Funding

Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code

BIOL7930423

Department

School of Biological Sciences

Start dates

October 2023

Application deadline

6 April 2023

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD to commence in October 2023. 

The PhD will be based at the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) in the School of Biological Sciences, the University of Portsmouth and will be supervised by Dr Binuraj Menon, Professor Joy Watts and Professor Andrew Pickford

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£17,668 for 2022/23). Bursary recipients will also receive an annual contribution of £1,500 per year towards consumables, conference, project or training costs.

Programme

The work on this project could involve:

  • PhD research work at the renowned Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI), a new state-of-the-art laboratory facilities for the plastic degradation/recycle research with expert teams from across the world; joined specifically to address the plastic pollution via enzyme-enabled solutions.
  • The study of plastic degrading enzymes via Bio-physical, Bio-catalytic and Structural Biology based techniques. 
  • Investigation and study of the microbial interaction with the environment and each other, as well as their effects on degradation of anthropogenic chemicals and polymers.
  • Directed evolution, high-throughput screening and AI based computational studies to identify and evolve new generation of plastic eating enzymes.

The Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues, with around 400 million tonnes ends up in the landfills and 8 million tonnes in the aquatic environment every year. A major portion of this waste is made up of LEGO plastics (or ABS plastics) found in LEGOs, computer keyboards, wall sockets which are produced over 12.49 million metric tons worldwide per annum. These plastics are not readily biodegradable and can take up to thousands of years, necessitating an innovative biocatalytic solution to address this.

This project is build-up on our success to identify and develop several industrially viable enzymatic processes that uses plant microbiomes and natural product enzymes. At Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI), we develop enzymes that break down waste plastic into its building blocks. We engineer to make faster and efficient enzymes that otherwise takes millions of years via natural selection. Also, we have collaborated with leading Artificial intelligence (AI) researchers to help us engineer faster acting enzymes for recycling some of the world’s most polluting plastics

The main aim is to develop novel enzymatic detoxification strategies for LEGO plastics by evolving the potential enzymes we have identified. New enzymes will be discovered via studying similar biodegradation pathways from the microbes that can act on these plastics. Dr Menon has extensive experience in Bio-catalysis and enzyme mechanistic studies. Prof Watts group has a research focus on microbial diversity and in studying important interactions that can degrade organic compounds in environment. Prof Pickford group has a strong interest in studying structure, flexibility and function of enzymes that degrade man-made polymers. Thus, this project is well placed and supported by excellent supervisors and their teams at CEI to ensure the high impact outputs and best environment for the training, research and career growth of a potential PhD student.

 

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

 

You will need a first or upper second-class honours degree or a good Master’s degree in related area (such as Biochemistry/Biochemical or Biological Sciences), and be able to demonstrate good problem-solving abilities and experience with laboratory skills in Molecular Biology and/or Biochemical analysis/techniques. A good knowledge about current developments in Biocatalysis, Enzymes and Biotechnology would be a significant advantage. Also, those who with a peer-reviewed publication will be looked upon favourably (e.g., arising from Master’s, Bachelor’s, or other previous collaborative research work).

 

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Binuraj Menon (Binuraj.menon@port.ac.uk) to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code BIOL7930423 when applying.