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Improving photosynthetic efficiency - engineering and evolution of light-harvesting complexes

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  • Full or part time
    Dr D Canniffe
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Photosynthesis is the ultimate source of food and energy for almost all forms of life. Using sunlight as the energy input, photosynthesis removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere generating the oxygen and carbohydrate that support complex life.

To meet the demands of a more populated planet, crop yields need to double by 2050; improving the efficiency of photosynthesis by engineering crop plants is essential to achieve this. A major inefficiency of photosynthesis is that the pigment-protein complexes that absorb light are finely tuned to specific ranges of the solar spectrum, and thus do not effectively harvest the abundant photons at different wavelengths. The aims of this project are to define the components needed to assemble foreign light-harvesting complexes in genetically-tractable bacteria, and to then transfer them to the evolutionary ancestor of the plant chloroplast, cyanobacteria, to enhance energy capture in an oxygen-evolving organism. The project will reveal the routes to increased light capture efficiency, and the principles defined will be directly applicable to the engineering of crop plants to meet our future needs.

The successful candidate will receive extensive training in all relevant techniques as part of a collaborative multidisciplinary research group, and will have access to world-leading facilities in the Institute of Integrative Biology at the University of Liverpool, and in the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences at Newcastle University.

For further information see the website:

To apply

Please complete the online application form and attach a full CV and covering letter. Informal enquiries may be made to [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year BBSRC studentship under the Newcastle-Liverpool-Durham DTP. The successful applicant will receive research costs, tuition fees and stipend (£14,777 for 2018-19). The PhD will start in October 2019. Applicants should have, or be expecting to receive, a 2.1 Hons degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. EU candidates must have been resident in the UK for 3 years in order to receive full support. There are 2 stages to the application process.


Hitchcock A, Jackson PJ, Chidgey, JW, Dickman MJ, Hunter CN, Canniffe DP. (2016) Biosynthesis of chlorophyll a in a purple bacterial phototroph and assembly into a plant chlorophyll-protein complex. ACS Synth Biol 5:948-954

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