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Leveraging polysaccharide degrading abilities of wastewater treatment microbiomes to develop clean future polymers

   Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

  ,  Monday, October 31, 2022  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The overarching goal of this project is to characterise the natural polysaccharide-degrading ability of wastewater treatment plant microbiomes to tailor production of functionalised 'clean future polymers' that are likely to be degraded prior to discharge of wastewater back into the environment. This research also seeks to identify key enzymes to enable biotech development.

This PhD project has four parts:

(A) Baseline assessment of microbial communities from wastewater treatment plants for polysaccharide degradation using a genome-resolved metagenomics approach. This will target both existing wastewater treatment plant metagenomes in public databases, as well as newly generated metagenomic libraries from wastewater treatment plants generated in this project.

(B) Enrichment experiments of wastewater treatment plant microbial communities will be conducted on different polysaccharides to demonstrate viability and activity hypothesised from (A). Degradation products will be monitored and microbial community composition and activity will be tracked.

(C) Using RNA-based analysis from (B), identify genes being expressed during degradation. Where expressed genes cannot be annotated, further bioinformatic and experimental work will seek to resolve their function.

(D) Promising genes identified from (C) will be synthesised, cloned and expressed in suitable production hosts. The resultant proteins will be purified, and their activities determined against natural and functionalised polymers/monomers using a range of MS-based analytics.

This PhD project is a collaboration between the Future Biomanufacturing Research Hub ( and industrial partner Unilever, and will take place in the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) at the University of Manchester. The studentship will benefit from an increased budget for research and training, and have a stipend enhancement of £2,000 per annum over the standard UKRI stipend.  

To make an application please visit - How to apply for postgraduate research at The University of Manchester

Please search and select PhD Environmental Science (academic programme) and PhD Biotechnology(academic plan)

Funding Notes

This Studentship is for a September or January start and will cover UoM home fees, standard (UKRI) stipend and amount for consumables / travel.
There will also be funding from Unilever which will include a stipend enhancement and consumable / travel enhancement.


• Nixon SL et al., 2019, Genome-resolved metagenomics extends the environmental distribution of the Verrucomicrobia phylum to the deep terrestrial subsurface. mSphere 4: e00613-19.
• Moraes EC et al., Lignolytic-consortium omics analyses reveal novel genomes and pathways involved in lignin modification and valorization. Biotechnol Biofuels. 2018 Mar 22;11:75.

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