Synthetic and Mechanistic Studies into Enzymatic Degradation of Waste Plastics

   Department of Chemistry

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Plastics are a broad range of solid polymeric materials that have found widespread application globally. However, there has been a steady accumulation of discarded plastics and there is now growing awareness that they present a significant hazard to the natural environment and human health. As a result, there is a need to discover new methods for the economical, safe and sustainable reprocessing or degradation of waste plastics; to either innocuous small molecules or to other molecules that can serve as feedstocks for new products.

However, there are currently no effective methods for the molecular degradation of “non-hydrolysable” polyolefin polymers and phenolic resins, which represent the bulk of plastic use globally. These materials are particularly difficult to tackle since their polymer chains consist primarily of bonds that are chemically unreactive, and their hydrophobicity makes them entirely insoluble under physiological conditions.

This project aims to recombinantly engineer oxidative enzymes and the (bio)chemical reaction pathways involved in the break-down of polymers. Thus, the research will involve elements of mutagenesis and production of enzymes, the chemical synthesis of small molecule models of the polymers, the computational modelling of enzyme-substrate binding, and the chemical analysis of the enzymatic reactions.

This research will suit a chemist, biochemist or molecular biologist with an interest in working on a varied and multidisciplinary project. The successful candidate will join a growing team of researchers from a range of backgrounds from chemistry, molecular biology and biophysics. They will receive a broad scientific training across these areas, as appropriate to their background. The research will be based at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (, which offers state-of-the-art laboratories, instrumentation and facilities. Informal enquiries can be directed at the supervisor Dr. Lu Shin Wong (

Entry requirements:

The minimum academic entry requirement for a PhD in the Faculty of Science and Engineering is an upper second-class honours degree (or international equivalent) in a discipline directly relevant to the PhD OR any upper-second class honours degree (or international equivalent) and a Master’s degree merit (or international equivalent) in a discipline directly relevant to the PhD.

Full entry requirements

How to apply:

You will need to submit an online application through our website here:

When you apply, you will be asked to upload the following supporting documents: 

• Final Transcript and certificates of all awarded university level qualifications

• Interim Transcript of any university level qualifications in progress

• CV

• You will be asked to supply contact details for two referees on the application form (please make sure that the contact email you provide is an official university/ work email address as we may need to verify the reference)

• English Language certificate (if applicable)

Your application form must be accompanied by a number of supporting documents by the advertised deadlines. Without all the required documents submitted at the time of application, your application will not be processed and we cannot accept responsibility for late or missed deadlines. Incomplete applications will not be considered. If you have any queries regarding making an application please contact our admissions team

Before you apply

We strongly recommend that you contact the supervisor to discuss the application before you apply. 


At Manchester we offer a range of scholarships, studentships and awards at university, faculty and department level, to support both UK and overseas postgraduate researchers.

For more information, visit our funding page or search our funding database for specific scholarships, studentships and awards you may be eligible for.

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder). 

Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6) Materials Science (24)

Funding Notes

At Manchester we offer a range of scholarships, studentships and awards at university, faculty and department level, to support both UK and overseas postgraduate researchers. Please see the project description for further details.

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