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FULLY FUNDED PHD: Optogenetics in green cell factories

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  • Full or part time
    Prof A Amtmann
    Prof J Christie
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description


The aim of this project is to develop the necessary molecular tools and photo-bioreactor (PBR) technology to enable optogenetics in photosynthetic cell cultures.

Optogenetics describes the ability to control biological processes through light signals. The technology is increasingly used in medicine and biotechnology to determine the timing of gene expression.

The basic control unit is typically a two-component system consisting of a photo-receptor and an effector domain. A wavelength-specific conformational change of the receptor domain activates the effector which in turn activates a target protein that promotes binding of a transcription factor to the gene promoter thus inducing gene expression.

Several of these systems have already been generated and used to drive the expression of transgenes in E. coli, yeast or mammalian cells. The purpose of this project is to enable optogenetics in micro-algal cultures, in particular cyanobacterial model strains.

Due to their photosynthetic carbon fixation capability they have great potential for Industrial Biotechnology (IB) in a low-carbon economy. They also possess the basic metabolic machinery to synthesise a wide range of pigments.

This project builds on a successful collaboration between the Amtmann group at the University of Glasgow and the company Xanthella Ltd., which resulted in a prototype PBR that is equipped with light panels containing 5 individually controllable LEDs. The PBR can already be used to boost naturally wavelength-dependent pigment production in diverse microalgae.

We have also cloned and functionally characterised a new cyanobacterial photoreceptor which acts as a yellow/blue switch. This PhD project will now exploit and further develop both the PBR and the photoreceptors for synthetic biology and optogenetics applications.

The project offers training opportunities in molecular biology, photobiology and optics technology. The supervisory team have outstanding expertise in these areas. Through direct collaboration with industry e student will gain insight into both fundamental biology and commercial applications of biology.

For informal enquiries about this fully funded PhD project please contact:

Anna Amtmann - [Email Address Removed]
John Christie - [Email Address Removed]

Industrial collaborator:
Douglas McKenzie - [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

This studentship is funded by the IBioIC CTP PhD programme at UKRI rate for 4 years.

The student is expected to participate in IBioIC CTP training programme

Student progress will be assessed and supported by the Postgraduate programme of CMVLS and IMCSB at the University of Glasgow.

The project includes and obligatory 12-months stay with the Industry partner Xanthella Ltd at European Marine Science Park, Dunstaffnage, Oban, UK.

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