Skip to main content

Molecular resolution of biomolecular assembly by combining neutron scattering and coarse-grained simulation


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Friday 15 March 2024
Project start date
Tuesday 1 October 2024
Country eligibility
UK only
Competition funded
Source of funding
University of Leeds
Professor Lorna Dougan
Additional supervisors
Dr Tom Headon and Dr Bindu Kolli (STFC ISIS)
School of Physics and Astronomy
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

This PhD project opportunity is part of an exciting new collaboration between the ISIS neutron and muon facility in Oxfordshire and the University of Leeds to develop new tools for understanding the multiscale structure and hydration of biomolecules. The successful student will join a cohort of ISIS Facility Studentships and benefit from a rich programme of support both at the ISIS Facility and Leeds. <br /> <br /> Background: <br /> <br /> Nanoscale biological building blocks play a vital role in biological systems and can be assembled to create novel biomaterials for use in healthcare applications such as drug delivery and tissue engineering. To date, we have employed neutron diffraction and simulation based structural refinement to study the atomistic structure of small building blocks such as aqueous sugars and amino acids, providing rich information on biomolecule hydration and biomolecule interactions. A step change is urgently needed in our approach, to move to more realistic, larger molecules and higher concentrations. This progress will allow us to understand how hydration of a biomolecule can be used to control its self-assembly, or to undertake a multiscale investigation of the hydration and self-assembly for biomaterials. To achieve this, integration of coarse-grained molecular simulation into a structural refinement data analysis workflow is needed. This advancement will have a major impact for Biosciences and biomaterials for Healthcare applications. <br /> <br /> Objectives: <br /> <br /> In this PhD project you will develop methods that can access structural information across the length scales relevant for both hydration and macromolecular assembly. <br /> &bull; You will employ an integrated approach, combining biophysical characterisation techniques at Leeds, neutron total and small angle scattering techniques and appropriate modelling techniques and the Multi-Scale Simulation Scattering Intensity Calculator (MuSSIC) software at the ISIS Facility. <br /> &bull; Initially you will use standard atomistic techniques to further develop our understanding of structure and hydration of a small model peptide. <br /> &bull; You will then be supported in taking a role in the MuSSIC software team, pushing the development of the code to gain a new understanding of structure and hydration across a wide-length scale range for biomolecular systems.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p class="MsoNoSpacing">Student Experience:</p> <p>You will be based at both Leeds and the ISIS Facility during your PhD. Prof Dougan will provide training/supervision of biomolecule biophysical characterisation and neutron diffraction. Dr.&rsquo;s Kolli and Headen will provide training/supervision in MuSSIC, molecular simulation and refinement. At Leeds, you will be embedded within a vibrant research group, benefiting from student-led research seminars, graduate level soft matter and biophysics, an annual research retreat and exciting public engagement and outreach opportunities.&nbsp; At ISIS, you will have the opportunity to work closely with other scientists, technicians and engineers at a world-leading experimental facility, in addition to benefiting from training schools, and student cohort and user group meetings.</p>

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

<p style="margin-bottom:11px">Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the&nbsp;<a href="">University&#39;s website</a>. Please state clearly in the Planned Course of Study section that you are applying for <em><strong>PHD Physics &amp; Astronomy FT</strong></em> (if you do not apply to this programme code, your application will not be considered) and in the research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is&nbsp;<em><strong>Molecular resolution of biomolecular assembly by combining neutron scattering and coarse-grained simulation</strong></em>&nbsp;as well as <a href="">Professor Lorna Dougan</a>&nbsp;as your proposed supervisor. Please state in the Finance section that the funding source you are applying for is <em><strong>School of Physics &amp; Astronomy/ISIS</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>Applications will be considered after the closing date. &nbsp;Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the supervisors for an informal discussion before making a formal application. &nbsp;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 19 February 2024:</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 physical sciences, engineering or computing. 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 style="margin-bottom:11px">A highly competitive School of Physics &amp; Astronomy Studentship in partnership with ISIS, offering the award of fees, together with a tax-free maintenance grant (currently &pound;18,622 for academic session 2023/24) for 3.5 years.</p> <p>This opportunity is open to UK applicants only.&nbsp; All candidates will be placed into the School of Physics &amp; Astronomy Studentship Competition and selection is based on academic merit.</p> <p>Please refer to the&nbsp;<a href="">UKCISA</a>&nbsp;website for&nbsp;information regarding Fee Status for Non-UK Nationals.</p>

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

<p style="margin-bottom:11px">For further information about this project, please contact Professor Lorna Dougan by email to&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p> <p>For further information about your application, please contact Doctoral College Admissions by email to&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p>