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Synthetic and Mechanistic Studies into Enzymatic Degradation of Waste Plastics

Project Description

Applications are invited for an EPSRC-funded PhD studentship in the general area of biological chemistry.

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.

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. 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 ( and offers state-of-the-art laboratories, instrumentation and facilities.

Eligible candidates should have, or expect to obtain, a minimum of an upper second class UK undergraduate (or equivalent) in chemistry.

Please select PhD Biological Chemistry in the online application form.

Contact for further Information:
Dr. Lu Shin Wong

Funding Notes

Funded by an EPSRC DTG and awarded by the School of Chemistry. The funding covers tuition fees and a stipend for 3.5 years (£14,777p.a. in 2018/19).
Open to UK/EU applicants only.
International students may be considered on a self-funded basis (please contact Dr. Wong).
High calibre candidates of any origin may be considered for a President’s Doctoral Scholarship.
We expect the Programme to commence in September 2019.

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