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Developing a carbazole-base biosensor for the measurement of methacrylate intermediates

Project Description

Methacrylate (MA) is an organic compound and is produced industrially on a large scale as a precursor.[1] Over 3 million tons of MA are produced annually. MAs have numerous applications, including benign coatings, consumer electronics and medical devices.[1] Currently MAs are mainly prepared using fossil carbon feedstocks, the process of which is considered by many as non-sustainable for the future. Therefore, there is an undiminishing need to allow a safer and greener synthetic strategy in industry. In this respect, microbial fermentation and synthetic biology approaches to produce MAs or derivatives is an attractive option. Ingenza Ltd, under contracted work agreed by Lucite International, the leading industrial position in the sector of MA, has built prototype microbial strains with alkyl methacrylate production capacity. In this project, we are aiming at developing a high throughput methodology that enables in vivo quantification and monitoring for the presence of methacryl-CoA species in the bespoke pathway. The project directly addresses the industrial needs and will allow the PhD student to be immersed with a multidisciplinary training, including chemical synthesis, enzymology, molecular biology, synthetic biology, biotransformation and industrial biotechnology.

The appointed student will be in placement in the world-leading biotechnology company, Ingenza Ltd for at least 3 months during the study.

IBioIC will maintain overall management of the project. IBioIC will monitor the research progresses every six months, offer regular training courses and organise annual research conferences for the IBioIC-funded research student cohort. The University of Aberdeen will offer research and generic skills training and the overall management of the appointed student (i.e. monitoring student progresses by 9-month report, 21-month report and final assessment of PhD viva). The supervisor team (Drs Hai Deng and Laurent Trembleau from University of Aberdeen and Dr Reuben Carr from Ingenza Ltd) will monitor the research progress in the daily basis, meet with the student every two weeks and discuss the particular research issue and provide all necessary guidance to the student during the PhD studies.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) First class or an upper second class UK honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in the subjects of microbiology or molecular biology or biochemistry or bioorganic chemistry or biocatalysis

The start date of the project is 1 October 2019


• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry
• State name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor
• State ‘IBiolC/Uni of Aberdeen’ as Intended Source of Funding
• State the exact project title on the application form

Application closing date is 12:00pm (GMT) on 29 March 2019. Applications received after this time will NOT be considered. Additionally, incomplete applications will NOT be considered. When applying please ensure all required documents are attached:

• All degree certificates and transcripts (Undergraduate AND Postgraduate MSc-officially translated into English where necessary)
• CV
• 2 References (Academic, where possible)

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr H Deng () with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ()

The start date of the project is 1 October 2019.

Funding Notes

IBioIC/University of Aberdeen fully funded PhD studentship covering 4-year maintenance stipends (£14,777 per annum) and tuition fees will be paid at the UK/EU rate of £4,260 (2018/2019 rates). Applications from International students can be accepted providing they can meet the difference between UK/EU and International Tuition Fees from their own resources and for the duration of study.


1) Bauer, Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of industrial Chemistry, 2002, Wiley-VCH;
2) Duan et al. Plos one, 2011, 6(5), e20265.
3) Agarwal et al. Org. Lett. 2015, 17, 4452;
4) Qin et al. Anal. Chem., 2012, 84, 6213;
5) Qin et al. J. Anal. At. Spectrom. 2013, 28, 877;
6) Sakano et al. J. Antibiot. 1980, 33, 684;
7) Keto, et al. J. Antibiot. 1989, 42, 1879;
8) Koma et al. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 2012, 78, 6203;
9) Miller et al. Metab. Eng.2011, 13, 544.

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