PhD Studentship: Novel biological mechanisms for the degradation of isoprene: a much neglected climate-active gas (MURRELL_U16ERC1)

University of East Anglia - School of Environmental Science

Start Date: Jan, April or July 2017

Supervisor: Professor Colin Murrell

Project description: Isoprene is a very important climate-active compound with both global warming and cooling effects. Globally, trees emit around 600 million tonnes of isoprene per year yet little is known about its biogeochemical cycle. Microbes in soils and on leaves may be important in removal of isoprene in the biosphere before it gets released to the atmosphere. This PhD studentship is funded through an ERC Advanced Grant entitled Bacterial isoprene metabolism: a missing link in a key global biogeochemical cycle. The aim is to understand the metabolism and ecological importance of biological isoprene degradation and to test the hypothesis that isoprene degrading bacteria play a crucial role in the biogeochemical isoprene cycle, thus mitigate the effects of this climate-active gas.

Key goals of this 4 year PhD studentship are to elucidate the biological mechanisms by which isoprene is metabolised by bacteria isolated from the terrestrial environment.  Specific aims are: a) Isolate and characterise bacteria that metabolise isoprene; b) Elucidate the pathways of isoprene metabolism and their regulation; c) Characterise the enzymes catalysing key steps in isoprene degradation, especially isoprene monooxygenase; d) Identify genes encoding isoprene-degrading enzymes and regulatory mechanisms.

The successful applicant will join a vibrant and productive lab working on microbial physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics and ecology of microbes important in biogeochemical cycles (see lab web site:

Enthusiastic and highly motivated candidates should have at least a BSc Hons degree at the level of 2.1 or above in Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry or related sciences. Further experience at Masters/research level in microbial biochemistry and/or molecular microbiology would be an advantage.

The studentship can start on 1 April or 1 July 2017. For further information contact Colin Murrell (

Person specification: Minimum 2:1 in Microbiology, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Biological Sciences

Funding notes: This PhD studentship is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) for four years.  Funding is available to EU applicants only and includes tuition fees and an annual stipend of £14,296.

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South East England