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Tracking anaerobic microbial community responses using a synthetic biology approach

Project Description

Anaerobic digestion (AD) supports the biogenic production of methane from
organic waste by utilising the catabolic activities of complex microbial
communities. This technology is used at scale to recover precious resources
from waste as biogas and nitrogen-rich digestate. Biogas can be used as a
carbon neutral drop-in replacement for fossil fuels, while digestate can be
used as a low-energy alternative to chemical fertiliser. Understanding how
particular environmental, chemical and biological parameters result in specific
microbiome responses is important for a better understanding of the microbial
ecology that underlies the AD process.

This project will use synthetic biology approaches to produce low-cost,
quantitative in-situ tools that can chart and explore changes in metabolite and
toxin concentrations and report microbial community responses in close to
real-time. By introducing the expression of volatile reporter molecules under
the control of sensing pathways into indigenous anaerobes we aim to
generate signals that can be measured in the gas phase. This technology
would reduce the challenges associated with fouling of process monitoring
instruments, has the potential to provide measurements in response to lower
concentrations of specific molecules and could be useful in manipulating
microbial responses to their environment.

Funding Notes

This studentship is fully funded for four years and covers: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£15,009 estimated for 2020 entry), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.


Entry requirements: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this research project means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, or students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions.

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of York in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.37

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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