Applications are invited for a three-year Postgraduate studentship with the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, to be undertaken within the Engineering and Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI) at Aston University. The successful applicant will join an established experimental group working on an interdisciplinary project encompassing research in bioprocess engineering, biogenic nanoparticles, and microbiology, toward sustainable biomanufacturing of functional materials
The position is available to start in either October 2022 or January, April, or July 2023 subject to negotiation.
This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the Home fees rate and a maintenance allowance (subject to eligibility). The figures for 2022/23 are yet to be confirmed. For reference, in the 2021/22 academic year, the maintenance allowance was £15,609 and the Home fees were £4,500.
Overseas applicants may apply for this studentship but will need to pay the difference between the ‘Home’ and the ‘Overseas’ tuition fees. The difference between ‘Home’ and ‘Overseas’ tuition fees for 2022/23 is yet to be confirmed. For reference, in the 2021/22 academic year, the difference was £13,100.
As part of the application, you will be required to confirm that you have applied for or secured this additional funding.
Background to the Project
Many types of bacteria are studied scientifically and used industrially to make products such as medicines, plastics, and fuels, and to clean waste streams. There exists a family of bacteria called magnetotactic bacteria (MTB) that make tiny crystals of iron called magnetosomes which can be extracted and used in a wide range of biotechnological and biomedical applications thus, representing an alternative to chemically-synthesized magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs). This is advantageous as MNPs often require synthesis at high temperatures, the use of organic solvents, and generating hazardous waste. In contrast, magnetosomes possess unique properties: they are ferrimagnetic, biocompatible, and are wrapped in an organic layer that prevents self-aggregation. However, efficient magnetosome bioprocessing is hindered by low productivities and complex biomanufacturing. The main focus of the project is to develop novel bioprocessing strategies using renewable biomass resources for the enhanced production of functional magnetosomes. The project will involve: (i) Identifying what process parameters lead to MTB cease growing and hence stop magnetosome production. Physiological changes to an external stimulus will be studied using flow cytometry. Nutrient consumption and product formation will be evaluated using HPLC, GC-MS, and ICP-OES. Magnetosomes will be characterized using DLS and TEM. (ii) Developing alternative production strategies to achieve higher magnetosome yields. Different cultivation strategies and bioreactor configurations will be evaluated. (iii) Develop functional magnetosomes for biocatalysis applications. Functional magnetosomes will be designed using chemical coupling to functional groups or genetic engineering to express functional peptides on the magnetosome surface.
The successful applicant should have been awarded, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree in a relevant subject with a 60% or higher weighted average, and/or a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent qualification from an overseas institution) in Biochemistry or Bioprocess Engineering or Microbiology. Preferred skill requirements include knowledge/experience of Biochemistry or Bioprocess Engineering or Microbiology. Experience in biocatalysis and bioreactors would be valuable.
We would particularly like to encourage applications from women seeking to progress in their academic careers. Aston University is committed to the principles of the Athena SWAN Charter, recognized recently by a prestigious Silver Award to EPS, and we pride ourselves on our vibrant, friendly, and supportive working environment and family atmosphere.
For formal inquiries about the projects contact Alfred Fernandez-Castaner: [email protected]