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Biocatalytic Synthesis and Degradation of Organosilicon Compounds

   Department of Chemistry

About the Project

In synthetic chemistry, there has been increasing prominence in the use of engineered enzymes to execute chemical transformations. These biocatalysts are attractive since they offer highly efficient synthesis in terms of yields and selectivity, together with an inherent environmental sustainability stemming from a minimal reliance on halogenated or metallic feedstocks.

This project will involve the investigation of biocatalytic systems in organosilicon chemistry, using enzymes from a marine sponge. These enzymes, termed the silicateins, are uniquely interesting as they catalyse a reaction that is rare in living systems, the formation of Si-O bonds. Harnessing the ability to form (and hydrolyse) these bonds from their corresponding organosilicon precursors with a high level of control would be both eco-friendly, economically valuable and enable a new range of synthetic reactions.

The research is aimed at understanding silicatein’s molecular mechanism and develop applications in the synthesis of complex molecules, polymers and materials. The successful candidate should have an interest in one or more of the following areas: bioorganic chemistry, main group chemistry, molecular biology or enzymology; and is interested in developing a range of new skills. This work will equip the successful candidate expertise that are critical for the industrial biotechnology sector – the ability to rationally engineer new, high-value biocatalysts through fundamental insights in biomolecular structure and chemical reactivity.

The successful candidate will join a growing team of multidisciplinary researchers from a range of backgrounds in chemistry and biology. The research is based at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology ( and offers state-of-the-art laboratories, instrumentation and facilities.

Academic background of candidates

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or the overseas equivalent) in chemistry, biochemistry or molecular biology (or other related area).  Candidates with experience or an interest in bioorganic chemistry or chemical biology are encouraged to apply.

Contact for further Information

Dr Lu Shin Wong,


Funding Notes

This is a PhD project for students with their own funding/scholarship in place. The fees are £32,000 GBP per annum for Overseas students, and £11,600 GBP per annum for Home students, in 2021-22.


[1] E. I. Sparkes, C. S. Egedeuzu, B. Lias, R. Sung, S. A. Caslin, S. Y. Tabatabaei Dakhili, P. G. Taylor, P. Quayle, L. S. Wong, Catalysts 2021, 11, 879.
[2] E. I. Sparkes, R. A. Kettles, C. S. Egedeuzu, N. L. Stephenson, S. A. Caslin, S. Y. Tabatabaei Dakhili, L. S. Wong, Biomolecules 2020, 10, 1209.
[3] S. Y. Tabatabaei Dakhili, S. A. Caslin, A. S. Faponle, P. Quayle, S. P. de Visser, L. S. Wong, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 2017, 114, E5285.
[4] M. B. Frampton, P. M. Zelisko, Chem. Asian. J. 2017, 12, 1153. 10.1002/asia.201700214

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