The computational study of protein structures, functions and their interactions is fundamental to our understanding of disease. To deliver on the promise of next generation sequencing for health care and personalised medicine, we must understand the information implicit in the genome, specifically, the functions of the proteins that are encoded by the genes. Individual protein chains fold into specific three dimensional structures and bind with one another to form complexes that perform essential functions. The 3D fold of a protein is therefore key to the cell functioning correctly and protein misfolding is a direct cause of disease - Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and CJD being well known, if extreme, examples.
Determining the 3D fold of a protein is not always straight forward. In cases where the structure of a protein has been determined experimentally, the fold can then be directly visualised. However, solving structures experimentally is time- consuming and expensive and so the vast majority of proteins with known sequences have unknown structures. Fortunately, in the majority of cases we can use predictive tools that allow us to rapidly and accurately model the shapes of proteins in silico, which helps us to determine their likely functions and interactions.
This project will aim to develop improved computational methods for rapidly and confidently predicting the structures, functions and interactions of proteins using only amino acid sequence information. Once a catalogue of accurately predicted structures for the majority of proteins within a cell is available, the aim is to predict their ability to interact with small molecules and each other, to form the complex cellular machinery upon which life depends. This vital information will allow us to produce novel or more efficient products for use in medicine and will help us to better understand the mechanisms of the leading causes of death, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.
School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading:
The University of Reading, located west of London, England, provides world-class research education programs. The University’s main Whiteknights Campus is set in 130 hectares of beautiful parkland, a 30-minute train ride to central London and 40 minutes from London Heathrow airport.
Our School of Biological Sciences conducts high-impact research, tackling current global challenges faced by society and the planet. Our research ranges from understanding and improving human health and combating disease, through to understanding evolutionary processes and uncovering new ways to protect the natural world. In 2020, we moved into a stunning new ~£60 million Health & Life Sciences building. This state-of-the-art facility is purpose-built for science research and teaching. It houses the Cole Museum of Zoology, a café and social spaces.
In the School of Biological Sciences, you will be joining a vibrant community of ~180 PhD students representing ~40 nationalities. Our students publish in high-impact journals, present at international conferences, and organise a range of exciting outreach and public engagement activities.
During your PhD at the University of Reading, you will expand your research knowledge and skills, receiving supervision in one-to-one and small group sessions. You will have access to cutting-edge technology and learn the latest research techniques. We also provide dedicated training in important transferable skills that will support your career aspirations. If English is not your first language, the University's excellent International Study and Language Institute will help you develop your academic English skills.
The University of Reading is a welcoming community for people of all faiths and cultures. We are committed to a healthy work-life balance and will work to ensure that you are supported personally and academically.