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Exploring the potential of cyanobacteria to produce extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) (ENG1347)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, May 11, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Cyanobacteria are widely known for their ability to fix atmospheric carbon through photosynthesis. Their potential in producing a wide variety of bioactive metabolites and commodity ‘bio-products’ such as isoprene, biofuels, and biopolymers, at nearly carbon-neutral conditions, makes them attractive candidates for industrial bioprocesses and provides a solution to reducing production costs.

Cyanobacteria constitute a sustainable platform for biopolymers production due to minimal nutritional requirements. Examples of high-value biopolymers that are produced by cyanobacteria, include intracellular polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) and extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). However, cyanobacterial EPS have only recently started to emerge, and they have attracted interest because they exhibit a variety of properties, such as antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial, to immunosuppressive, and even anti-cancer activities. An EPS production process utilizing cyanobacteria would be creating alternative to petroleum-based high-value biopolymers with advanced properties while sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide as a cost-free carbon source and capable of mitigating the ecological consequences.

Biotechnology is a powerful tool to obtain EPS from a variety of microorganisms, by controlling the growth conditions in a bioreactor while tailoring the production of biologically active compounds. Despite the advantages of using cyanobacteria for EPS production, their production process should be economically viable. To achieve this, the best cultivation system needs to be evaluated, favorable growth conditions need to be determined, re-utilization of waste biomass needs to be investigated and the downstream process needs to be optimized. Those parameters may vary significantly depending on the strain, and the effect of the growth conditions on EPS and will subsequently affect the amount and composition of the EPS.

The purpose of this project is:

1. to attain a more economically viable strain of cyanobacteria for the design of a carbon-neutral bioplastic production process,
2. to examine the effect of changes in the cultivation/growth conditions on the productivity, as well as the composition of the EPS.


Applicants should have, or expect to obtain, a 1st class or 2.1 honours degree (or international equivalent) in Chemical/Biochemical Engineering, Materials Science, Chemistry, Biotechnology or related discipline. A relevant master’s degree in these areas would be an advantage.

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English Language requirements.

How to apply:

Informal contact can be sent to Dr Konstantina Kourmentza () before submitting an online application. Please send a cover letter and a copy of your CV with your up to date relevant experience.

Online application can be made via Please quote the studentship reference and Dr Konstantina Kourmentza.

When applying for this studentship, please include the reference number (beginning ENG) within the personal statement section of the application. This will help in ensuring your application is sent directly to the academic advertising the studentship.

Funding Notes

Due to funding restrictions this position is only available for UK or EU candidates.

Eligible for Home / EU candidates. This project will include the payment of tuition fees as well as a stipend equivalent to RCUK rates (currently at £15,009 p.a. tax free for 2019/20) awarded to the suitable candidate.

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