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  Revealing low abundant but highly active nitrifiers in coastal sediments

   College of Science and Engineering

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  Prof Cindy Smith  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Nitrification is a key global biogeochemical pathway oxidising the most reduced form of nitrogen –ammonia (NH3), to nitrite (NO) (ammonia oxidation, AO) and then nitrate (nitrite oxidation, NO). AO is mainly performed by ammonia-oxidising archaea (AOA) and bacteria (AOB) and nitrite oxidation by nitrite-oxidising bacteria (NOB).  Nitrification is a chemoautotrophic process that mediates nitrogen removal from ecosystems impacting microbial community structure, ecosystem productivity (including chemoautotrophic carbon fixation), the production of the noxious greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide (N2O) and the tropic status of water bodies. Globally, estuaries and coastal ecosystems are ‘hotspots’ of nitrification, where rates in general exceed that of open marine systems (~10 to 100 higher) mitigating nutrient loads from land entering the ocean. Despite the importance of these ecosystems and nitrification, there is a disconnect in current understanding between the abundance of key organisms not correlating with nitrification rates, and an assumption that the numerically dominant AO are the drivers of nitrification. Our recent work has revealed low abundant, unknow, but highly active nitrifers in coastal ecosystems. The aim of this exciting PhD is to reveal these active nitrifiers through time series sediment microcosms experiments using novel state-of-the art single-cell approaches based on Stable Isotope Probing (SIP), combined with Resonance Raman and Raman Activated Cell Sorting (SIP-RR-RACS) combined with metagenomics to prove the activity and characterise these yet-to-be cultured organisms.

We are seeking a motivated candidate to apply for a James Watt School of Engineering Doctoral studentship (and/or the Dunlop Scholarship for Women) to join an internationally leading research group. You will be part of the wider Water and Environment Research Group, located in new laboraotries and office space in the Advanced Research Centre at the University of Glasgow. Applications from highly motivated candidates with strong backgrounds in the following or related disciplines are welcomed: microbiology, molecular biology, bioinformatics, environmental science or similar. Candidates will ideally hold a masters level qualification and an undergraduate degree in relevant area.

Funding, for UK and Irish students, is available for 3.5 years and includes a stipend and fees (£19,237 plus £4,786 fees per annum) at RCUK levels from October 2024.   Informal enquires and full application (curriculum vitae, cover letter and contact details of two referees) to Prof Cindy Smith.

Biological Sciences (4) Environmental Sciences (13)

Funding Notes

Seeking a highly motivated individual to apply for doctoral scholarships scheme. Individuals from underrepresented groups in STEM, including female and female identifying individuals are particularly welcomed, to apply for the Dunlop Scholarship


Please provide two referees/references with your application.