Recover, Recycle, Reengineer: A microbial and biotechnological solution to tackle the waste tyre problem

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Dr Jennifer Pratscher


We are seeking applicants for a 4-year funded BBSRC IBioIC CTP industrial PhD studentship, starting September 2020.

Used rubber tyres, particularly when disposed to landfill, have been recognised to fast becoming one of the foremost environmental waste problems in the world. The recycling of rubber is a very challenging task and to date there is no solution to this increasingly important problem. The industrial partner Recircle Ltd has developed a novel sustainable technology to devulcanise and reuse rubber waste for reprocessing into high value rubber products using microorganisms. The devulcanisation/desulfurisation of rubber relies on the work of enzymes which are not fully identified yet.

This PhD project will investigate the key processes involved in biodesulfurisation of rubber. The PhD student will be trained in cutting-edge techniques to analyse and identify all genes and enzymes that are responsible for biodesulfurisation in order to get a better understanding and further improve the devulcanisation process. This project will also aim to enrich and isolate new desulfurising bacteria from tyre dump sites and mine for novel genes in the degradation of organosulfur compounds. In addition, the student will utilise site-directed mutagenesis to create mutant strains of the bacteria that constitutively express these desulfurisation enzymes.

The student will join a vibrant laboratory working on a variety of aspects of microbiology. The student will be based at the Lyell Centre at Heriot-Watt University and receive further training from industrial partner Recircle Ltd. This exciting collaboration will provide the student with excellent training and highly valuable experiences. The combination of skills and facilities will prove a very strong asset for their training and enhance the student’s future career prospects. For more information on our activities please visit our website:

This PhD studentship is part of the IBioIC CTP programme (, providing further training and cohort opportunities.

Please contact Dr Jennifer Pratscher ( for informal information.


The scholarship is open to UK/EU applicants with at least 3 years residency in the UK immediately prior to the PhD. The successful candidate should have a strong interest in microbiology and possess, at minimum, a masters and undergraduate degree. Experience in microbial biotechnology or molecular cloning is also desirable.


The scholarship will cover tuition fees and provide an annual stipend for the 48 month duration of the studentship, as well as an annual Research Training Support Grant.

How to apply

To apply please complete our online application form and include the full project title, reference number and supervisor on your application form. Ensure that all fields marked as ‘required’ are complete.  

You must complete the section marked project proposal and upload a supporting statement documenting your reasons for applying to this particular PhD project, and why you are an ideal candidate for the position. You will also need to provide a CV, a copy of your degree certificate and relevant transcripts. You will be asked to enter details of an academic referee. Until your nominated referee has uploaded their statement, your application will not be marked as complete and will not be considered by the review panel.

You must also provide proof of your ability in the English language (if English is not your mother tongue or if you have not already studied for a degree that was taught in English within the last 2 years). We require an IELTS certificate showing an overall score of at least 6.5 with no component scoring less than 6.0 or a TOEFL certificate with a minimum score of 90 points.


Start date is 14 September 2020.