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Bioprospecting of novel marine terpenoids with broad commercial applications (ProspecTER)


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  Dr Shane O'Reilly  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

An exciting opportunity for two PhD candidates to join a multidisciplinary international team led by Atlantic Technological University, Sligo and Dublin City University to conduct research in the area of marine natural products and bioprospecting. The ProspecTER project is funded by Science Foundation Ireland through the Frontiers for Partnership Programme (21/FFP-A/9153). Marine natural products have provided significant benefits for humanity and are fundamental if we are to create an innovative, sustainable marine sector for future generations - the ‘blue bioeconomy’. Terpenoids are isoprene-based molecules that comprise the most diverse natural products known. Discovery of terpenoids has led to revolutionary blockbuster anticancer drugs, cosmetic products and products for many other commercial applications. However, marine terpenoids have received little focus from a bioprospecting perspective. Advances in ‘OMICs’ technologies and associated computational approaches have created a significant opportunity for accelerated discovery of high-value marine terpenoids. The aim of this research is to prospect for novel terpenoid compounds with medical, veterinary and other commercial applications from marine microorganisms and microbe-dominated environments. This project will use advanced nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry approaches to screen for marine terpenoids across selected underexplored organisms and niches in Irish waters in combination with metagenomic approaches to create taxonomic and biosynthetic gene cluster libraries to elucidate what organisms produce these terpenoids. 

The project requires two PhDs student in: 

  • Position 1) Bioprospecting of novel marine terpenoids using mass spectrometry and lipidomics approaches. The successful candidate will have a role in sampling, lipid extraction and the analysis and interpretation of mass spectral datasets.  
  • Position 2) Microbial metagenomics approaches to reveal terpenoid biosynthetic and bioprospecting potential in marine microorganisms. The successful candidate will have a role in biological sampling, DNA extraction and the analysis and interpretation of genomic and metagenomic next generation sequencing datasets. 

Completed applications should be submitted to to the Research office, Atlantic Technological University Sligo Campus,

To Sean Walker at [Email Address Removed]  Closing date 5th of January 2023 before 23:00

Funding Notes

Scholarship €18,500 (4 years) and the fees will be paid
Postgraduate fees for EU and for Non-EU students will be covered by the project.
Material costs and any necessary national and international travel as part of the project will be covered by the project.
IELTS/TOEFL certificate is required for candidates applying from non-English speaking countries. ATU Sligo’s approved English Language Entry Requirements for postgraduate students is IELTS 6.0 (Overall) with no component score less than 5.5.


The candidate for ‘Position 1’ must have at least a 2.1 honours B.Sc. (essential) and/or a M.Sc. (desirable) in chemistry, analytical science, biochemistry or related disciplines. Candidates with experience in mass spectrometry instrumentation and lipidomics and associated computational tools will be considered favourably. Candidates for ‘Position 2’ must have at least a 2.1 honours B.Sc. (essential) and/or a M.Sc. (desirable) in biology, genetics, marine biology or related disciplines. Candidates with experience in bioinformatics tools and techniques, marine ecology and lipid biochemistry will be considered favourably for Position 2. Candidates for both posts must be fluent in English with excellent oral and written communication skills. A full clean driving licence is desirable. The candidates will be expected to work on their own initiative as part of a multidisciplinary and dynamic team, to work with project collaborators and to be willing to acquire the broader skills necessary for the successful completion of a PhD project.
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