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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.

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:

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 project is available to study full-time or part-time (50%).

This PhD will formally start on 1 October 2020. Induction activities will start on 28 September.

Funding Notes

This is a BBSRC White Rose DTP studentship fully funded for four years and covers: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£15,009 estimated for 2020 entry), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.

It is available to those who are eligible for research council studentships: View Website


Entry requirements: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this research project means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, or students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions.

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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