Monday, 05 March 2018 20:33

Post-graduate positions available at IMBM

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From 1 April 2018

The Institute for Microbial Biotechnology and Metagenomics (IMBM) is a leading research unit based within the Department of Biotechnology at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). The Institute is a global competitor in microbial biotechnology and metagenomics and is committed to excellence in research and the training of future research leaders. Its research encompasses a number of disciplines including microbiology, (meta)genomics, molecular biology, enzymology and bioinformatics, and employs culture-based approaches as well as cutting edge ”omics” strategies to study microbiomes, and identify novel biosynthetic gene clusters and metabolites. The Institute focuses on the research and development of novel, high-value natural products for the pharmaceutical, cosmeceutical, food & beverage and agricultural industries, as well as products for industrial processes.


Projects available for MSc or PhD studies
Novel Marine Drugs through (meta)Genomics
The South African coast harbours high levels of marine species endemism. This project involves the isolation of biosynthetic gene clusters encoding novel bioactive compounds from prokaryotes associated with marine invertebrates and sediments. The approaches employed are aimed to overcome two of the major bottlenecks which hinder the discovery and development of pharmacological drug compounds.

Metagenomic Mining in Extreme Environments
A Malawian hot spring metagenome has been sequenced. There are several near-complete genomes assembled which represent novel species. One of the aims will be to describe these new species and identify characteristics that could inform on their adaptation to the thermophilic environment which they inhabit. The data will also be analysed for the isolation of novel biocatalysts or enzymes which may have biotechnological application.

BlueSkies Metagenomics
The absence of an appropriate biocatalyst has been an impeding factor in many biotechnologies, and thus there is an urgent need for biotechnology innovation. Metagenomics has for almost two decades promised to deliver these biocatalysts, but due to several limitations, it has not achieved all that it promised. We have shown the proof of concept for a highly innovative, novel and powerful technology to take metagenomics to a new level, which represents a paradigm shift in the way that functional metagenomic screening is conducted. The further development of this technology innovation will be the focus of this project, and is expected to result in the accelerated discovery of novel enzymes, bioactivities and organisms with enormous commercializable potential in a number of (bio)technology sectors.

Novel microbial surfactants as natural speciality chemicals for commercial application
Surfactants are amphipathic molecules with both hydrophilic and hydrophobic moieties that partition preferentially at the interface between fluid phases such as oil/water or air/water interfaces. Such
characteristics confer excellent detergency, emulsifying, foaming, and dispersing traits, which makes surfactants some of the most versatile process chemicals. Synthetic surfactants; however, are increasingly considered as an environmental risk and biosurfactants (microbially produced surface-active compounds), which are biodegradable and generally considered environmentally friendly, have increasingly gathered a lot of interest as potential alternatives. The IMBM is in the process of developing a portfolio of biosurfactants for use in a variety of industrial processes. The project involves the isolation and characterisation (chemical, structural and performance) of novel biosurfactants, as well as the upscaling of biosurfactant production.

Assessing the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance genes in domestic greywater systems
Domestic greywater systems have greywater as a potential source of antimicrobial resistance organisms, which could lead to environmental contamination. The aims of this project are to employ various molecular techniques (qPCR, FACS or T-RFLP) to screen for and quantify antimicrobial resistance genes in domestic grey water systems. A novel FACS assay for the detection of resistance phenotypes will also be established.

Minimum requirements:
For MSc: BSc Hons or equivalent qualification with a minimum average of 60%; majoring in Microbiology, Biotechnology, Biochemistry or a related relevant field.

For PhD: MSc in Microbiology, Biotechnology, Biochemistry or an equivalent qualification.

Additional requirements:
Experience and skills in molecular biology techniques, method development and good laboratory practice. Responsibility, reliability, good problem solving, time management, communication (written and verbal) and interpersonal skills, as well as computer literacy, are absolute requirements. Experience in extraction, isolation and structural analysis technologies is a major advantage

To apply or for enquiries, contact Dr Anita Burger, Research and Innovation Manager, IMBM by email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or telephonically (021 959 2083). Applications should be submitted electronically and include a letter of motivation, abstract from your Hons research project, a CV, a certified copy of the highest degree, and the contact details of three references. The due date for applications is 16 March 2018.

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