Chemical biology meets microbiology to combat climate change


As well as carbon dioxide (CO2), other important climate-active gases are known to drive global warming. Importantly, nitrous oxide (N2O), is a greenhouse gas with 300-times greater global warming power than CO2 and it also contributes to the destruction of the ozone layer. Production of N2O is a by-product of modern farming, where after applying fertilizers, soil-based bacteria consume nitrate and generate N2O. By understanding how bacteria do this and developing tools to control it, we could potentially reduce future biological N2O emissions, allowing recovery of the ozone layer and help reduce global climate change.

This PhD project will develop understanding of how DNA and RNA structures control nitrogen assimilation and N2O production in bacteria and how we can use small-molecules to control these pathways in cells. The project will provide training in a wide-range of biophysical, molecular biology and microbiological techniques, from characterizing the types of DNA/RNA structures, gene expression studies to ligand-binding assays. Led by Dr Andrew Gates and Dr Zoë Waller, this project will be based in the School of Biological Sciences, and the student will also work with the School of Pharmacy and facilities across the Norwich Research Park.

The student will have, or expect to obtain a first class, 2(i) or equivalent honours degree in Microbiology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Pharmacy or a related area.

Informal enquiries are welcomed; for further information please contact Dr Andrew Gates ( or Dr Zoë Waller (

Further reading:

1) Sullivan, M.J. et al. (2013) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 110, 19926.

2) Waller Z.A.E. et al. (2016) Chem. Commun. 52, 13511.

3) Abdelhamid M.A.S. (2018) Nucleic acids Res. 46, 5886.

4) Lycus, P. et al. (2018) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 115, 11820.

5) Bennett, S.P. et al. (2019) Chem Sci. 10, 4985.

6) Gaimster, H. (2019) mBIO 10, e01165.