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BioCHIP: synthetic tissues with collective information-processing functions

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, July 01, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project Description

A more detailed project description can be found on the University of Bristol website:

The past decade has seen researchers in the field of bottom-up synthetic biology try to fill the gap between biology and chemistry to better understand how the non-living becomes alive. To do this, attempts have been made to construct what are called protocells. These are cell-like entities created from scratch using a toolbox of molecules, materials, and chemical reactions. The Gobbo Group ( aims to pioneer new research frontiers in bottom-up synthetic biology by developing the first experimental methodologies to organise millions of protocells into self-standing protocellular materials that are stable in water, highly modular, and engineered with specific internal architectures for information processing tasks. More specifically, the PhD student will work towards the implementation of the first protocellular material-based BioCHIP that can sense, process and respond to DNA signals received in input from the bulk solution. The student will tackle the following exciting challenges of BioCHIP design and synthetic construction: 1) the development of methodologies for the light-induced controlled release of DNA strands from protocell building blocks; 2) the study of how chemicals diffuse within a protocellular material; and 3) the implementation of logic bio-circuits within a protocellular material based on toehold-mediated DNA strand displacement. To achieve these goals we will work in collaboration with the research group of Dr Thomas Gorochowski (School of Biological Sciences, who is an expert in the design of gene and DNA-based computational circuitry and will act as a secondary supervisor.

The development of BioCHIP will set a new paradigm in DNA computing and minimal cell technology and potentially lead to important applications in microbioreactor technology, tissue engineering, and personalised therapy.

Candidate requirements: We are looking for a highly motivated and enthusiastic student, with excellent organizational and communication skills and a passion for working in a vibrant interdisciplinary environment. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or high Upper Second Class UK degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a chemistry or related subject. A strong undergraduate-level understanding of synthetic chemistry, molecule characterisation, and/or polymer chemistry is a prerequisite. A basic knowledge of computer programming would be advantageous.

Get in touch: If you have any queries or would like to discuss projects and ideas, we encourage you to make an informal enquiry to Dr Gobbo ().

How to apply: Please make an online application for this project at Please select “BioCHIP: synthetic tissues with collective information-processing functions”on the Programme Choice page. You will be prompted to enter details of the studentship in the Funding and Research Details sections of the form.

Potential candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, as we may stop recruitment for this position before the deadline if a suitable candidate is found.

Funding Notes

The studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees, a training support fee and a stipend (£15,285 p.a. for 2019/20, updated each year by UKRI) for 4 years. Applicants who are classed as Overseas for tuition fee purposes may be considered if they can supply the difference between UK/EU and Overseas fees.

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