Life on Mars? Self assembly of biological molecules in extreme conditions


Contact Dr Lorna Dougan to discuss this project further informally.

Project description

There is a huge interest in the properties of water under extreme conditions of temperature, pressure and solvent environment. This interest ranges from the water vapour jets that emanate from the surface of Europa and Encedalus, fuelling speculation for the existence of vast liquid oceans beneath the icy exterior of these moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

Somewhat closer to Earth, ice is found in the polar regions of Mars,and there is growing evidence for flows of salty water during the Martian summer, the salt allowing the water to stay liquid at the sub-zero temperatures that are found there. In this project you will gain insight into the structure, thermodynamic stability and self-assembly of model biological systems in extreme conditions relevant for both terrestrial and non-terrestrial environments.

This will provide new insights into biomolecular assembly and the natural limits of life. It will include experimental techniques such structural studies using neutron diffraction, as well as UV/Vis, fluorescence and differential scanning calorimetry for measuring protein stability.

This project would suit a student interested in biophysics, learning a range of experimental techniques and engaging with our collaborators in biological sciences and astrophysics.

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with or expecting a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1), and/or a Master's degree in physics, or a relevant science/engineering degree such as (but not limited to) chemistry, biology, chemical engineering, electronic engineering, mechanical engineering, or mathematics.

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University's minimum English Language requirements.

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university's website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the PhD you wish to be considered for is 'Life on Mars? Self assembly of biological molecules in extreme conditions' as well as Dr Lorna Dougan as your proposed supervisor.

We welcome scholarship applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office, e: