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BBSRC White Rose DTP CASE Studentship - Using viral helicases for designing novel nanopores for biotechnology

   Department of Oncology and Metabolism

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  Dr C Sanders, Dr Mark Bruce  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

A unique opportunity is open to join a research group in the faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health at the University of Sheffield in partnership with Oxford Nanopore Technologies plc (ONT) (, a global leader in DNA sequencing technology. Dr. Cyril Sanders ( has a group focusing on genome stability and nucleic acid processing machines from humans and viruses. The research in this PhD project will take advantage of existing expertise in his lab, on helicases like the papillomavirus E1 helicase, to design novel molecular motors for nanotechnology, in particular DNA sequencing. The project will include industrial placements with ONT, the world leader in nanopore DNA sequencing.

 ONT has developed a new generation of nucleic acid sequencing technology based on reading single molecules in real time using nanopore devices. This offer many advantages over other massive parallel sequencing technologies, including low cost per base and portability (the smallest devices weigh <100 g and connect to a laptop computer).

 The project aim is to deliver novel nanopore devices that would further revolutionise biotechnological applications in areas such as human health (e.g. personalised medicine, viral diagnostics) and environmental science. Nanopore sequencing devices read the bases in a translocating single-stranded DNA (or RNA) molecule using a protein nanopore embedded in a charged membrane. Although the technology is capable of long reads (mega bases) and high accuracy (~99%) these could be improved. The direct membrane-insertion of hexameric replicative helicases, that are by nature efficient DNA unwinding machines with a central pore optimised for ssDNA translocation, could lead to improved devices and simplified protocols. This project will use molecular biology approaches to re-engineer hexameric helicases, such as E1 from papillomavirus, to membrane -bound nanopores suitable for DNA sequencing. 

 The BBSRC WR DTP and the University of Sheffield are committed to recruiting future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and we have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

Entry Requirements: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science.

 Click to apply

Start Date: 1st October 2022

Funding Notes

This project is part of the BBSRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology. Appointed candidates will be fully-funded for 4 years. The funding includes:
Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£15,609 for 2021/22 starts)
UK tuition fees (£4,650 for 2021/22)
Research support and training charges (RSTC)
We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme
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