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An investigation into the genomic and proteomic effects of heavy metal exposure to the hyperaccumulator plants Eichhornia crassipes and Pistia stratiotes

Project Description

Post summary

This project sets out to gain a fundamental understanding of the mechanisms by which South American water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) and water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) hyperaccumulate heavy metals from their surroundings. In uncovering this phenomenon, the ultimate aim of the project is to explore how the molecular machinery of both plants could be exploited in an Irish setting, with the aim of reducing heavy metal burden to society; Heavy metal contamination of watercourses used by food producing organisms and humans is a world-wide health and societal issue, and the aims of this project will effectively explore green approaches to tackle this problem.

“Heavy metals” refers to a group of metals that are associated with the contamination of water bodies, which enter the environment as a result of both anthropogenic pressures and natural processes. Symptoms of climate change are also predicted to accelerate the release of heavy metals, including those that are currently trapped in Irish marine and river bed sediment, back into our environment.

Revealing the intracellular response of E. crassipes and P. stratiotes to heavy metals will improve how they are used in their native ecosystem, and also how they may be adopted effectively and handled appropriately in an Irish context. The project will also explore the use of advanced biotechnology to transgenically modify bacteria and microalgae to produce novel metal-binding proteins from these plants for applications in targeted decontamination of water in the Northern Hemisphere.

Standard duties and responsibilities of the scholarship

• Working as part of a project team and to engage with other team members on projects related to water quality.
• Regular communication with the Research Supervisory Team.
• Undergraduate mentoring.
• Teaching in line with scholarship requirements.
• Training and professional development as required by WIT’s Structured PhD Programme.
• Completing tasks required for the project dissemination strategy, including presentation of work at group team meetings.

Funding Notes

Stipend: €12,000
Fees: €4,500
Research costs: €2,000

Further information

For any informal queries, please contact David O’Neill by email on .

For queries relating to the application and admission process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions Office via email or telephone +353 (0)51 302883.

Website: View Website

Application procedure

Please download the Research Postgraduate Application Form from the WIT Website and return completed applications to quoting WIT_PhD_2019_22 in the email subject line. Please note that paper submissions will not be accepted.
Any queries relating to the application process should be emailed to

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