. Whilst this project will consider various features, particular attention will be given to optimising oxygen delivery into the bioreactor in order to enhance the economic viability of the bioprocess.

 In his spare time, Rob enjoys playing anything remotely competitive and invariably injuring himself, as well as following Newcastle United as they yo-yo between the Premiership and the Championship.

Felix Abeln2664_abeln_f

Felix initially studied Mechanical Engineering and then specialised in Chemical Engineering during his BSc at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. During his degree, he also undertook an exchange year at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and an internship at BASF SE. After graduation, he continued his studies with an MSc in Chemical Engineering at RWTH Aachen University, in which he undertook an exchange semester at RMIT University in Melbourne. He is very interested in the area of Biochemical Engineering, focusing on fermentation technologies. His PhD involves the cultivation of the yeast Metschnikowia pulcherrima, aiming to develop a food-grade lipid. Felix enjoys sports, especially skiing, football and badminton. He can easily be bribed with a proper Black Forest gateau.

Sukanya Hongthongsukanya-chris-chuck-group

Sukanya graduated from the University of Birmingham with MSc in Advanced Chemical Engineering in 2016, her project involved the generation of innovative biocompatible material for cell growth by microfluidics. After three months travelling, she moved to the University of Bath working as a PhD student in the Chuck group. Here, her work is assessing to the suitability of different biomass sources in liquid phase pyrolysis: and aiming to scale this to a continuous production pilot plant.

Outside of work Sukanya like to travel, explore other cultures, and meet new people. She also like cooking Thai food, playing badminton, and watching movies.

André Prates Pereira

profileAndré graduated from Instituto Superior Técnico, Lisbon, Portugal with an MSc in Chemical Engineering. With an early passion for chemical engineering, André’s interest in renewable energy and biofuels was sparked first when he took a biofuels course during his degree. The last six months of his degree were spent doing an internship in C2P2 Laboratory in Lyon, France.

André’s PhD research is focused on the optimised production of 5-HMF and furfural from spent coffee grounds, and to assess the viability of a biorefinery based on this feedstock.

In his free time André enjoys sports, football in particular, socialising with friends, watching movies, reading and travelling.

Masters Students

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Marco Piccini

Marco completed his Bachelor and Master degrees in Sustainable Chemistry at the University of Venice, Italy. His research projects were focused on the use of dimethylcarbonate (DMC) as green reagent. In his BSc he studied the reactivity of DMC with sugars (isosorbide) to produce renewable solvents and monomers, while in the MSc he investigated the reactivity of the carbonate analogues of mustard gases. He spent a semester at Queen’s University Belfast within the Erasmus Programme. After his degree, Marco went to the Politecnico of Milan to study the application of biobased molecules to the modification of graphene and carbon nanotubes. He is currently part of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Chemical Technologies, University of Bath. His project in the Chuck group involves the utilization of algal biomass for combined heavy metal remediation and biofuel production.

Undergraduate Students

Starting Feb 2018