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School of Biology

Prof T K Smith Wednesday, January 06, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This research will provide some foundations to obtain a sustainable and green way to contribute to solving the problem of using petrochemical based plastics and polymers, and aid the advancement of new uses for existing modified biopolymers, making them cost effective ways to produce the eco-friendly and biodegradable plastics.

In the plastics industry, there is a heavy reliance upon fossil based chemical substances including additives, which are commonly used to enhance the properties, but at the same time it has negative impacts to the environment. A sustainable way to manufacture the polymers i.e. bioplastic, is to utilize renewable / green starting materials.

In this project, we will utilize lactobionic acid (and derivatives there of) a versatile polyhydroxy acid which has recently become an important bioactive compound with numerous existing applications in the food, medicine, pharmaceutical, cosmetics and chemical industries. We will use this biofunctionalization agent for the synthesis of novel biocompatible and biodegradable biopolymers, for a wide range of applications, including; polymeric packing materials, hydrogels, drug delivery systems, using enzyme catalysed reactions, simple amide coupling, oxime free radical and click based chemistries.
Lactose has already been utilized very successfully in a range of novel materials including drug delivery systems. The fact that lactobionic acid has an acid functionality allows further chemical scope in terms of modification and /or coupling through this moiety.

The project will involve range of skills that span both molecular biology, protein expression, purification, enzyme assays, various analytic techniques including carbohydrate analysis.
Simple organic chemistry will be involved that will facilitate modification of the monomer and subsequent polymerization and characterization.

Application procedure
In order to apply for this position, please follow the application instructions under to obtain the EASTBIO Application form.

Then, submit the EASTBIO application form and your academic transcripts as part of a formal online application-

In the online application form, you will be asked to provide contact details for two academic references. Please ask your referees to use the EASTBIO reference form provided under the link above when preparing their support letter, and to ensure references are provided by the deadline on 6 January 2021.

Funding Notes

This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership View Website.

This opportunity is open to UK and International students and provides funding to cover stipend and UK level tuition. For international candidates, the University of St Andrews will cover the Home-International fee difference. Please refer to UKRI website and Annex B of the UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions for full eligibility criteria.


Alonso, S., Rendueles, M. and Díaz, M. 2013. Bio-production of lactobionic acid: Current status, applications and future prospects. Biotechnol. Advances, 31: 1275–1291.

Bharwade, MN, Balakrishnan, S., Chaudhary, NN., and Jain AK. 2017 Lactobionic Acid: Significance and Application in Food and Pharmaceutical Intl. J. Food. Ferment. 6(1): 25-33,

Belkacemi, K., Vlad, M.C., Hamoudi, S. and Arul, J. 2007. Value-added processing of lactose: preparation of bioactive lactobionic acid using a novel catalytic method. Int. J. Chemical Reactor Engineering, 5: 64.

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