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New metalloenzymes for biomass degradation

Project Description

Where will out fuels come from in the future and still prevent catastrophic climate change? This question lies at the heart of one of humankind’s major challenges: how can we create sustainable fuels for driving our cars, flying our planes and sailing our ships?

Out of the answers that might be viable, that of sustainable biofuels emerges as one of the most promising. But here we are faced with another ‘grand challenge’, how can we convert the abundant biomass on the earth where this biomass is inherently difficult to break down. In fact, the majority of the global biomass capacity is tied up in a substance called cellulose which has a lifetime of 10s of millions of years.

This question has vexed scientists and biotechnologists for decades. However, in 2011 we along with others discovered a new class of enzymes which are secreted by fungi which turn out to be very powerful degraders of biomass. The power of these enzymes comes from the fact that they have a metal ion at their active site which is capable of recruiting oxygen from the air to breakdown cellulose. These enzymes are now transforming the biomass conversion industry. This project builds on this discovery since it appears as if nature uses many metal-containing enzymes to do a similar job. Our task therefore is to identify, purify and then harness these special enzymes in biomass degradation.

This project concentrates on exactly that by using a combination of genomics, structure and spectroscopy to identify new enzymes capable of making biomass accessible for conversion into sustainable biofuels. The project is highly interdisciplinary and takes a combined chemistry-biochemistry approach.

This prestigious BBSRC funded Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) brings together the very best molecular, chemical and cellular bioscience research across the White Rose Consortium of Universities (Leeds, Sheffield and York), which maps on to the research themes of the BBSRC. Students will benefit from a regional PhD training programme that has interdisciplinary collaboration at its core. The aim is to enable students to develop a range of research skills in biological and biochemical areas as well as equip them with core mathematical, data analysis and generic professional skills that are necessary for bioscience research in the coming decades. At York, the White Rose Partnership brings together researchers from the Departments of Biology and Chemistry.

Additionally, all Chemistry research students have access to our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills.

Panel interviews will take place at the University of York on 6 February 2019.

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel:

This PhD will formally start on 1 October 2019. Induction activities will start on 30 September.

Funding Notes

Value: Studentships are fully funded by BBSRC and cover: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£14,777 for 2018-2019, to be confirmed for 2019-2020 but typically increases annually in line with inflation), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.

Eligibility: The studentships are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award. Further information about eligibility for Research Council UK funding can be found at the following website: View Website

How good is research at University of York in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 47.06

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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