Fully-funded PhDs available in Biological Sciences from the SoCoBio Doctoral Training Partnership for September 2020

Microbiologically-influenced corrosion (MIC): Development of a model system to investigate the role of biofilm communities within MIC and their control using industrial biocides

This is a full-funded PhD available at the University of Southampton under the SoCoBio partnership.

Primary Supervisors:
Professor Jeremy S Webb (National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC), Biological Sciences, University of Southampton)
Dr Maria Salta (School of Biological Sciences, University of Portsmouth)

Co-Supervisors:
Dr Torben Lund Skovhus (Docent, VIA University College, Denmark)
Dr Julian Wharton (Mechanical Engineering, University of Southampton)

Industrial Affiliation – DNV GL
Kathryn Thomas (DNV GL Loughborough)
Timothy Illson (DNV GL Loughborough)
Rick Eckert (DNV GL Detroit)

Project Summary:
Microbiologically-Influenced Corrosion (MIC) is a major industrial concern, estimated to contribute around 20% of the £1 billion annual cost of corrosion to the oil and gas industry alone. Biofilms are surface-adherent microbial communities that are more tolerant towards antimicrobials than unattached bacteria and will form on any water-contacting surface. Their presence increases rates of corrosion of underlying metals, causing significant damage and representing cost in both repair and management. Currently companies use biocide dosing to attempt to control bacterial growth. However, little is known about the impact of biocide regimens on the developmental dynamics of biofilms, their community composition, function or viability and there has been no external validation of their efficacy.

This project will develop and validate a representative model system in which inoculate typical of those found in operating pipelines can be cultured as biofilms and investigated. Commercially available biocides as well as novel antimicrobial compounds can then be introduced, and the following investigated:
• Impact on biofilm viability
• Changes in prevalence and activity of different species within the biofilm using molecular microbial methods such as qPCR & NGS
• Changes in corrosion rate of the underlying metal with methods used across academia and industry
• Mechanistic relationships between the above through the data collected, providing novel insights into the specific effects of different biocides and potentially highlighting new approaches to biocide development
The development of such a model will support a move towards evidence-based biocide dosing, empowering asset owners to reduce the effect of MIC leading to reduced cost, increased sustainability and increased asset lifetime. The contribution of DNV GL as industrial partners will give the student access to both industrial standard practices and representative samples and testing conditions. The data produced will likely influence the recommendations of a new standard being drafted on biocide dosing through NACE International (nace.org)

What is SoCoBio?

South Coast Biosciences (SoCoBio) is a new BBSRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership offering students a broad 4-year research training programme with the skills they need to develop into future bioscience leaders in academia or in industry. This new collaboration of four leading Universities alongside an independent research Institute – The University of Southampton, The University of Kent, The University of Sussex, The University of Portsmouth and NIAB-EMR – provides doctoral training in Biosciences across the South Coast in the following areas:

  • Understanding the rules of life (~11 scholarships available)
  • Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food (~5 scholarships available)
  • Bioscience for renewable resources and clean growth (~8 scholarships available)
  • Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health (~3 scholarships available)

A full list of available projects can be found on the SoCoBio website.

SoCoBio are keen to recruit students from a wide diversity of academic backgrounds: those with creative drive in both Physical (for example, Maths, Computer Science, Engineering) as well as the Life Sciences (for example, Biology, Biomedicine, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Biotechnology).

The SoCoBio programme

As a SoCoBio student you will:

  • Receive four years of funding covering UK/EU PhD fees, a maintenance allowance (currently £15,009 in 2019-20) and a research and training allowance;
  • Follow a skills training programme in year one, with taught modules and two laboratory rotations;
  • Become part of the SoCoBio student community meeting at conferences and summer schools;
  • Have access to expert supervisors in two SoCoBio institutions or industry;
  • Get training in your specific field of research and also broader research skills such as Data Management;
  • Develop broad employability skills with training in business skills including entrepreneurship, and science communication and a 3-month internship outside academia.

Further information on rotations, training and the types of projects available can be found on the SoCoBio website.

How to apply

Interested students should complete Section A and Section B of the SoCoBio online application form by 23:59 on January 28th 2020.

Further details in included in the Guidance for Applicants.

Shortlisted candidates will be invited to a selection day in Southampton on February 26th or 27th 2020 with scholarship offers being made in early March 2020.

Only UK and EU students are eligible for funding. EU students need to have been resident in the UK for at least 3 years to receive the full award.

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