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  PhD Opening in Microbial Biotechnology: Co-Evolution and Meta-Omics

   Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering

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  Dr Jagroop Pandhal, Dr Niranjan Nagarajan  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Microbial communities inhabit our entire planet and play a vital role in biogeochemical processes through to human health. Recent technological advances have led to the emerging field of 'microbiome engineering', where the aim is to exploit microbial consortia as sustainable options in tackling global grand challenges in health, food, energy, manufacturing, and the environment. Here we aim to characterise evolving interactions between microalgae and bacteria, through combining metagenomics, proteomics and computational tools.

There has been a surge of interest in recent years to characterize the composition of microbiomes using DNA sequencing technologies. Now, with rapid advances in systems biology approaches and omics tools, the exciting prospect of controlling the functionality of microbiomes has emerged. However, a real challenge is whether we can design functionally desirable and stable microbial consortia. Here, the student will focus on studying ecological and evolutionary changes in consortia of bacteria and microalgae, as they adapt to new environments. Bacteria and algae have co-evolved for millions of years, however, their use in biotechnology is still limited, as we lack fundamental knowledge on their interactions and how to pair them to create functionally interesting combinations. In this project, the successful student will enrich microbiomes from relevant environments. They will subject enriched consortia to two relevant stressors and apply a series of advanced computational and experimental tools to map community composition changes, locating favourable genetic mutations, and characterise major enzymes, metabolic changes and interaction mechanisms. The impact potential is high because these tools have not been combined before or used for this purpose. The project will also help generate design rules to create synthetic microbial communities, e.g., for sustainable bioremediation.

This project is a collaboration between the University of Sheffield and the Genome Institute, Singapore. Therefore, the student will spend the first 15 months in Sheffield, followed by 20 months in Singapore, followed by the final 12 months back in the UK. 

Dr. Niranjan Nagarajan's profile can be viewed here:

Please contact Dr. Pandhal ([Email Address Removed]) for further information on the project, training opportunities and employment prospects. Group website:

Please see this link for information on how to apply: Please include the name of your proposed supervisor and the title of the PhD project within your application.

This project will suite an individual with an interest in applied microbiology, algal biotechnology, omics approaches, biomanufacturing, biological engineering etc.

  • Academic requirements: applicants should have, or expect to achieve, a first or upper second class UK honours degree in an appropriate STEM area of study.
  • Applicants should be registering on their first year of study with the University for 2023/24 on an eligible programme of doctoral study.
  • Candidates must qualify for home fee status.
Biological Sciences (4) Engineering (12)

Where will I study?

 About the Project