PhD Studentship: Characterising the Microbe-Mineral Interface of the Biomining Bacteria Acidithiobacillus (CLARKE_U17DTP)

University of East Anglia - School of Biological Sciences

Start Date:  1st October 2017

Supervisor: Dr Tom Clarke

Project description: The microorganism Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans is an acid-loving, iron oxidising bacteria that can grow on mineral ores in the presence of oxygen. These bacteria break down the mineral pyrite, causing the release of soluble metal ions and sulfates from the ore, causing the production of acidic iron containing water that can lead to serious river and lake pollution (acid mine drainage). Conversely, these bacteria can also be used to extract copper from low grade copper ores in a process known as bioleaching or biomining. Currently 20 % of the worlds copper production comes from this bioleaching, an energy efficient process that avoids the use of toxic chemicals.

Iron oxidation by A. ferrooxidans occurs at the surface of the cell, but the protein responsible appears too small to form an effective electron channel through the outer cell membrane.  This project aims to investigate how this outer membrane protein can oxidise pyrite and pass the electrons through the outer membrane and into the cell. The student will use a range of structural and kinetic methods, including small angle scattering and proteoliposome systems, to properly characterize a recombinant form of the cytochrome, and use these results to better understand how it functions to oxidise iron at the surface of the bacterium.

Person specification: Minimum entry 2:1

Funding notes: Full Studentships cover a stipend (RCUK rate: £14,296 pa – 2016/7), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate, and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships, which when combined will equal a full studentship. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements.

Details on eligibility for funding on the BBSRC website:

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South East England