Optimising microbial production of lactic acid from municipal solid waste (MSW); Insights into genome stability for industrial biotechnology (IB) (PhD Scholarship)

Optimising microbial production of lactic acid from municipal solid waste (MSW); Insights into genome stability for industrial biotechnology (IB)

Aberystwyth University, IBERS

Project ID: AU20011
Annual Stipend: £14,340
Application Deadline: 14th January 2018

With growing population and increased demands on resources including oil, there is a need to develop economically and environmentally sustainable processes for the production of platform chemicals and products to replace those currently produced by the petro-chemical industry. Fiberight Ltd., a waste processing company have developed a process for the production of fermentable sugars from municipal solid waste (MSW). These non-food sugars are a low-cost substrate for the production of lactic acid, a platform chemical that can be used for the production of bio-plastics that have environmental benefits in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, the re-use of MSW, reduces the amount of waste going to landfill, thereby providing a ‘green’ production route to plastics. To ensure economic competitiveness with alternative routes to production, major improvements in the productivity of the fermenting organism and integration into the overall process are required.

The production of bio-plastics based on lactic acid requires optically pure forms of the acid, which are then mixed in specific ratios prior to forming a poly-lactate molecule. This project will use genome editing to produce strains capable of producing either optical forms (D and L) of lactic acid in the fermentation broth. Following manipulation, the strain will be assessed for changes in metabolism, growth rate and fermentation performance. Using these modified strains, the process for converting MSW sugars to lactic acid will be optimised through a series of fermentations (using design of experiment methodology) and downstream isolation technologies. This optimisation will include strain evolution to improve tolerance to potential any potential inhibitors to fermentation present in the MSW sugar stream.

In addition, deeper interrogation and comparative genomics with other related bacteria will be performed in order to identify and understand the role of gene loci putatively involved in the maintenance of genome stability and genetic intractability. The identification of these mechanisms will lead to new tools and resources to introduce and maintain the stability of industrial biotechnology biocatalysts developed in the future.


Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2) is a pan-Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for West Wales and the Valleys.

The successful candidate will need to be resident in the convergence area on registration, and must have the right to work in the region on qualification. The successful applicant should have a minimum of a 1st or good 2:1 in a relevant degree, and be available to take up the studentship by 29th January 2018. The project is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) through the European Union’s Convergence programme administered by the Welsh Government. KESS II PhD scholarships are collaborative awards with external partners. (Applicants need to only apply, they do not need to search for partners).


To apply, please submit the following to the Postgraduate Admissions Office (address below) by 14th January 2018.

  1. A completed Research Programme Application Form, two references. Application and reference forms may be downloaded from http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/postgrad/howtoapply/
  2. A completed KESS II Participant proposal form (put the reference number AU20011 in the top right hand box of the application form) and an up-to-date CV. KESS II application forms are available to download at the link below.


  1. A PhD proposal of up to 1,000 words where you expand on your experience and interests and describe why you are a good candidate for this research studentship. Please refer to the Project Description.


Value of Award: A stipend of £14,340 (rising in accordance with inflation for the remaining two years). Each scholarship has an additional budget for travel, equipment/consumables and training to support your research. KESS II PhD Scholarship holders do not pay fees.

Length: Full-time for 3 years. (Theses must be submitted 6 months after the funded three year study period.)

Training: The achievement of a Postgraduate Skills Development Award (PSDA) is compulsory for each KESS II scholar (The PSDA is based on a 60 credit award, which is an additional award to the PhD).

Eligibility: To be eligible to apply for a KESS II award, you must be resident, upon starting the scholarship, in the Convergence Area of Wales and you must be able to take paid employment in the Convergence area on completion of the scholarship.

The Convergence Area means the following counties of Wales:

Isle of Anglesey
Neath Port Talbot
Rhondda Cynon Taff

For further student eligibility criteria related to the individual projects, please view the details of the individual project above.

Informal enquiries should be made to Dr. Joseph Gallagher at jbg@aber.ac.uk or 01970823147; or Dr. David Bryant at dgb@aber.ac.uk or 01970622294.

Address for applications:

Postgraduate Admissions Office
Recruitment & Admissions
Student Welcome Centre
Aberystwyth University
SY23 3FB

Quote Reference: AU20011

Closing date for applications: 14th January 2018