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Exploiting the natural tendencies of microbial systems to form stabilising, productive micro-structures towards designing biofunctional materials

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  • Full or part time
    Prof O Soyer
    Prof A Dove
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Industrial Collaboration with U-Pol

Current biotechnological microbial processes are focused on bulk bio-production using reactor-based approaches that are over decades old. This approach is primarily motivated by the industrial belief in ‘economies of scale’ and pushes microbiological process to confirm with the notion of large-scale reactor-based chemical processing. This standpoint is in stark contrast to microbial activities and function in nature, where microbes usually fill specific environmental niches allowing them to perform very specific functions in a stable and robust manner. Well-known examples include the microbial mats formed in freshwater streams1 and lakes and microbial granules formed on organic matter in the oceans2. Within these micro-structured environments microbes co-exist with other microbes, forming robust interactions that result in specific bioprocesses such as carbon fixation, metal and organic material filtering, and anaerobic digestion. While confined into small spaces locally, these bioprocess act globally to shape the Earth’s biochemistry3.

In this project, we will exploit the natural tendencies of microbial systems to form stabilising, productive micro-structures towards designing biofunctional materials. Combining the chemistry and systems/synthetic biology expertise from Dove and Soyer groups4,5, we will design specific chemical hydrogels for spatially organising functional microbes within a support structure. We will create a design-build-test cycle for achieving sustained microbial (metabolic) activity within these hydrogels. The resulting biomaterial will be further developed in collaboration with U-Pol, a leading UK-based coatings company, to attain new biotechnological applications for indoor and environmental filtering of pollutants.

Funding Notes

Studentship includes payment of fees and stipend and budgets for consumables and field work

- British nationals who have lived in the UK all their lives are eligible.
- Also eligible are non-British nationals who have settled status AND have been resident in the UK for 3 years immediately prior to the date of the start of the course.
- EU nationals who have been ordinarily resident in the UK and Islands for three years immediately prior to the date of start of the course are eligible.


1. PMID: 25109247
2. PMID: 27232202
3. PMID: 18497287
4. PMID: 24632350
5. PMID: 27840864

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of Warwick in Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 12.60

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

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