Investigating the use of marine thraustochytrids for biofuel production

Background and rationale

Marine Thraustochytrids are an ecologically important and diverse group of microbial protists that are saprophytes and occasionally parasites. They are also of significant interest to biotechnologists because some species produce large quantities of lipids, which can include the nutritionally important omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. Moreover, their ecology suggests that they may be an important source of cell (e.g. seaweed) degrading enzymes. Collectively, it is feasible to hypothesise that Thraustochytrids could be utilised for the production of biofuels, where, for example, they could be grown on waste biomass such as farmed seaweed to produce valuable lipids that may be utilised as biofuel or enzyme cocktails to release sugars from seaweeds for bioethanol. This programme of study seeks to investigate multiple novel marine thraustochytrids with the aim to identify and exploit one or more of these strains to produce products of value to the production of biofuels.

Research methods

The project will employ a diverse set of research methods including, cultivation and optimisation of Thraustochytrid growth; biochemical analysis of macronutrients; metabolomic analysis of lipids and other metabolites; protein/enzyme extraction and analysis of cell wall-degrading enzyme activity; DNA isolation, purification and whole genome sequencing and bioinformatic analysis; and phylogenetic analysis.

Deliverables and Impact

The programme aims to identify the growth characteristics of novel thraustochytrids; their cell wall degradative capacity; identify the classes and quantities of lipid produced; begin investigation of the genomics of these thraustochytrids. The impact of this work will be to establish the value of marine thraustochytrids as a resource to sustainably meet global energy demands.

Skills, experience and interests

The candidate should possess a strong intellectual curiosity matched by a strong enjoyment of laboratory based research. Ideally, the candidate should have a strong degree based round biology, biochemistry, microbiology or molecular biology. The candidate should be able to demonstrate knowledge and experience with laboratory cultivation of microorganisms; biochemistry and/or experience with enzyme assays; experience with isolation of DNA, polymerase chain reaction and experience or knowledge of various types of bioinformatics.

Deadline for Applications: Tuesday 11th October 2022 (17:00)

Click here for full information.

For further information

Please contact Dr David Green for further information about the project (

Deadline for Applications: Tuesday 11th October 2022 (17:00) (see ‘How to Apply’ tab for details)
Interview date: 3rd November 2022
Studentship starts: on or before 16th January 2023

This 3.5 year, fully funded PhD studentship follows UKRI funding guidance. To qualify for home fees status, applicants must be either a UK National (meeting residency requirements) or meet the requirements of the EU Settlement Scheme and have either settled status, pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements) or indefinite leave to remain or enter. The studentship covers home fees, a maintenance stipend and a research training grant.

The documents you need to apply for the PhD studentship: Investigating the use of marine thraustochytrids for biofuel production

RD1_Part1_Research Degree Student application 1.0 2022_23
1iii Applicant Reference Request form_22
1a - PGR-2022-23-Application-guidance_SAMS

Please ensure you submit the application form with all the relevant supporting documentation to SAMS Graduate School by email to: