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Developing Biomolecular Wires for Light-Driven Chemistry

   School of Chemistry

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  Prof J Butt  No more applications being accepted  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Inspired by natural photosynthesis and addressing limitations of purely synthetic approaches, this PhD project aims to provide proof of principle for light-driven chemical synthesis through the design and assembly of novel inorganic:biological hybrid materials. The project will establish methods to combine robust, synthetic light-harvesting materials with biomolecular nanowires as a sustainable solution to delivering chemical transformations. Research will focus on the MTR protein complex, a biological molecular wire, that conducts electrons across the bacterial outer membranes.

During the project MTR variants will be designed to present non-natural amino acids at defined sites on the protein surface. The variants will be purified and the unique chemical functionality of the non-natural amino acids exploited to form biomolecular wires of different lengths. Light-driven catalysis by the novel biomolecular wires will be assessed after site-selective labelling with synthetic light absorbing dye molecules.  

This PhD will be supervised by Prof Julea Butt and research performed in collaboration with the groups of Dr Amit Sachdeva (UEA) and Prof Tom Clarke (UEA). Working with a dynamic team in a supportive environment you will be trained to become expert in protein chemistry, photochemistry, spectroscopy, molecular biology, protein purification, enzymology and analytical chemistry.

Informal enquiries are welcome to Prof Julea Butt ([Email Address Removed]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. 

Funding Notes

This PhD project is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with funding or those applying to funding sources. Details of tuition fees can be found at
A bench fee is also payable on top of the tuition fee to cover specialist equipment or laboratory costs required for the research. Applicants should contact the primary supervisor for further information about the fee associated with the project.


i) Piper et al Frontiers in Biology (2021) Bespoke Biomolecular Wires for Transmembrane Electron Transfer DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2021.714508/full
ii) van Wonderen et al Proc. Nat. Acad, Sci. (2021) Nanosecond Heme-to-Heme Electron Transfer Rates in a Multiheme Cytochrome Nanowire DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2107939118
iii) Edwards et al Cell (2020) The Crystal Structure of a Biological Insulated Transmembrane Molecular Wire DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.03.032
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