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Formation and Manipulation of Stimuli-Responsive Nanodiscs: 
Using Polymer Chemistry to Understand Biology

3 or 4-Year PhD Position

BACKGROUND 

The aim of the project is to synthesise stimuli-responsive synthetic copolymers that enable the formation and stabilisation of lipid membranes in the form of nanodiscs. Nanodiscs are discrete isolated monodisperse lipid bilayers that can be prepared from membrane scaffold proteins (MSPs), peptides and synthetic polymers.

 

The usage of nanodiscs is growing year-on-year because of the attraction that they can be used to isolate membrane proteins to enable purification and high-resolution structural studies in environments closer to their native state. However, in the body, proteins are completely free to move, the problem with current nanodisc technology is that it still constrains the proteins, limiting the potential applications.

Dr Simon Holder’s group has a long research record in the synthesis and self-assembly of novel block copolymers and this project will utilise these expertise to design and synthesise novel stimuli-responsive block copolymer that will enable fine control over the formation and assembly of nanodiscs.

Dr Rob Barker’s group has been working with and developing nanodisc technologies for the last 7 years, with expertise in biophysical analysis techniques and surface science, the project will involve working closely with his team to test the novel block copolymers developed.

PROJECT GOALS

Therefore, the aims of this project are to leverage the extensive experience of the supervisory team towards new nanodisc technologies for biological applications. The proposed project has 3 main goals:

  1. To develop tuneable co-polymers which can be used to replace current nanodisc technology to enable higher resolution, unconstrained structural studies. 

  2. To design and characterise polymer-surface interactions in order to manipulate the study of nanodisc embedded proteins.

  3. To apply the developments in (1) and (2) above for delivery at next-generation neutron scattering facilities in the U.K., France, Sweden and Australia.

  4. To test these new tools with biological collaborators at the University of Copenhagen, University of Lancaster and Anglia Ruskin University.

The successful delivery of this project has far-reaching applications within the biological sciences, which the candidate will be able to develop towards their own research interests.

PROJECT PARTNERS

The successful candidate will be based at the University of Kent's main campus in Canterbury as part of the future Molecular Technologies Group, and work under the supervision of Dr Simon Holder, Dr Robert Barker and in collaboration with Dr Helena Shepherd.

WHO ARE WE LOOKING FOR?

If you are an interested and motivated candidate, with a background in in Chemistry, Forensic Science, Biochemistry or a related subject, please send us an email and we'd be excited to discuss the project further with you.

HOW MUCH WILL YOU BE PAID?

£14,777 per year (tax free) plus the payment of tuition fees for 3 or 4 years.

Duration depends on whether the studentship is awarded as an EPSRC or VC Fellowship.

WHEN IS THE DEADLINE?

8th February 2019 

Interviews to be held shortly after.

WHEN WILL YOU START?

September 2019.

Last Updated: December 2018 by Rob Barker.