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Radiation-responses of cyanobacteria and phototrophic molecules

Background:Radiation levels beyond Earth’s atmosphere present a serious challenge for both organisms and biomarker molecules exposed to this environment. The relationship between UV-radiation and the phototrophic mechanisms of microalgae (such as cyanobacteria) is antagonistic, with solar energy being harvested by the organism whilst being potentially lethal at high doses. However, several microorganisms can develop a tolerance to various stressors after exposure to sub-lethal doses.

Project description: This Masters project is part of ongoing research into the responses of microorganisms and biomarker molecules to the space environment. Utilizing the concept of experimental evolution, the student will be responsible for “radio-priming” cyanobacterial samples through exposure to simulated solar irradiation. Spectroscopic techniques will then be used to examine the physiological responses of the organisms and photostability of key molecules such as chlorophyll, phycocyanin, carotenoids or other associated pigments.


  • Interest in cross-field research at the interface between physics and biology
  • Knowledge of spectroscopic techniques; previous laboratory experience (particularly in organic chemistry) is desirable
  • A good mix of curiosity, enthusiasm and hard-working attitude
  • Good proficiency in spoken and written English


Start: November 2020 (negotiable)