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PhD: Co-fermentation in the whisky industry for sustainability and flavour creation


   Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering

   Friday, July 01, 2022  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD) at Heriot-Watt University in association with the Scotch Whisky Research Institute (SWRI) are offering an IBioIC-Industry co-funded PhD project, expected to commence by 30th September 2022. The ICBD was established in 1988 as a site of education and research for brewing and distilling with a heritage in the teaching of brewing science going back to 1903. The SWRI is the Research & Technology Organisation owned by the Scotch Whisky industry. SWRI has been carrying out pre-competitive research for the benefit of the industry as a whole since 1974. The SWRI is located on the Heriot-Watt Research Park at Riccarton.

The project will be supervised by Heriot-Watt University (Supervisors: Dr Dawn Maskell and Dr Jane White) and the SWRI (Industrial Supervisor: Dr Barry Harrison). The student will become part of the ICBD and the Institute for Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering which has excellent support structures for PhD students. The student will participate in the IBioIC Collaborative Training Partnership training programme “Ready for Industry” and they will also spend six months of their project undertaking their research at the SWRI.

Project

Scotch whisky is an iconic product, recognised for its quality around the world. Its production is controlled through the Scotch Whisky Regulations which limit the materials used for production to cereals (malted barley for malt whisky) and water, fermented with yeast and matured in oak casks for a minimum of three years. Within these constraints innovation is still possible.  The aim of this project is to explore the option of co-fermentation, using two or more yeast strains, for use in whisky production. This can enhance the climate resilience of the process, while also addressing environmental challenges such as water use. A parallel strand of research will be to explore potential flavour diversification. Innovation and development in whisky broadens the range of products available to consumers and will help whisky to maintain and grow its position in the global brown spirit’s market.  

 This project is multidisciplinary and industrially focussed, working closely with the SWRI this project represents an ideal opportunity for an enthusiastic student to work in the distilling industry. The student will work with biologists, and industrial scientists to develop a skill base in industrial biotechnology, analytical techniques, microbiology, sensory evaluation, and statistical modelling.

Candidate requirements

This project would suit candidates with a background in industrial biotechnology, brewing/distilling, food science, or those with a background in microbiology who are keen to move to a more process-focussed area. A high level of numeracy will be beneficial for this work, as well as strong laboratory skills. Full funding is available only to UK students. The ideal candidate will have a 1st or strong 2:1 Honours degree or a Masters in a biological science, chemical or biochemical engineering (or similar scientific discipline). Informal enquires can be made by interested candidates to Dr Dawn Maskell ().

How to Apply

Please use the Heriot-Watt on-line system to submit your CV, Academic Transcript and a cover letter outlining your suitability for this project. When completing your application please ensure you also provide the following information:

a)      in ‘Study Option’: You will need to select ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘Postgraduate Research’. ‘Programme’ presents you with a drop-down menu. Choose Bioengineering PhD and select September 2022 for study option (this can be updated at a later date if required)

b)     in ‘Research Project Information’: You will be provided with a free text box for details of your research project. Enter Title and Reference number of the project for which you are applying and also enter the potential supervisor’s name.

This information will greatly assist us in tracking your application. Please note that your application may be shared with the Industrial Supervisor for this project. Interviews are expected to take place 2 – 3 weeks after the closing date for applications. 


Funding Notes

PhD Studentship is four years (48 months) in duration and provides and annual tax-free stipend of £16,062, tuition fees at UK rates only, consumables, and travel expenses. International tuition fees are not covered.

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