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PhD Research Topics You Can Take Up in 2019 – Top 10 List

According to Albert Szent-Györgyi, the Nobel Prize winner in the field of Biochemistry, Research is to what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.
Research literally means searching again for facts hidden inside what is right in front of us, cause and effect of a thing, exploring things to enhance socio-economic development. Research should aim for innovative development, for a good cause towards society. Research outcome should contribute to making existing things better.

The world surrounding us is full of mystery. So many things are there to be discovered and explained why they are the way they are. With the emergence of a new era as we are creating something new, parallelly those discoveries create unwanted problems altering natural balance as well. So if the invention is for the enhancement of lifestyle at the same time it is our duty to develop strategies to restore the balance of nature.

Some of the important concern of today’s world includes saving the planet against unwanted plastic pollution, fighting severe life-threatening diseases, developing a strategy for the conservation of threatened animals, developing innovative alternative natural resources, etc. So a researcher can definitely use his/her creativity in contributing any solution for any of the concerns mentioned above.

In this article, we have summarized a few PhD Research Topics that can be taken up by the researchers in 2019.

Microbial degradation of plastic

Generating waste is a natural process. In order to manage the waste natural decomposers are there who help in cleaning the environment and recycling also. But as more and more synthetic products are developed accordingly decomposers are not developing. Moreover, decomposers are living organisms capable of degrading only organic and a limited number of chemicals. Due to the population explosion, the extensive use of substances has led to the accumulation of a huge amount of plastic wastes. Plastic wastes not only polluting the earth rather they have now invaded into destroying the oceans as well. It’s not possible to completely forbid these substances. As most of these are non-biodegradable, so one alternative is either we find a biodegradable substance or we genetically modify the available microbes for degradation. Certain microbes have been identified as potential plastic degraders such as Bacillus cereus, that can degrade polyethylene with an efficiency of 72%. Similarly, other potential microbes Pseudomonas putida that can degrade milk packets are there. So they can be screened and a thorough genetic study may help in identifying particular genes and their products responsible for this plastic degrading quality. Once genes are identified, they can be cloned or altered to enhance the efficiency of the microbes.

Biofuel Production

The human population has expanded to such an extent that the availability of non-renewable energy resources has come down to a critical point. Most of the stored organic fuel in the interior of the earth has already been excavated. So it is high time to search for alternative sources of fuel that is economic and environmental friendly, such as biofuels. Although crops and other plants that store oil could provide a source to be used as biofuel, this will lead to a food crisis. So the better alternatives include photosynthetic algal groups which are also rich in terms of oil storage. Some algal species such as Euglena, Tribonema, and Ulothrix are good potential sources of biofuel production. Biofuel extraction from algae is easy and economic. The approximate oil content of algae is 20-80% which can be converted to fuel forms such as kerosene and biodiesel. Once the genes involved in regulating the synthesis of oil is identified, gene manipulation technologies can be used to enhance the oil production in the organism and subsequent commercialization of the product.

As per reports, a private US company successfully operated for several years for commercial-scale (2 ha) production of Haematococcus pluvialis for biodiesel annual averaged rate of achieved microbial oil production equivalent to 420 GJ ha1 yr1. It was also claimed that a rate of 3200 GJ/ ha/ yr was achievable using Chlorella thus eliminating fossil fuel emissions of CO2 of about 6.5 gigatons of carbon (GtC) per year. It was also expected that some algal biodiesel processes, such as the one being developed at the University of Utah, would be cost competitive with regular diesel. Xu (2006) in China also reported the production of biodiesel using Chlorella protothecoides at a scale of 11,000 L. So it definitely makes it a good PhD Research Topics with better scopes for the future.

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Finding a cure for HIV

HIV has been one of the most dangerous diseases ever affecting mankind. As the virus attacks the immune system itself treatment and cure of this disease become challenging. Scientists working intensely across worldwide have successfully developed the ART (Antiretroviral therapy) for the treatment of HIV. Although ART has achieved great success in terms of controlling the mortality rate of HIV infected persons until now there has been no absolute cure developed which can completely eliminate viruses from the body. As per the declaration by FDA HIV cure should research should include any scientific approach that will result in controlling viral load up to such an extent that the patient won’t need any medical assistance for survival. Hence recently the research area of HIV has been shifted from treatment to cure.

