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Dual autonomous-inducible genetic regulation for bioprocess control

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, January 12, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Dual award PhD in Synthetic and Systems Biology - Manchester and Tsinghua University.

The University of Manchester and China’s Tsinghua University have come together to offer a unique dual degree PhD programme in Synthetic and Systems Biology, with successful applicants spending four life-changing years across Manchester and Beijing. The first-of-its-kind dual award PhD programme brings together two globally-renowned institutions at the forefront of research in this area: the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) at The University of Manchester, and the Center for Synthetic and Systematic Biology (CSSB) at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.

Students will spend two years at Manchester and two years at Tsinghua University, with supervisors in both locations. At the end of the four-year full-time programme, you will receive a dual PhD, one award and two certificates.

Project Description:
Two of the current major global challenges are, i) how can we consumable more sustainably, and ii) how can we minimise environmental contamination. As modern society is hugely dependent on finite oil reserves for the supply of fuels and chemicals, moving our dependence away from these unsustainable oil-based feedstocks to renewable ones is therefore a critical factor towards the development of a low carbon bioeconomy. Synthetic biology and metabolic engineering offer the potential to synergistically enable the development of cell factories with novel biosynthetic routes to valuable chemicals.

This project will seek to develop new gene expression control tools in the versatile host Halomonas bluephagenesis for cost-effective bio-manufacture purposes by applying novel synthetic biology tools and concepts. Specifically, the aim is to develop genetic control tools that allow the separation of the growth and production phases by using ‘autonomous-inducible’ genetic circuits designed to be responsive both to endogenous an exogenous process conditions.

Whilst in Manchester the PhD student will be based in the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology and supervised by Dr. Neil Dixon, in Tsinghua the PhD student will be based in Centre for Synthetic & Systems Biology and will be supervised by Prof George Guo-Qiang CHEN. The student will be trained in broad aspects of biotechnology, microbial gene expression regulation, use of synthetic biology tools and principles, biocatalysis, directed evolution, microbial fermentation, molecular biology and bio-analytical methods such GC-MS. This project would suit individuals interested in future careers in biotechnology, biocatalysis and bioprocessing.

Academic background of candidates
Applicants should hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum 2:1 bachelor’s degree (or overseas equivalent), a master’s degree (including an integrated masters degree) or extensive research experience - such as an industry placement - in a relevant discipline. Applicants can be internal or external to The University of Manchester. For applicants whose first language is not English, we require a minimum IELTS score of 6.5/TOEFL 90.

programme name: synbiodual

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year fully funded studentship covering tuition fees and stipend (£15,009 in 2019-20 while in Manchester, and a commensurate stipend while at Tsinghua). You will also receive an annual Research Training Support Grant towards project running costs/consumables while in Manchester, and flight allowance for travelling to Tsinghua will be covered.


1) Machado, L., Currin, A. & Dixon, N. Directed evolution of the PcaV allosteric transcription factor to generate a biosensor for aromatic aldehydes. bioRxiv (2019). doi:10.1101/689232
2) Kent, R., Dixon, N. Systematic Evaluation of Genetic and Environmental Factors Affecting Performance of Translational Riboswitches ACS Syn Bio (2019) 8, 884
3) Kent, R., Dixon, N. Contemporary tools for regulating gene expression in bacteria. Trends in Biotechnology (2019)
4) Tan, D., Wu, Q., Chen, J.C., Chen, G.Q. Engineering Halomonas TD01 for Low Cost Production of Polyhydroxyalkanoates. Metabolic Engineering 26 (2014) 34–47
5) Yin, J., Chen, J.C., Wu, Q. & Chen, G. Q. Halomonas spp, a Rising Star for Industrial Biotechnology. Biotechnology Advance 33 (2015) 1433-1442

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