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WR DTP project: Molecular understanding of carbon assimilation through the mannitol pathway in key species of microalgae

   Department of Biology

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  Dr T Tonon, Prof Luke Mackinder  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Seas and oceans cover more than 70% of our planet, contribute to half of the primary production on Earth, and are responsible for cycling half of the carbon fixed by living organisms. Algae are significant contributors to these processes. These organisms result from a complex evolutionary history that shape their metabolic networks. As an example, some algae have evolved peculiar polysaccharide and carbohydrate metabolic pathways, for which knowledge is still limited.

Mannitol biosynthesis is used by some microalgae to store photosynthetic carbon. These organisms featured distinct combinations of genes coding for enzymes involved in mannitol production, showing different evolution of this pathway across algal lineages. The project aim to better understand the molecular bases and regulation of mannitol production in ecological and biotechnological relevant microalgae. It will combined: (1) transcriptomic and metabolite profiling of selected species under different grown conditions; (2) biochemical characterization of recombinant proteins; (3) CRISPR/Cas9 genetic manipulation of metabolic pathways. This project will deepen understanding of the role of microalgae in the disturbed global carbon balance due to climate change. It will also shed light on pathways for genetic engineering of microalgae, a crucial component in the exploitation of the metabolic potential of these organisms.

The White Rose DTP in Mechanistic Biology is committed to recruiting extraordinary future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

Funding Notes

This project is part of the BBSRC WR DTP in Mechanistic Biology. Appointed candidates will be fully-funded for 4 years. The funding includes:
Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£15,285 for 2020/21)
UK tuition fees (£4,473 for 2021/22)
Research support and training charges (RSTC)
We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.


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 programme 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. If English is not your first language, you will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for your country. Please check our website:

START DATE: 1st October 2021

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