University of Portsmouth wins research project of the year

Friday December 6th, 2019


The research team at the University of Portsmouth have engineered an enzyme which can digest polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic – helping to solve the global plastic pollution problem.


The pioneering research on plastic-eating enzymes has won the 2019 Research Project of the Year (STEM) at the Times Higher Education (THE) Awards.

Professor John McGeehan presented the team’s research, which engineered an enzyme capable of digesting polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic.

PET is used to make 20,000 single-use plastic bottles every second worldwide, and the discovery is paving the way for a more efficient method of recycling and helping solve the global plastic pollution problem.

Known as ‘the Oscars of higher education’, the annual awards recognise excellence in academia. Professor McGeehan, along with his PhD student, Harry Austin and research colleagues from Diamond Light Source in Oxford, was presented with the prize at the awards ceremony in London on Thursday 28 November.

Professor McGeehan said: “One of the most powerful weapons we have to combat our ever-increasing plastic pollution problem is education. I am, therefore, particularly delighted to receive this award from Times Higher Education.

“Our aim is to translate our fundamental research on enzymes that breakdown a range of different plastics into real-world recycling solutions through innovation and international collaboration. It is fantastic to have this recognition and support as we continue to grow our team and disseminate our research.”

This work is at the centre of a wider strategy to transform our University into one of the world’s greenest, placing sustainable development at the centre of our curriculum and student experience, and building a world leading academic community focused on plastic and sustainability.

Read the full story here.


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