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Artificial cells with biochemical clocks: oscillatory enzyme reactions in confinement

Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

About the Project

Artificial cells are engineered materials that mimic one or more of the functions of living biological cells. Oscillating chemical processes are common within living organisms to control a variety of essential processes, including the metabolism of sugars and the release of hormones. To better understand oscillatory biochemical processes and to utilise them in artificial cell technologies, minimal systems of biochemical oscillations must be developed.

In this project you will build artificial cells consisting of hollow vesicle capsules encapsulating enzymes. You will systematically investigate how the different properties of your artificial cells affect the timing and rhythms of their chemical processes. A range of quantitative optical spectroscopy and microscopy techniques will be used to experimentally study and characterise the behaviour of these systems.

This work will provide valuable new insights into the coupling between confinement, communication and feedback processes in living organisms and develop the groundwork for application of oscillatory systems for novel advances in biotechnology and materials science. The project will provide ample opportunity for student-led initiative and innovation in this exciting multidisciplinary field.

This funded 4 year experimental PhD will work in close collaboration with a theoretical PhD project modelling oscillatory biochemical reactions in confinement at the University of Sheffield as part of a broader Leverhulme Trust funded research project. This is an ideal project for a student with a first degree in physics, chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, natural sciences, materials science or similar discipline with a passion for interdisciplinary science at the interface of soft matter and biomolecular sciences.

A second PhD studentship on this research grant building computational models of these artificial cells, based at the University of Sheffield, is advertised here:

Funding Notes

A highly competitive Leverhulme Trust, 4 Year PhD Studentship paying academic fees (Home Fee Rate of £4,600 in Session 2020/21), together with a maintenance grant paid at standard Research Council rates (£15,285 for Session 2020/21) for 4 years. 

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