Plastics are a broad range of solid polymeric materials that have found widespread application as industrial components and consumer goods. However, there has been a steady accumulation of discarded plastics throughout the world, and there is now growing awareness that they present a significant hazard to the natural environment and human health. In relation to these concerns, there is increasing emphasis on the recovery (and subsequent reuse) of plastic materials, or their conversion into other materials than can serve as feedstocks for new products.
Enzymes that catalyse oxidations are known to convert compounds that are usually resistant to other types of chemical reactions; and have therefore been proposed to be able to decompose plastics. This project will aim to investigate the application of a range of oxidative enzymes for the degradation of plastics that contain chemically unreactive C-C, C-H and C-O chemical bonds, for which there are currently no viable reprocessing methods. Thus, the research will involve the chemical synthesis of small molecule models of the plastics, heterologous production of the enzymes, testing of the enzymes with the model molecules (together with the chemical and spectroscopic analysis) and mechanistic studies of the enzymatic reactions.
The successful candidate will join a growing team of multidisciplinary researchers from a range of backgrounds from chemistry, biochemistry and materials engineering. The research group is based at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (www.mib.ac.uk) and offers state-of-the-art laboratories, instrumentation and facilities.
This research will suit a chemist with experience in synthetic organic chemistry, but with an interest working across analytical chemistry, polymer science and molecular biology. A successful candidate is expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum of an upper second class honours degree (or the equivalent) in chemistry or other related area (e.g. biological chemistry, pharmaceutical chemistry). Experience in one or more of the following areas would be an advantage but is not compulsory as training will be provided: molecular biology, enzymology, biotechnology, analytical chemistry.