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Eliminating pharmaceuticals from contaminated waters via novel bioremediation approaches

   Hydro Nation Scholars Programme

About the Project

Pharmaceuticals have an incredible ability to save lives and to improve the quality of life. However, their discharge has become a threat to aquatic and terrestrial life (e.g., antibiotic resistance, endocrine disruption) and they remain a challenge to most water treatment approaches. One of the most exciting areas which holds promise for a simple, cost-effective approach is bioremediation of pharmaceuticals. In this quest, more than 20 different pharmaceutical-degrading bacterial strains were successfully isolated. Yet, their deployment in water treatment applications has seen limited success due to the difficulties associated with maintaining sufficient bacterial biomass concentration, washout during application and low bioavailability of the targeted pollutants (e.g., pharmaceuticals).  

Joining an established research group within the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences at RGU, the student will develop a novel greener bioremediation approach by immobilising pharmaceutical-degrading bacteria on to a sustainable natural biosorbent. This integrative novel approach aims to combine two prominent water treatment techniques (adsorption and bioremediation), where pharmaceuticals being adsorbed on to the biosorbent while heterotrophic bacteria immobilised “feed" on adsorbed carbon sources (i.e., pharmaceuticals). You will also be provided with the opportunity to contribute towards designing and developing a novel reactor model which can be deployed in the field (e.g., water treatment plants and reservoirs).

This project is an outstanding training opportunity for enthusiastic student to get a multidisciplinary training combining microbiology, analytical chemistry, microscopy, and some aspects of engineering (e.g., reactor design). You will be trained to use techniques such as microscopy, flow cytometry, scanning electron microscopy, particle analysis and characterisation, high performance liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.

As a RGU research student, you will be provided with excellent opportunities to develop graduate skills training through lab meetings, seminars, conferences, and outreach activities. The student will also complete a Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) Researcher Development course at the same time as the research degree which will strengthen core and professional research skills. This project is suitable for applicants with strong interest in environmental microbiology and water treatment ready to tackle one of the emerging water related issues in Scotland and worldwide.  

Funding Notes

The Hydro Nation Scholars Programme is an open competition for PhD Scholars to undertake approved projects, hosted within Scottish Universities and Research Institutes. This project will be hosted by Robert Gordon University (RGU), Aberdeen. Full funding is available from the Scottish Government (to host institutions via the Scottish Funding Council). The funding available will be in line with the UKRI doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees. Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed on 26th or 27th January 2023.

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