Feedback-responsive protocells


Contact Dr Paul Beales to discuss this project further informally.

Project description

Feedback in chemical systems can give rise to clocks, bistable switches or oscillations; all of these features are employed by living cells in order to generate robust decisions and outputs while existing in a deafening background of thermodynamic noise. Bottom-up synthetic biology aims to assemble and repurpose biological components to generate novel functional materials with properties that do not exist in nature. One aim of this field is to build bespoke artificial cell-like materials (protocells) from their constituent parts. Robust operation of these systems will require use of feedback-control, just as exists in nature.

This project will investigate confinement of feedback-responsive enzymatic reactions inside hollow membrane-bound compartments (vesicles) that mimic the architecture of a living cell. We will characterise the effect of this confinement on the encapsulated reactions and use this understanding to tune the response of the system as desired. The outputs of these reactions will be coupled to downstream material properties such as motility, communication and controlled release of drugs towards developing advanced biotechnologies with applications including drug delivery, environmental remediation and biosensors.

The project will provide training in the preparation and characterisation of soft and biological materials, including application of a range of spectroscopy and imaging techniques.

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 (or international equivalents) in a relevant science or engineering degree such as (but not limited to) chemistry, biochemistry, physics, chemical and biological engineering and natural sciences.

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 the 'Feedback-responsive protocells’ as well as Dr Paul Beales as your proposed supervisor.

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

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

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.