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Biophysics of photosynthesis and solar energy capture explored using advanced methods in nanoscience, electrophoresis and fluorescence microscopy


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Friday 28 June 2024
Project start date
Tuesday 1 October 2024
Country eligibility
International (open to all nationalities, including the UK)
Competition funded
Source of funding
University of Leeds
Dr Peter Adams and Professor Stephen Evans
School of Physics and Astronomy
Research groups/institutes
Molecular and Nanoscale Physics
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

The Light-Harvesting Complex II (LHCII) is a photo-active protein found in plants and is essential for efficient capture of solar energy. It has a crucial role in absorbing photons and channelling this energy to the next part of the system and a secondary role in a protecting the system from high intensity sunlight by safely dissipating excess energy. However, the molecular mechanism for the process of photoprotective energy dissipation within LHCII is highly debated. This project will use our latest developments in membrane nanotechnology and world-class microscopy and spectroscopy to advance our understanding of the true nature of the biophysical properties of LHCII and its role in photoprotection.<br /> <br /> The laboratory in Leeds recently developed a new technique to control the organization of membrane proteins within a model lipid bilayer by applying electric fields. The proteins can be visualized by a specialized fluorescence microscope that also acquires fluorescence lifetimes to measure the energetic state of the LHCII. This combination of techniques provides a new way to assess protein-protein interactions and correlate them to possibility of energy dissipation in LHCII. This project will compare a systematic series of samples with these techniques: (i) comparison of different LH proteins from plant versus bacteria versus algae, (ii) effect of pH and other parameters which are known to trigger photoprotection, (iii) effect of key modulator proteins with LHCII (PsbS) that are known to modulate photoprotection. The outcome of these investigations will be a quantitative model of how to trigger photoprotection. This project will provide a major advance in our understanding of fundamental biophysics of photosynthesis with wider relevance to nanotechnology, photonics and crop science.<br /> <br /> This project would suit a student interested in biophysics, biochemistry or nanotechnology.

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noreferrer noopener" target="_blank">University&#39;s website</a>. Please state clearly in the Planned Course of Study section that you are applying for&nbsp;<strong><em>PhD Physics &amp; Astronomy FT</em>,&nbsp;</strong>&nbsp;in the research information section&nbsp;that the research project you wish to be considered for is <em><strong>Biophysics of photosynthesis and solar energy capture explored using advanced methods in nanoscience, electrophoresis and fluorescence microscopy</strong></em>&nbsp;as well as&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noreferrer noopener" target="_blank">Dr Peter Adams</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noreferrer noopener" target="_blank">Prof. Stephen Evans</a>&nbsp;as your proposed supervisors&nbsp;and in the finance section, please state clearly&nbsp;<em><strong>the funding that you are applying for, if you are self-funding or externally sponsored</strong></em>.</p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. Across all Faculties we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+ and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.</em></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing">Applications will be considered on an ongoing basis. &nbsp;Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the supervisors for an informal discussion before making a formal application. We also advise that you apply at the earliest opportunity as the application and selection process may close early, should we receive a sufficient number of applications or that a suitable candidate is appointed.</p> <p>Please note that you must provide the following documents in support of your application by the closing date of 3 April 2024 for Leeds Opportunity Research Scholarship or&nbsp;8 April 2024 for Leeds Doctoral Scholarship:</p> <ul> <li>Full Transcripts of all degree study or if in final year of study, full transcripts to date</li> <li>Personal Statement outlining your interest in the project</li> <li>CV</li> </ul>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to research degree programmes should normally have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline. The criteria for entry for some research degrees may be higher, for example, several faculties, also require a Masters degree. Applicants are advised to check with the relevant School prior to making an application. Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the School or Graduate School prior to making an application.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some schools and faculties have a higher requirement.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p lang="EN-US" xml:lang="EN-US"><strong>UK&nbsp;</strong>&ndash; the&nbsp;<a href="">Leeds Doctoral Scholarship Award</a>&nbsp;paying Academic Fees and Maintenance matching UKRI rate of &pound;18,622&nbsp;(for 23/24) per year for 3.5 years;&nbsp;<a href="">Leeds Opportunity Scholarships</a>&nbsp;(for applicants from Black, Asian and other minoritised ethnic groups) paying Academic Fees and Maintenance UKRI rate of &pound;18,622 per year for 3.5 years; the&nbsp;<a href="">Alumni Bursary</a>&nbsp;is available to previous University of Leeds graduates offering 10% discount on Academic Fees. Please contact the supervisors for advice on applying.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p lang="EN-US" xml:lang="EN-US"><strong>International Students</strong>&nbsp;&ndash; The&nbsp;<a href="">Alumni Bursary</a>&nbsp;is available to previous University of Leeds graduates offering 10% discount on Academic Fees. Please contact the supervisors for advice on applying.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p lang="EN-US" xml:lang="EN-US"><strong>Self-funded students and externally sponsored students (e.g., government scholarships) are also welcome to apply.&nbsp;&nbsp;</strong></p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p lang="EN-US" xml:lang="EN-US">For further information about this project, please contact Dr Peter Adams by email to&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noreferrer noopener" target="_blank"></a>&nbsp;or by telephone to +44 (0)113 343 9718.&nbsp;</p> <p lang="EN-US" xml:lang="EN-US">For further information about your application, please contact Doctoral College Admissions by email to&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noreferrer noopener" target="_blank"></a>&nbsp;</p>

<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked funding opportunities</h3>
<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked research areas</h3>