Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Doctoral Training Programme

Available projects


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Please note that the list of projects available will be increased over the next few weeks so please check frequently. Project details may also be subject to change before September 2018.




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Routes to novel pesticides: production of alkaloid defensive chemicals in biocontrol ladybird species

Use of next-generation sequencing techniques and bioinformatic analysis to identify and characterise alkaloid synthesis pathways in Adalia bipunctata (Nottingham). Training in analytical chemistry techniques for the analysis of ladybird alkaloids – GC, HPLC, GC-MS, quantification and purification. Use of biosynthetic substrates (unlabelled, labelled) for functional characterisation of the ladybird alkaloid biosynthesis genes (Rothamsted)

Pharmaceutical drug discovery using fungi

Fungi are treasure chests for metabolites with various biological activities than can be used in pharmaceutical applications. While hundreds of novel fungal genomes have been sequenced, exploitation of their pharmaceutical potential is difficult, since most metabolites are not produced under standard laboratory conditions. The overall aim of this PhD is to identify novel small molecules from fungal sources.

BRAZIL PARTNERSHIP: Improving the characteristics of industrial relevant strains using Forward Genetic Approaches and Next Generation Sequencing

The Synthetic Biology Research Centre (SBRC) at Nottingham are working with Brazilian partners to develop new second generation biofuel process. In this project forward genetics and high throughput robotics will be used to isolate strains with altered productivity and product tolerance.

The sustainable production of chemicals from biomass using a thermophilic chassis and Synthetic Biology approaches

The Synthetic Biology Research Centre (SBRC) at Nottingham are working with the University of Dundee and York and two industrial partners to develop a robust platform for the biological conversion of biomass into fuels and chemicals. In this project we will use a thermophilic bacterial chassis to make the intended products.

The sustainable production of chemicals from C1 feedstocks using Synthetic Biology approaches

The future sustainable production of chemicals and fuels from non-petrochemical resources and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are two of the greatest challenges facing society. Developing economic processes based on lignocellulosic (biomass) as a feedstock is, however, proving extremely challenging. An alternative strategy is to use methanol, a cheap non-food substrate that may be derived from 'cleaner' non-petroleum gaseous sources, or from bio renewable or atmospheric sources. Here we wish to exploit the progress we have made in developing effective genetic systems in the methanol-utilising acetogens Eubacterium limosum and Acetobacterium woodii to optimise the pathways needed to make important platform chemicals.

Proteins in Alien Environments - towards enzyme activity in non-aqueous solvent systems.

There are a number of enzymes of potential industrial interest that can be expressed from Halophilic bacteria, with the primary advantage that they are functional in molar concentrations of salt and at high concentrations of organic solvents.

Bioproduction of acetaldehyde as a no-distill route to ethanol and as a platform chemical from a C1 feedstock.

The laboratory rotation will entail the biochemical synthesis of acetaldehyde in a C1 metabolising host organism, Cupriavidus necator. The strain construction will impart familiarity with molecular biology and systems biology approaches. The platform chemical will be produced using both sugar and CO2 / H2 as a feedstock.

A radical approach to biorefining - Radical SAM enzymes

There is currently little computational data available for SAM-radical enzymes, and advances in this area will help us to better understand the opportunities and limitations for these enzymes.

Evaluating the influence of complex process environments on biocatalyst activity

Biotechnology applied to the treatment of polluted water resources can play an important role in addressing the challenge of water security and ensuring suitable water quality for reuse. New applications are now being investigated within the water industry to address the global emerging issue of bioactive chemicals e.g. pharmaceuticals and steroids. Utilisation of enzymes to remediate bioactive chemicals allows society to reclaim and reuse water as a resource.

Efficient biochemical production of isoprene using a synthetically designed pathway from a C1 feedstock

The laboratory rotation will entail the biochemical synthesis of a precursor to isoprene in a C1 metabolising host organism, Cupriavidus necator. The strain construction will impart familiarity with molecular biology and systems biology approaches. The platform chemical will be produced using both sugar and CO2 / H2 as a feedstock.

Genetic engineering of pyruvate decarboxylase to enhance acetaldehyde production in C. necator

The overall project aim is to produce acetaldehyde in Cupriavidus necator, using CO2 as a feedstock. The pyruvate carbon overflow produced under nutrient limiting conditions will be converted to acetaldehyde using over-expressed pyruvate decarboxylase secreted into the periplasm

Engineering reaction control in radical SAM enzymes

Radical SAM enzymes are known for their unique reactions and thermodynamic reaction control of crucial radical reaction steps. Detailed understanding of the factors responsible for this reaction control, would enable us to rationally alter and redesign these enzymes and their reactions.

Hybrid chemo-enzymatic catalysts for carbon-carbon bond formation

The engineering of enzymes to contain non-natural functionalities can expand their reaction scope towards useful transformations, not encountered in nature. Chemical catalysts based on non-natural transition metals can be introduced into proteins, to create hybrid chemo-enzymatic catalysts with synergistic properties.

Use of Ionic Liquids for biomaterials based 3D printing

3D-printing has gained a lot of interest, particularly in fields where bespoke and personalised items are required.This can include areas such as medical implants and micro-3D-fluidic reactors. One aspect holding up both much broader and accessible implementation of 3D-printing, and also its utility for bio-based systems, is the restricted range of materials that can be printed. Biopolymers suhc as silks, keratins and lignocellulose, in particular, suffer from poor solubility in both water and organic solvents that have, to date, limited their utility in the processes required for printing.

Making vitamin H sustainable - developing biotin overproduction approaches

The radical SAM enzyme BioB is a known slow step in biotin production. One mini-project will focus on obtaining metagenomic data from Rothamsted samples to expand the known range of bioB variants.

Microwave pretreatment of waste biomass for fuel and chemical production

The rotation will be a multidisciplinary challenge, split between Engineering and the School of Life Sciences. Two weeks will be spent within Engineering to gain experience of pre-treatment technologies and to process a number of ligno-cellulosic biomass samples. The remaining four weeks will be spent within Life Sciences analysing the products and by-products from the pretreatment processes carried out within engineering.

Pentose to products: towards a sustainable bioeconomy

Most of the current bio-based routes to manufacture chemicals utilise glucose. Unfortunately, glucose is produced mainly from human foodstuffs and its utilisation for chemicals and fuels is becoming unsustainable. C5 sugars such as xylose and arabinose, readily available from non-food, agricultural wastes, provide a much better alternative.
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Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Doctoral Training Programme

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

Tel: +44 (0) 115 8466946