Environmental microbiology and biotechnology
Our environmental microbiology research focuses on the vast number of unknown microbes. This large microbial diversity is exploited in our Biotechnology research to provide new antibiotics and other important enzymes and molecules. Our Biotechnology research aims to provide the technology needed to harness microbes for human benefit.
Our research tackles some of the most important issues facing the planet – from responsible consumption and clean water, to food security and climate action.
Most microbes have never been grown in the laboratory, or even been fully described – and often the focus is solely on pathogenic species. We're studying microbes that can break down complex polymers and chemicals, such as lignin and plastics.
We're exploring the symbiotic interactions between host and bacteria in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and the control of microbial growth and degradation. We're looking into biofilm formation and control, and studying antimicrobial resistance gene transfer mechanisms, to help counter 1 of the most serious problems facing humanity.
Our research primarily focuses on the following topics
- Environmental microbiology
- Antimicrobial resistance
- Biosurfactant fermentation
- Bioprocess development
- Biosynthesis of nanomaterials
Facilities and research methods
We're home to exceptional facilities for protein expression, purification, downstream bioprocessing, analytical ultracentrifugation and metabolomics. We have a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) and Atomic Force Microscope (AFM).
We use the following methods in our research:
- DNA-based microbial community profiling, Fluorescent in situ hybridisation, DNA stable-isotope probing (DNA-SIP) and other functional detection methodologies.
- Condition-specific engineering of Pseudomonas metabolism for rhamnolipid biosurfactant production
- The design and application of machine learning and multi-level optimisation algorithms to predict the optimal conditions for using lignin-derived carbon sources for optimal rhamnolipid biosynthesis
- Genome-scale comparative analysis of the metabolomic and lipidomic landscape of selected Pseudomonas species
- Application-specific qualitative and quantitative methods for bio-based products related to food, cosmetic and biopharmaceuticals
Collaborations and funding
We work extensively with the University's Centre for Enzyme Innovation. We also collaborate with partners in industry and academia. Our recent partners include the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Historic England, the Mary Rose Trust, the Centre for Process and Innovation (CPI), Durham University, University College London, TeeGene Biotech Ltd, and the National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC).
Our work has received funding from organisations including the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and the European Union (EU) – and our research is published by leading industry publications, such as the International Society for Microbial Ecology, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, FEMS Microbial Ecology, and Frontiers in Microbiology.
Biofuels (2017). Vol. 8, No. 2, 261–271, Kamaljeet Sekhon Randhawa, Louise E. Relph, Michael C. Armstrong, Pattanathu K. S. M. Rahman
Exploiting Algae and marine biomass for IBBE, (2017), Dr Pattanathu Rahman, Saul Purton, Jeff Green
Discover our areas of expertise
Through our biodiversity and evolution research, we're expanding our knowledge of the diverse organisms that exist across the Tree of Life – from microbes to whales.
We explore new ways to treat genetic disorders, identifying novel targets for drugs and searching for advances in treatment that could impact the lives of millions.
We're examining how humans impact ecosystems, and developing new ways to assess and counteract our impact on the environment.
Through our research in marine science, we're working to improve the marine environment for future generations, and to make marine activities more sustainable.
Interested in a PhD in Biological Sciences?
Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Biological Sciences postgraduate research degrees page.