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Investigation of Shellfish shells as sources of pharmaceutically active compounds towards development of a marine circular bioeconomy ( Ref: WD_2022_32_WSCH)

   Research Support Unit

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  Dr M Kinsella, Dr H Hughes, Dr S Pin Tan  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Post summary

Applications are invited for suitably qualified candidates interested in pursuing a PhD by completing a multidisciplinary and extremely industrially relevant research project within the PMBRC/EIRC at WIT, The candidate will be enrolled on the WIT 4 year Structured PhD programme at Waterford IT and will allow them to gain experience  and project required skills from subject matter experts in the fields of environmentally friendly extractions, analytical chemistry, compound characterisation.

 The marine environment is a diverse source of currently underutilised potential with resources such as seaweed, fish, and shells containing compounds with varying applications. Of particular interest is the shellfish sector, which generates a significant amount of waste shells that are of no commercial value currently, but carries a cost of disposal. The proposed research builds on current and previous PhD and FLAG (Fisheries Local Action Group) projects at WIT identifying the scale of this problem and seeks to extract compounds of high commercial value. Some examples of compounds present in shells include calcium carbonate, nacre, hydroxyapatite, chitin and chitosan. Given the scale of waste shells generated in Ireland annually, there is a strong need to develop environmental and economically sustainable processes to isolate these materials. High value bioactive compounds like hydroxyapatite and nacre have been reported to be present in certain shellfish shells. Due to their bioactivity, these compounds are an attractive target to isolate from shells to enable the conversion of current waste shells into a feedstock for biologically and pharmaceutically active compounds. Project outcomes are of direct significance to the fisheries/shellfish production industries and pharmaceutical companies and will further enable the development of a marine circular bioeconomy.

Project Objectives

· To meet the growing needs of the shellfish production sector for converting marine waste into higher-value added alternatives, bringing shells into the rapidly growing circular bioeconomy.

· To develop and evaluate a range of cost-effective, novel, environmentally friendly/scalable methods for bioactive extraction from shellfish waste from South East Ireland, focussing on nacre and HA.

· To perform bioactivity testing, such as antimicrobial activity against antibiotic-resistant bacteria and carry out antioxidant and toxicity testing on these extracts.

· To measure the levels of radionucleotides of interest present in the shells using our high resolution gamma ray spectrometry system at WIT

Person specification



·      Honours Degree (minimum 2:1) or equivalent in chemistry, pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical or analytical science or equivalent. The Candidate should also have practical hands on experience of laboratory work in relevant fields mentioned as part of their undergranduate programme including the use of analytical instrumentation


·       Experience in microbiology, aseptic technique and handling of cell culture lines and toxic microbial strains as part of their course.

Knowledge & Experience


·       Knowledge of the use of different microbiology & biology techniques, such as Disk, Well Diffusion and microbroth dilutions assays would be essential.

·       Knowledge on extraction techniques

·       Knowledge and/or experience of modern analytical equipment such as UV/Vis Spectroscopy, HPLC, NMR and LCMS would also be required.


·       Experience / knowledge of antimicrobial properties / bioactivity testing of natural products would be beneficial, particularly in the area of shellfish waste.

·       Knowledge / experience of cell culture techniques would also be desirable.

·       Experience in conducting an undergraduate research project with associated laboratory work and write-up of a thesis on this project

·       Experience / knowledge of methods to measure radiation levels in samples from the marine environment

Skills & Competencies


·       Applicants whose first language is not English must submit evidence of competency in English, please see WIT’s English Language Requirements for details.

·       A good level of generic skills such as literature review skills, use of on-line databases, report writing would also be essential.

·       The student must have a high level of self-motivation, be able to think and work independently and communicate and integrate well within a group environment


·       Competent in using Microsoft office, referencing software, statistical analysis 

Funding Notes

Research Group: EIRC
Department / School Department of Science/ School of Science & Computing
Duration 48 Months
Status: Full-time
Funding information: WIT PhD Scholarship 2022 (WSCH)
Value of the scholarship per year for 4 years Stipend: €15,000 Fees: €4,500 Research costs- €2000
Teaching requirement: 168 hours of academic development activities over the 4-year term of the PhD programme in line with scholarship requirements.
Closing date and time This Competition will close on the 23rd May 2022 at 4pm Irish time.
Interview date: From 06/06/2022
PhD commencement date September 2022


Application procedure
Download the Research Postgraduate Application Form and return completed applications to rpgadmissions@wit.ie, quoting WD_2022_32_WSCH in the email subject line.
Please note that paper submissions will not be accepted
Further information
For any informal queries, please contact Dr Mike Kinsella on email mkinsella@wit.ie: or telephone: +00353 (0) 51834044
For queries relating to the application and admission process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions Office via email rpgadmissions@wit.ie or telephone +353 (0)51 302883.
Website: www.wit.ie
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