Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

PhD in Earth Science/Microbiology: Alternative anti-biofouling strategies: selecting the path of least resistance

Application deadline: 31 January 2017
Supervisors: Prof Vernon Phoenix (, Prof Bob Kalin, Dr Charles Knapp

Project Description

This project aims to reduce the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) by exploring innovative strategies to reduce (or eliminate) the need for biocide in fracking fluids.

Microbial activity in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations cause significant problem such as bio-clogging and corrosion. To prevent this, biocides are added to control microbial activity. Problematically, high concentrations of biocides are required to control these persistent organisms. This is a concern due to the potentially harmful impact of biocides in the environment.

This project will explore alternative strategies to anti-biofouling which are more environmentally friendly. This includes 1) cycling different antimicrobial agents to prevent the build-up of resistant species and 2) working with the organisms rather than against them (pro-biotics). In this probiotic approach we will aim to control fluid chemistry to promote the occurrence of desirable species, rather than problematic ones.

Microbial ecology, biofilm formation and biofouling will be explored using state-of-the-art techniques including, next generation sequencing and bioinformatics, GC-MS analysis of microbial metabolites and electron and fluorescent microscopies. Experiments will include using our laboratory based high pressure system to simulate realistic conditions. This project will be based in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Strathclyde, which houses our state-of-the-art (6M) microbiological and analytical laboratories. During this PhD you will develop a strong grounding in environmental microbiology and biogeochemistry relevant to employment in a diverse array of sectors, including environmental remediation and assessment, regulatory authorities, environmental consultancies and the oil & gas industry.

Funding notes

This is a fully funded 4-year studentship: Tuition fees (UK/EU) and an annual stipend equivalent to 2017/18 Research Council rates. This funding is available to UK citizens. It is also available to citizens of the EU who have been permanently in residence in the UK for a minimum of 3 years prior to taking up the studentship.

This project is funded by the NERC Oil and Gas CDT

Application criteria:

You should have or expect to achieve at least a 2:1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in a relevant science subject e.g. biology, earth/environmental science, chemistry, civil engineering.

Please contact Prof Vernon Phoenix ( for further information

How to apply:

Applications can be submitted online at:

published: 08 December 2016     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.