Microbial interspecies electron transfer in anaerobic bioreactors

This project will investigate the mechanisms of direct interspecies electron transfer in mixed-culture microbial community stimulated by conductive materials, using lab-scale bioreactors, DNA analysis, RT-qPCR analysis, metagenomics and metatranscriptomics analyses. 

Start date
1 January 2022
Duration
3 years
Application deadline
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Funding source
University of Surrey
Funding information

Full tuition fee waiver plus Stipend at UKRI rates p.a. (currently at £15,609) for three years. Personal computer provided. International exchange opportunities.

About

Environmental biotechnologies use microbial communities to remove pollutants and transform waste (such as wastewater, food waste, agricultural waste) into resources. Anaerobic bioprocesses are more sustainable than conventional aerobic processes due to the advantages of reducing energy consumption and CO2 emission, producing biogas and value-added chemicals.

Biomethane is one of the products from waste organics materials by anaerobic microorganisms. The anaerobic bioprocesses rely on the syntrophic partnership between different microbial species. Methanogenic archaeal species (methanogens) receive electrons from their syntrophic bacteria partners. The interspecies electron transfer can be mediated by electron carrier molecules (e.g., H2), cellular electron conductive components (e.g., pili, outer membrane cytochromes), and conductive materials (e.g., activated carbon, magnetite). Conductive materials can act as electron conduits and facilitate direct interspecies electron transfer (DIET) between syntrophic partners.

This project will investigate the mechanisms of direct interspecies electron transfer in mixed-culture microbial community stimulated by conductive materials, using lab-scale bioreactors, DNA analysis, RT-qPCR analysis, metagenomics and metatranscriptomics analyses. The outcome of the mechanism study will help to design and develop high-efficiency waste-to-resource bioprocesses.

Students will have funded international exchange opportunities (such as the United States and Canada). The University of Surrey offers training and support via the Researcher Development Programme (RDP), providing development opportunities for postgraduate research students across the University.

The leading supervisor Dr Bing Guo, works on biological processes for wastewater treatment to recover resources and improve water quality, such as anaerobic digestion, biofilm, and membrane bioreactors. Her work has covered mechanisms of direct interspecies electron transfer (DIET), microbial ecology, antimicrobial resistance gene (ARG) transfer.

The co-supervisor Professor Claudio Avignone Rossa FRSB, Department of Microbial Sciences works on Systems Microbiology, as well as the use of electrogenic microbial communities in bioelectrochemical systems, Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) and Microbial Electrosynthesis Cells (MECs) for the treatment and conversion of agriwaste and wastewater.

Related links
Department of Microbial Sciences

Eligibility criteria

Applicants are expected to hold a first or upper-second class degree in a relevant discipline (or equivalent overseas qualification), or a lower second plus a good Masters degree (distinction normally required). Students from environmental engineering, microbiology, bioscience, or other relevant background are welcome to apply.

Eligibility for International Fees Scholarships (including eligibility for funded internal studentships without payment of additional fees) is restricted to high-quality international applicants who demonstrate exceptional research readiness through both: 

1. An excellent academic record evidenced by  

  • Achieving the top qualification in the highest degree attempted, and/or 
  • Other indicators such as academic prizes or scholarships, and/or  
  • Outstanding performance in a substantial research project.  

AND 

2. Other indicators of research readiness, such as  

  • Research outputs (conference papers, publications, inventions)  
  • Prizes (conference prizes, research or innovation prizes, competitions, etc). 

External/industrial experience such as substantial (>3 months) placement or internship, where relevant and where resulting in a specific evidenced outcome.

English Language requirements  

IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Civil and Environmental Engineering PhD programme page on the "Apply" tab. Please clearly state the studentship title and supervisor on your application.


Application deadline

Contact details

Bing Guo
02 AA 03
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686617
E-mail: b.guo@surrey.ac.uk
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