University of Oxford Featured PhD Programmes
University of Oxford Featured PhD Programmes
University of Oxford Featured PhD Programmes

Applying next generation structural biology methods to bacterial vaccine production - PhD in Biosciences Studentship (BBSRC SWBio DTP funded)


College of Life and Environmental Sciences

Dr N Harmer , Prof C Berger-Schaffitzel Monday, December 07, 2020 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The SWBio DTP is one of the 12 Doctoral Training Partnerships funded by the BBSRC to provide PhD training in areas of their strategic relevance. The SWBio DTP is a consortium comprising the Universities of Bristol (lead), Bath, Cardiff, Exeter, and Rothamsted Research. Together, these institutions present a distinctive cadre of bioscience research staff and students with established international, national and regional networks and widely recognised research excellence.

The aim of this DTP is to produce highly motivated and excellently trained postgraduates in the BBSRC priority areas of Agriculture & Food Security (AFS) and World-Class Underpinning Bioscience (WCUB). These are growth areas of the biosciences and for which there will be considerable future demand.

The award:

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP).

Project Description:

This project will offer an exciting opportunity to learn upcoming structural biology methods, and to apply these to a vaccinology project. The key methodological focus of the project will be micro electron diffraction (micro-ED), a method of determining protein structures that will become a mainstream method over the next five years. The training from this PhD will make the student very competitive for industry and academic positions at the end of the project. The project will allow the student to learn methods for preparing samples, collecting data, and using this data to determine protein structures, as well as complementary experimental and computational methods for understanding the experimental data.

The project will determine the structure of proteins from Coxiella burnetii, a human pathogen that also causes economic losses in cattle worldwide. The Harmer group are part of a consortium aiming to develop a polysaccharide based vaccine against C. burnetii. We are determining the structures of important polysaccharide biosynthesis proteins to aid the production of a recombinant vaccine. This project will contribute to this programme and offer opportunities to work with others in the consortium. Structures will also be interrogated using modelling techniques to determine whether any proteins might act as drug targets.

This project will be based in the recently established Living Systems Institute in Exeter, which houses a diverse group of leading interdisciplinary researchers. You will join a vibrant group of young researchers with interests across a range of diseases.

Funding Notes

BBSRC SWBio DTP funded CASE studentship available for September 2021 entry. The studentship will provide funding of fees and a stipend which is currently £15,285 per annum for 2020-21, on a full time basis.


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