A microbial approach to solve the cadmium crisis in chocolate production

Main supervisor: Dr Gabriel Castrillo

Ecuador is the epicentre of a new cacao revolution that tries to reduce the amount of cadmium, a toxic heavy metal, from cacao beans. Different strategies have been designed to minimise the content of cadmium but none includes the analysis of the contribution of the soil microbiota in cadmium uptake and accumulation across the different plant organs. In this exciting project we will characterise the microbial diversity in Theobroma cacao, with special attention to the cacao fruit to design combinations of microbes that help us reduce the accumulation of cadmium in the beans. This project represents a unique opportunity for a PhD student to develop desirable skills ranging from microbiology, bioinformatics, metabolomic, transcriptomic to heavy metal uptake. The student will learn how to isolate and maintain bacterial strain collections, how to characterise complex plant microbiomes and how to obtain and to interpret transcriptomics, ionomics, and metabolomics data. The analysis of the data will require the acquisition of bioinformatics skills like mathematical modelling and coding. All this will be done a multidisciplinary, international, and collaborative environment.

To apply: email Dr Gabriel Castrillo with your CV and a covering letter.

Closing date: Friday 31 July 2020

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