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Improving photosynthesis for biofuel production

   Department of Biosciences

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  Prof M Cann  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Renewable Energy Northeast Universities (ReNU) is a collaborative doctoral training programme run by the Universities of Northumbria, Newcastle and Durham. In addition to undertaking an individual scientific research project at one of the three partner Universities, doctoral candidates will engage with added value training opportunities, for example in business and innovation through a 4-year training programme that has been designed to maximise the benefits of a cohort approach to doctoral training. The start date is 1st October 2023.

Global carbon dioxide fixation by cyanobacteria, approximately 2½ billion years ago, generated the atmospheric oxygen that permitted the evolution of multicellular organisms. Contemporary cyanobacteria have potential use in biofuel production. They are desirable biofuel feedstocks due to their growth on non-agricultural and marginal lands and ability to thrive in brackish and marine waters. However, although their theoretical maximum efficiency of energy conversion is estimated as 8-10%, the best-sustained efficiencies reported are 1-2%.

The project will use tools in biochemistry, genetics, microbiology and spectroscopy to identify cyanobacteria with enhanced photosynthetic efficiency

The project has three phases:

1. Investigate the influence of carbon dioxide on light-harvesting proteins in the test tube.

2. Investigate the impact of carbon dioxide on light-harvesting in native phycobilisomes and whole organisms.

3. Investigate bio-fuel yield in producing strains in which light-harvesting has been engineered.

This is a multi-disciplinary Ph.D. that will provide training in microbiology, mass spectrometry, analytical techniques of physical chemistry, proteomics and spectroscopy. No prior training in these areas is required. Training in these diverse disciplines will be provided in the laboratories of the project supervisors. The successful student will complete the Ph.D. with a broad interdisciplinary skill set valuable to both academia and industry.

For informal enquiries, please contact Prof Martin Cann [Email Address Removed].

The application closing date is 17th February 2023 and it is anticipated interviews will take place later in the month. Please note that interviews will be online.

Eligibility and How to Apply

Our eligibility requirements are:

•       Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.

•       If required, an IELTS score of 6.5 with no component under 6.0.

·       Two satisfactory academic references.

•       Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Durham or elsewhere.

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system.

  • Create an account and click ‘Postgraduate Apply’ on the top ribbon.
  • Search for ‘EPSRC CDT’ in Course and select Renewable Energy Northeast Universities (EPSRC CDT) starting in 2023/24. 
  • Complete the application form, ensuring the following:
  • On the funding tab select ‘yes’ you are applying for a scholarship, select ‘Other’, write RENU/Cann in the name of the scholarship, and select 1st October 2023 as the start date. No scholarship documents are required.
  • On the project course details tab write RENU/Cann in Field of Study.
  • Please include an application letter summarising your motivation and suitability for the project.
  • Please ensure you follow all of these steps to ensure your application is considered.


Funding notes

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International students, and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2020/21 full time study, this was £15,609 pa) and full tuition fees. Also, significant additional funding is included to cover research costs and local, national and international travel such as conferences and exchanges. Note that these studentships will be awarded on a competitive basis between projects. We anticipate that up to 5 awards will be made for projects hosted at Durham. 

Please note there are a limited number of full international scholarships available. Further information about how EPSRC classifies international fee status please see TGC 5.2.5 UKRI-021122-TrainingGrantTermsAndConditions.pdf

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