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PhD Studentship: Redefining the metabolism of nitrogen cycling microbes using Dual Stable Isotope Probing

University of East Anglia - School of Biological Sciences

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Norwich
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £15,609 See advert text
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 30th October 2021
Closes: 12th January 2022
Reference: LEHTOVIRTA_UBIO22ARIES

Scientific background 

Nitrification is a central step in the global nitrogen cycle and a key driver of environmental change through its role in greenhouse gas emission and eutrophication. The nitrogen cycle is an essential ecosystem service with major impacts on the Earth’s climate and environments. Ammonia oxidising microorganisms play a critical role in nitrogen cycling in soil ecosystems. Ammonia oxidising microbes are amongst the most numerous living organisms on the planet and catalyse the initial and rate-limiting step in nitrification. Despite the immense importance of nitrifiers in diverse ecosystems, there are major knowledge gaps in our understanding of their metabolism and of their role in breaking down organic nitrogen compounds, such as urea and cyanate. This makes it hard to protect the resilience of ecosystem services and manage nitrogen losses from agricultural ecosystems, and this is a major challenge to global food security. This project will address critical gaps in our understanding of the physiology, ecology and activity of ammonia oxidising microbes in soils. 

The project 

The student will determine the contribution and metabolism of ammonia oxidising microbes to the turnover of urea and cyanate in the environment. This represents an overlooked, missing link between the global biogeochemical nitrogen and carbon cycles. 

Training 

The student will receive training in cutting-edge techniques in environmental molecular microbiology, including Dual Stable Isotope Probing, metagenomics, transcriptomics, bioinformatics, enzyme kinetics and microbial physiology. S/he will present their data at departmental seminars, at national and international conferences and at the annual Norwich Science Festival. The student will join the cohort of PhD students at UEA and attend training courses for research and transferable skills. The student will join the thriving molecular microbiology theme at UEA with >40 scientists whose research spans the biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen, carbon and sulphur. The project will be co-supervised by Matt Hutchings (JIC) and Colin Murrell (UEA). 

Person specification 

This project is suited to candidates with a BSc or MSc degree in Microbiology-, Environmental Sciences- and Biochemistry-related disciplines. 

Primary Supervisor: Dr Laura Lehtovitra-Morley

Start Date: 1 October 2022

For more information on this project, please visit www.uea.ac.uk

This project is funded by ARIES NERC DTP and will start on 1st October 2022.  

Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship covering fees, stipend (£15,609 p.a. for 2021-22) and research funding. International applicants (EU and non-EU) are eligible for fully-funded UKRI studentships.  

ARIES students benefit from bespoke graduate training and £2,500 for external training, travel and conferences.  

ARIES is committed to equality, diversity, widening participation and inclusion. Academic qualifications are considered alongside non-academic experience. Our recruitment process considers potential with the same weighting as past experience.  

For information and full eligibility visit https://www.aries-dtp.ac.uk  

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