The major problems in developing a cure for HIV is the presence of quiescent viral reservoirs in the body that are unresponsive to ART. At present, the research is oriented in developing a biomedical cure by sustained ART-free suppression of HIV by eliminating all the latent viral reservoirs and a functional cure to control the rebound of the virus without completely eliminating this in absence of ART. So definitely this field gives a broad research area to invent a sustainable cure for HIV.

Phylloremediation, a Solution for air pollution

Air pollution has become one of the biggest concerns in some developing countries like India and China because of their excessive population and economic growth. Polluted air is severely affecting the well being of the local inhabitants as it can be directly inhaled resulting in primary respiratory disorder. Small air filters have been invented by various scientists in order to remove contaminants from the surrounding. But these devices are effective within a limited radius. In order to find a large scale purifier definitely, plants and plant-associated microbes can be exploited.

Previous reports indicate the potential capacity of leaf and leaf associated plants in degrading pollutants such as toluene reduction by leaves of yellow lupine plants along with endophytic Burkholderia cepacia, poplar leaves, and the leaf-associated Methylobacterium sp. For the degradation of xenobiotic compounds. So definitely Phylloremediation via plant leaves and leaf-associated microbes in bioremediation of air pollutants is an interesting and useful PhD Research Topic.

Cancer Prevention Research

There is a saying “Prevention is always better than cure”. In the past few decades, cancer has aroused as one of the most panics striking human diseases. A lot of research work is going on in order to treat and at least slow down the progress of the disease. Last year the Prestigious Nobel Prize was awarded to James P. Alison and Tasuku Honjo for their magnificent discovery of cancer immunotherapy. So research has advanced to the extent of curing the disease but the prevalence of the disease in the population is highly significant. At this stage, it is really important to pay attention to controlling the outbreak of disease by finding the mechanisms linked with the onset condition. The major research topics could be understanding the biochemical mechanism behind association of common causes such as obesity and diabetes with cancer, exploring the activity of the immune system such as recognition pattern of healthy self and nonself foreign cells and strengthening the immune system to fight more effective against unhealthy cancerous cells, if drugs used treatment of other diseases have any significant role in cancer development etc. Obesity-associated cancer can be explained on the basis of the mutagenic effect of dietary components or hormonal imbalance. As per some recent evidence, chronic inflammation in cancer risk is due to inflammation-induced activation of the kynurenine pathway and its part in feeding and metabolism by activating the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) and by modulating synaptic transmission in the brain. The role of the kynurenine pathway in carcinogenesis provides a potentially major link between obesity and cancer. Another latest hypothesis is based on evidence that serine proteases can deplete cells of the tumor suppressors Deleted in Colorectal Cancer (DCC) and neogenin. These enzymes include mammalian chymotryptic proteases released by pro-inflammatory neutrophils and macrophages.

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With food intake, there is a direct increase in blood levels of chymotrypsin. The mechanistically similar bacterial enzyme subtilisin is widespread in the environment, animal probiotics, meat processing, and cleaning products. Simple public health schemes in these areas, with selective serine protease inhibitors and AHR antagonists and could prevent a range of intestinal and other cancers. So the selection of this high profile PhD Research Topics that enables a research scholar to work at the best laboratories worldwide, is suggested.

Developing a survival strategy for the Secret Lion of Asia

The Asiatic lion – Panthera leo ssp. Persica is the only surviving species of lions in India. This beautiful and majestic species has been listed as endangered in the IUCN red list of threatened species. The remnant of this species is found only in the Gir forest of India as a single subpopulation threatened by a wide variety of risks. Among common threats such as poaching, unsuitable environment, conflict with humans, inbreeding depression leading to increased incidents of death is another major reasons behind the population growth. As the population has reduced to a very small size the most harmful impact is seen as genetic inbreeding leading to loss of genetic diversity. If appropriate measures are not taken then the species may go extinct from earth.

So in-depth research analysis regarding the genetic status, the reproductive pattern, environmental influence on disease incidence could be done to predict possible conservation strategies. Some Modern Information and Communication Technology (ICT)has been recently proposed in the conservation, protection and development efforts of the Greater Gir Region by monitoring the animal population. Such as GPS tracking (Surveillance Tracking) Automated Sensor Grid (Magnetic Sensors, Movement Sensors, Infra-red heat sensors, Night vision capability enhancement, GIS-based real-time monitoring, analysis and report generation). This is a very unique PhD Research Topic – candidates with interest and matching the educational background must definitely give a thought over this topic.

