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  Controlling greenhouse gas emissions by targeting bacterial G-quadruplex DNA/RNA structures (GATES_U24DTP)

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Dr A Gates  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Primary supervisor - Dr Andrew Gates 

Secondary supervisor - Dr Yiliang Ding (JIC) 

As well as carbon dioxide (CO2), other important climate-active gases are known to drive global warming. Importantly, nitrous oxide (N2O), is the third most abundant greenhouse gas with 300-times greater global warming power than CO2 and it also contributes to the destruction of the ozone layer. Production of N2O is a by-product of modern farming, where after applying fertilizers, soil-based bacteria consume nitrate and generate N2O that is emitted from soil to the atmosphere. By understanding how bacteria do this and developing tools to control it, we could potentially reduce future biological N2O emissions, allowing recovery of the ozone layer and help reduce global climate change while continuing to feed expanding global populations. 

This PhD project will develop understanding of how DNA and RNA structures control nitrogen assimilation and N2O production in bacteria and how we can use small-molecules to control these pathways in cells. The project will provide training in a wide-range of state-of-the-art biophysical, molecular biology and microbiological techniques, from characterizing different types of DNA/RNA structures, gene expression studies to ligand-binding assays. Led by Dr Andrew Gates, this project will be based in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the student will work collaboratively with Dr Yiliang Ding at the John Innes Centre and Dr Zoë Waller (UEA/UCL). 

The student will have, or expect to obtain a first class, 2(i) or equivalent honours degree in Microbiology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Pharmacy or a related area. Informal enquiries are welcomed; for further information please contact Dr Andrew Gates.

The Norwich Research Park (NRP) Biosciences Doctoral Training Programme (DTP) is offering fully-funded studentships for October 2024 entry. The programme offers postgraduates the opportunity to undertake a 4-year PhD research project whilst enhancing professional development and research skills through a comprehensive training programme. You will join a vibrant community of world-leading researchers. All NRPDTP students undertake a three-month professional internship placement (PIPS) during their study. The placement offers exciting and invaluable work experience designed to enhance professional development. Full support and advice will be provided by our Professional Internship team. Students with, or expecting to attain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. 

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the NRPDTP. Shortlisted applicants will potentially be interviewed on 4, 5, and 6 June 2024.

For further information on eligibility and how to apply please visit here.

Our partners value diverse and inclusive work environments that are positive and supportive. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background. 

Entry requirements

At least UK equivalence Bachelors (Honours) 2:1 or UK equivalence Master's degree. English Language requirement (Faculty of Science equivalent: IELTS 6.5 overall, 6 in each category). 

Start date

October 2024

Agriculture (1) Biological Sciences (4) Chemistry (6)

Funding Notes

This project is awarded with a 4-year Norwich Research Park Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (NRPDTP) PhD studentship. The studentship includes payment of tuition fees (directly to the University), a stipend to cover living expenses (2023/4 stipend rate: £18,622), and a Research Training Support Grant of £5,000pa for each year of the studentship.


Waller Z.A.E. et al. (2016) Control of bacterial nitrate assimilation by stabilization of G-quadruplex DNA. Chemical Communications 52, 13511.
Abdelhamid M.A.S. (2018) Redox-dependent control of i-Motif DNA structure using copper cations. Nucleic Acids Research. 46, 5886.
Lycus, P. et al. (2018) A bet-hedging strategy for denitrifying bacteria curtails their release of N2O. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115, 11820.
Bennett, S.P. et al. (2019) NosL is a dedicated copper chaperone for assembly of the Cuz center of nitrous oxide reductase. Chemical Science 10, 4985.
Yang, X. et al. (2022) RNA G-quadruplex structure contributes to cold adaptation in plants. Nature communications 13, 6224.

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