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Developing Bioorthogonal Catalysts for Cancer Biomarker Detection


   Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry

   Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

This is an exciting PhD studentship to develop new chemical tools for cancer research. We will develop a new class of bioorthogonal chemistry to interrogate cancer biomarkers, underpinning novel diagnostic technologies for early detection. 

Bioorthogonal chemistry, a class of chemical reactions that neither interact nor interfere with a living system, is a powerful tool for biological interrogation. By exploring new-to-nature chemical reactions, biomolecules can be installed with a chemical tracker and directly interrogated with a fit-for-function probe in their native biological habitats. Important disease biomarkers, such as kinases, glycans, and DNA, can now be directly interrogated with affinity, imaging or bioactive agents. A key limitation in current approaches is the ability to directly install chemical tracker onto all species of interest without the need for specialised bioengineering processes.

In this project, you will develop new bioorthogonal chemical tools to directly track, tag and treat methylated RNAs, an early diagnostic marker of cancer. We will focus on the design of novel bioorthogonal catalysts that combine enzyme-like scaffolds with transition metal complexes to give advanced catalysts that can directly track and tag biomolecules using nature inspired molecular recognition and unnatural metal-catalysis.

You will join the research team led by Dr Shiao Chow. This project would suit a student who seeks a rich training platform to learn the fundamentals of organic chemistry while also developing interdisciplinary expertise at the interface of chemistry and biology. You will be trained to become an expert in organic chemistry and chemical biology with skills in computational modelling, transition metal catalysis, bioorthogonal chemistry, high-throughput experimentation, and biomarker research. Due to the modular nature of the bioorthogonal catalyst design, you will have the opportunity to explore and develop your areas of interests within this project.

Application process

*Informal enquiries are welcomed, please get in touch if you have any questions.

Please send the following to Dr Shiao Chow by email (), before the closing date (1st December 2022):

(1) a CV (2 pages maximum); please include details of two references for the assessment of your application.

(2) a cover letter highlighting your background (skills, experience and research interests); how these make you a good candidate for this position (1 page maximum)

(3) a copy of academic transcript

Initial interviews will be carried out online via Teams, you will be asked to give a short presentation about a recent research project. (mid Jan 2023)

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to visit Strathclyde and meet with Dr Shiao Chow, before a final decision is made. (early Feb 2023) 


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