Development of early detection methods for fatal diseases

Quite a significant number of diseases could be treated if they are diagnosed at early onset. Once the disease spreads control and treatment both becomes difficult. Most of the time the disease is detected after the onset of the symptoms. But prior to that, the diagnosis can be done using molecular markers. Ultimately it is the gene responsible for the protein expression which affects different characters including diseases. Gene is in turn regulated by a lot of factors such as modification of DNA bases, histone proteins, etc. Any change in the normal gene morphology and expression pattern will lead to mutant protein altering the cellular and physiological condition.

So by analyzing certain genes anticipated to be responsible for their contribution to certain diseases the prediction can be done. For example, a lot of research is ongoing in the early detection of cardiac arrest or an epileptic seizure, etc. So much more research is required in this field to explore validated detection methods for any numbers of known fatal diseases based on molecular markers.

Development of synthetic dietary supplement

For a healthy living, a balanced diet is required which includes carbohydrates proteins lipids as well as the most essential components such as minerals and vitamins. Minerals and vitamins though required in traces are the most important requirement for biocatalyst enzymatic activity for a biochemical reaction. Synthetic supplement production has already been approved by the FDA, US. As a person may not be very well aware whether a diet he/she is taking is sufficient to meet the essential vitamin and mineral requirement in the body, the deficiency may lead to severe disease condition such as goiter (iodine deficiency), anemia (iron/folic acid deficiency). So more in-depth research can be done to find the role of essential micronutrient associated with particular diseases and accordingly better inexpensive easily available products can be developed from common sources and used by all. This can help in the maintenance of healthy condition strengthening of the immune system to fight diseases.

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CRISPR: a gene-editing toolkit

The natural defense mechanism of the bacterial cells against bacteriophage infection has is now rapidly growing as a highly precise gene editing tool. The impaired inactivated CRISPR-Cas9 enzyme is now acquiring a lot more potential activity including gene regulation epigenetic editing, chromatin remodeling, imaging, etc and has become more efficient than the wild type cas9. Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease that occurs due to mutations in the CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene. The disease of CF is fatal as patients suffer from progressive lung disease. CF models have been developed in 4 species (mice, rats, ferrets, and pigs) to enable understanding of the CF pathogenesis. Sheep may be of particular interest as a model CF for humans due to the similarities in lung anatomy between both species. A sheep model for CF using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing and somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) techniques were generated using cells with CFTR gene disruption and used them for production of CFTR-/- and CFTR+/- lambs. The newborn CFTR-/- sheep suffered from severe disease consistent with CF pathology in humans. The phenotype of CFTR-/- sheep suggests this large animal model will be a useful resource to advance the development of new CF therapeutics. A lot more research is required basically to enhance the target specificity of CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat) for gene editing. Its the most trending PhD Research Topic lately, with loads of researchers working on this on a global scale.

Development of more & better genetically modified organisms.

Genetically modified organisms are better adapted to environmental variation as compared to wild type varieties. Because of the expansion of human population constantly there is an increase in demand for food crops. Again because of any number of anthropogenic activities environmental conditions are fluctuating. So agricultural plants are not getting adapted accordingly that leads to damage to the crops. So a researcher can analyze the crop plants in order to bring about the genetic modification for the properties like drought resistance, resistance against pathogens and also modifying the plants to increase the yield with more nutritional value. Similarly, animals used as food can be modified for better qualitative and quantitative yield to meet the demands.

Always the PhD Research Topic should be chosen as per the subject of interest with in-depth knowledge about it for future analysis. No matter whatever research topic is chosen by the researcher, the most important thing is setting right – the objective, experiment design and outcome of the experiment. Choosing a topic that is widely researched worldwide helps a researcher to set objectives for new discoveries with supported background knowledge and information. Choosing a novel topic can help you in some significant contribution in the field that may promote new discoveries by other researchers.

About the Author
Manisha is a dynamic professor at Biotecnika, an avid follower of the latest life science journal and a loving teacher to all our students for her true interest and dedication. This article has been compiled by her to assist students who are in the hunt for research topics for their PhD degree or otherwise. Dr. Preeti Saini, Rashmi Sanyal & Priyanjana Ghosh had also shared their valuable inputs in order to make this piece a success.
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