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Biosynthesis, Self-Assembly and Engineering of bacterial organelles

   Institute of Systems, Molecular and Integrative Biology

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  Prof LN Liu, Prof J Hinton  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Applications will be reviewed until a suitable candidate is appointed.

Self-assembling biological machines designed in nature have captured the imagination of scientists and public alike for decades, given their remarkable biological significance in cells to sequester and enhance key metabolic reactions and clear potential to sustainably transform and enhance human life. Many bacteria have evolved highly powerful metabolic organelles, named bacterial microcompartments, which play critical roles in carbon fixation, pathogenesis and microbial ecology. The bacterial microcompartment comprises an icosahedral protein shell, resembling virus capsids, which encapsulating key catalytic enzymes and molecules.

By exploiting multidisciplinary approaches, this PhD project aims at exploring the molecular basis underlying the biosynthesis process of bacterial organelles and developing new synthetic biology tools and microscopic screening to engineer and reprogramme metabolic organelles for novel functions in diverse biotechnological applications, such as biocatalysis, energy production, improving agricultural yields, and molecule delivery in therapeutics. The long-term goal is to provide solutions for bioengineering and biotechnology, to meet the grand challenges in food and energy security and human health.

Highly motivated applicants holding a Masters’ degree or a BSc at first or high 2:1 class in biochemistry / microbiology / structural biology or equivalent are encouraged to contact Professor Liu ([Email Address Removed], for details and apply for studentships. Experience of lab work in protein biochemistry, microscopy, and molecular biology would be an advantage but not a prerequisite.

This highly multidisciplinary project will combine molecular biology, biochemistry and synthetic biology, as well as state-of-the-art imaging methods including cryo-electron microscopy and fluorescence microscopy, and atomic force microscopy. This project will also provide training on proteomics, bioinformatics, and computational modelling. Training in all aspects of the project will be provided with access to world-class infrastructure in the Institute and with wide collaborators in the UK and overseas, which are valuable for career development.

Funding Notes

The project is open to both European/UK and International students. It is UNFUNDED and applicants are encouraged to contact the Principal Supervisor directly to discuss their application and the project.
Assistance will be given to those who are applying to international funding schemes.
The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses as well as research costs of £7000 per year.
A fee bursary may be available for well qualified and motivated applicants.
Details of costs can be found on the University website:
A £2000 ISMIB Travel and Training Support Grant may be available to new self-funded applicants.


1. Chen et al., Lu-Ning Liu* (2021) Incorporation of Functional Rubisco Activases into Engineered Carboxysomes to Enhance Carbon Fixation. ACS Synthetic Biology,
2. Li et al., Lu-Ning Liu* (2020) Reprogramming bacterial protein organelles as a nanoreactor for hydrogen production. Nature Communications, 11, 5448.
3. Huang et al., Lu-Ning Liu* (2020) Rubisco accumulation factor 1 (Raf1) plays essential roles in mediating Rubisco assembly and carboxysome biogenesis. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 117(29): 17418-17428.
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