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EPSRC DTP PhD Studentship in next generation cell imaging: developing new genetically encodable super-scattering Raman probes

   Cardiff School of Biosciences

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  Prof Dafydd Jones, Prof P Borri, Dr Louis Morrill  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project Summary

Advances in cellular bioimaging have proved pivotal in improving our understanding of biological processes. Fluorescence microscopy emerged as the “go to” cell imaging approach as fluorescent proteins (FPs) allowed genetic tagging and tracking of specific targets inside a cell. However, there are disadvantages such as photobleaching and the limited number of targets that can be monitored simultaneously. Raman microscopy has the potential to overcome these limitations since Raman scattering can be spectrally narrow and tuneable, as well as photostable, but requires the development of genetically encoded probes.

The goal of this studentship is to generate genetically encodable probes with enhanced Raman scattering from a selection of vibrating chemical bonds. To achieve this, you will use emerging synthetic biology approaches that reprogrammes the genetic code to allow the incorporation of Raman-active non-natural amino acids at keys residues in fluorescent proteins. You will test these probes in live cell imaging using coherent Raman scattering microscopy.

Training and development.

You will be trained in a variety of techniques including protein engineering (computational design, DNA manipulation and recombinant protein production) organic synthesis and advanced Raman microscopy (including instrument development). After initial training, you will co-develop the project directions with us. You will be introduced to techniques and concepts in synthetic biology: new amino acids analogues will be synthesised and then directly incorporated into the fluorescent protein using a reprogrammed genetic code. You will attend and present at group meetings and relevant (inter)national conferences, and author scientific publications, enhancing your transferable skills. You will access further training offered by the doctoral training academy. Successfully completing this PhD, you will be a highly skilled and productive researcher with excellent prospects in academic and/or commercial sectors.

Research environment.

You will join a vibrant group of researchers led by an experienced supervisory team that offers a unique combination of expertise at the life science/chemistry/physics interface. The team has a strong track record in engineering fluorescent proteins using non-natural amino acids (Jones), synthesis of biologically relevant molecules (Morrill) and development of Raman-based microscopy approaches (Borri/Langbein). You will have access to modern well-equipped laboratories and technology hubs (e.g. Protein Technology and Bioimaging Hubs).

How to apply

The studentship would suit an individual with a honours degree (2:1 or above) or Masters degree in a relevant subject area and have a strong interest in biochemistry, chemical biology and/or biophysics.

Applications should be received no later than March 24th 2023 (24/3/2023). All applications should be submitted via the online application portal, SIMS – []. 

Please include a supporting statement regarding why you want to do this PhD and a CV, references (if available at time of application), and transcripts/certificates related to your degree. In the funding section, please specify that you are applying for this project.

Further details on the application process can be found in the “how to apply” section on the School of Biosciences page []. 

Details here on entry requirements to the PhD programme in specific school, including language requirements can be found on School of Biosciences postgraduate website

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EPSRC DTP studentships are available to home and international students. Up to 30% of our cohort can comprise international students, once the limit has been reached we are unable to make offers to international students. 

Cardiff University is committed to support students from a range of backgrounds and circumstances. Where needed, we will work with you to take into consideration reasonable project adaptations (for example to support caring responsibilities, disabilities, other significant personal circumstances) as well as flexible working and part‐time study requests, to enable greater access to a PhD. All our supervisors support us with this aim, so please feel comfortable in discussing further with the listed PhD project supervisor to see what is feasible. 

Cardiff University is committed to supporting and promoting equality and diversity and to creating an inclusive environment for all. We welcome applications from all members of the global community irrespective of age, disability, sex, gender identity, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation.

We welcome applications for both full and part-time study and from candidates with non-traditional academic backgrounds. For further information about modes of study, please contact us. 


Applicants are reminded to submit all relevant documents (transcripts, CV, supporting statement, etc) by the deadline. Due to the volume of applications received, incomplete applications may not be considered. 

Short-listed applicants will be invited to interview. As part of the interview process, applicants will be asked to give a short presentation (<10 mins) on their recent research (e.g. final year project, Masters project) and answer a series of panel questions.

Interviews are expected to take place remotely via Zoom up to 3 weeks after the application deadline. Applicants can expect to hear the outcome of their interview within 7 days

Funding Notes

The studentship funded by the EPSRC DTP is for 3.5 years and covers tuition fees, an annual tax-free living stipend of in line with UKRI minimum rates (currently £17,668) and includes access to a Research Training Support Grant (currently £4000).
If you have a disability you may be entitled to a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) on top of your studentship.

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