PhD Study : Bioprocess Technology for microbial synthesis of surfactants using residual industrial by-products for different functionality

Apply and key information  


Industrial Partner: Bushmills Distillery, N.Ireland

The project would include the biosynthesis of bioactive molecule surfactants in bioprocess technology systems, including submerged and solid-state fermentation. The materials to be used as the carbon sources be provided by our industrial partner,   mainly the residual by-products and waste materials generated in the local distillery. Various other substrates, including residual wastes from the food and agriculture industry, will be explored as suitable economical low-cost materials.

This research project involves our efforts to contribute to sustainable development goals of sustainability and Circular Bioeconomy, including SDG3 Good Health & Well-Being (through environmental sustainability, use of wastes and bioremediation of pollutants using the functionality of biosurfactant), SDG4 Quality Education (through the training of a doctoral-researcher), and SDG9 (through Industrial partnership, developing a technology Innovation and Infrastructure for biosurfactant synthesis)


1-Optimization of biosystems for the selected microbial strains for the biosynthesis of bioactive molecule-Biosurfactant

2- Bioconversion of Industrial residual materials and byproducts to establish a low-cost fermentation technology to achieve high yields of biosurfactant

3- Collaboration with industrial and academic partners for the dissemination of Research.

Additional information: Professor Ibrahim Banat is a leading researcher in the area of Surface-active molecules (biosurfactants and emulsifiers), with extensive microbial fermentation production, characterization, and potential application of such molecules. His expertise includes all small- and large-scale fermentation production and all associated up and downstream processes. He has extensive experience in analytical techniques of these bioactive molecules.   Dr Poonam Singh Nigam is a senior academic with extensive research in microbiology, fermentation technology including solid-state fermentation, her expertise includes fermentation production and associated upstream and downstream processes and analytical techniques for the detection and quantifications of the primary and secondary metabolites such as Microbial enzymes, fungal and Bacterial biomass for various applications, and other bioactives.

Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • Clearly defined research proposal detailing background, research questions, aims and methodology

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area

Funding and eligibility

Recommended reading

1-Manga, Celik, Cabuk & Banat (2021). Biosurfactants: Opportunities for the development of a sustainable future.Current Opinion Colloid & Interface Science 101514

2-Banat et al. (2020) Biosurfactants: The green generation of speciality chemicals and potential production using Solid-State fermentation (SSF) technology. Bioresource Technology, 124222

3-da Silva, Banat, et al. (2021). Fungal biosurfactants, from nature to biotechnological product: Bioprospection, production and potential applications. Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering,

4-J de Oliveira, LP de Souza Vandenberghe, PZ de Oliveira, AFM de Mello, Nigam P. et al. 2021 Bioconversion of potato-processing wastes into an industrially-important chemical lactic acid. Bioresource Technology Reports, 100698

5-V Panagopoulos, A Dima, K Boura, L Bosnea, PS Nigam, et al. 2021. Cell factory models of non-engineered Saccharomyces cerevisiae containing lactase in a second layer for lactose fermentation in one batch. Enzyme and Microbial Technology 145, 109750

6-Drosos A, Boura K, Dima A, Soupioni M, Nigam P, et al. 2021. A cell-factory model of Saccharomyces cerevisiae based on bacterial cellulose without GMO for consolidated bioprocessing of starch. Food and Bioproducts Processing, 128, 202-214

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Wednesday 31 January 2024

Interview Date
to be confirmed

Preferred student start date
agreed once successful


Apply Online  

Contact supervisor

Professor Ibrahim Banat

Other supervisors