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Microbial community composition and biosynthetic potential of actinomycetes in the soil samples from extreme environments (ref: SF18/APP/SANGAL)

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  • Full or part time
    Dr V Sangal
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

A number of bacterial species are able to survive in the extreme environmental conditions, e.g., hyper-arid soil of the Atacama desert (Busarakam et al., 2016; Castro et al., 2018). These strains are also equipped with the gene clusters involved in the biosynthesis of a number of antibiotics and other bioactive molecules (Sangal, unpublished data). However, microbial diversity and biosynthetic potential of the actinomycetes from such environments are poorly characterised. This study will focus on the microbial community composition from a range of soil samples from different extreme environments and their potential to produce novel antimicrobial and bioactive compounds. The project will involve collection of the soil samples, metagenomics, metabolomics and proteomics profiling of the samples and bioinformatics analyses of these datasets. Finally, a number of novel strains of actinomycetes will isolated followed by whole genome sequencing and optimisation of in vitro production of identified compounds.
This project will be carried out in collaboration between Dr Vartul Sangal and Professor Iain Sutcliffe.

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• 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.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications should include a covering letter that includes a short summary (500 words max.) of a relevant piece of research that you have previously completed. Applications that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF18/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 1st July 2019 for October 2019 start, or 1st December 2018 for March 2019 start
Start Date: October or March

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality and is a member of the Euraxess network, which delivers information and support to professional researchers

Funding Notes

This studentship is only open to self-funding candidates. Self-funding candidates are expected to pay University fees and to provide their own living costs. University fee bands are shown at

Fees for this project are costed at Band 4.


Busarakam, K., Bull, A.T., Trujillo, M.E., Riesco, R., Sangal, V., Van Wezel, G.P., and Goodfellow, M. (2016). Modestobacter caceresii sp. nov., novel actinobacteria with an insight into their adaptive mechanisms for survival in extreme hyper-arid Atacama Desert soils. Syst Appl Microbiol 39, 243-251.
Castro, J.F., Nouioui, I., Sangal, V., Trujillo, M.E., Montero-Calasanz, M.D.C., Rahmani, T., Bull, A.T., Asenjo, J.A., Andrews, B.A., and Goodfellow, M. (2018). Geodermatophilus chilensis sp. nov., from soil of the Yungay core-region of the Atacama Desert, Chile. Syst Appl Microbiol. (in press)

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