PhD: Probing cellular organisation via protein structure, function and evolution

United Kingdom
Jun 21, 2016
Jan 31, 2017
Organization Type
University and College
Full Time

A passion for science? Interested in biological organisation? Curious about bio-molecules? We are studying the interactions made by proteins, including the effects of drugs interacting with proteins, as well as the interaction between protein domains. How do the physical and chemical processes important for biological organization influence protein evolution? To work with us you should be interested in at least two of the following perspectives: evolution, structural biology, chemistry, physics.

The project aims to understand better the general principles of organisation, and apply them to specific biological systems, which will accelerate the fields of drug discovery, bio-technology and nano-technology. The work involves simulations and statistical analysis of protein sequence and structure to understand their evolutionary past, and the physics behind their function.

Candidates should be exceptional with experience in two of the following areas: biophysics, molecular biosciences, bioinformatics, mathematics, computing or physics, or related subjects. As well as statistically analyzing the properties of large numbers of protein structures and sequences to look for general principles of protein function, we are interested in the organization polyketide synthases, which are responsible for the synthesis of many blockbuster drugs including the statins and many antibiotics. We are particularly interested in the organization of proteins within the biosynthetic pathways of the antibiotics mupirocin and thiomarinol which we study in collaboration with the group of Prof. Chris Thomas in Birmingham and a number of groups at University of Bristol, (Willis, Simpson, Crump, Race) with the aim of understanding the pathways and developing novel therapeutic compounds; see e.g. Haines et al Nature Chemical Biology 2013, A conserved motif flags acyl carrier proteins for beta-branching in polyketide synthesis.

A funded place is available to exceptional candidates for the autumn 2017. Self funded students may apply to start this year if they wish.

In your cover letter please indicate why you think you would be suitable to work with us, when you would like to start and whether you are self funded or looking for a funded position for 2017.

For further details about PhDs in the department of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham please see:

For more information about the University of Birmingham and Birmingham city please see:

For more information about the research group please see, or contact Peter Winn at +44 (0)121 41 48852, Interested candidates should send a CV to the same address

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The postgraduate funding database provides further information on funding opportunities available


Funding Notes

The School of Biosciences offers a number of UK Research Council (e.g. BBSRC, NERC) PhD studentships each year. Fully funded research council studentships are normally only available to UK nationals (or EU nationals resident in the UK) but part-funded studentships may be available to EU applicants resident outside of the UK.

Each year we also have a number of fully funded Darwin Trust Scholarships, provided by the Darwin Trust of Edinburgh and are for non-UK students wishing to undertake a PhD in the general area of Molecular Microbiology.

The deadline for both of these schemes is 31 January each year.