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Fully-funded White Rose BBSRC DTP Chemistry project: Exploring the role of RuBisCo binding domains in algal carbon fixation

   White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology

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  Dr C Spicer, Prof Luke Mackinder, Dr M Plevin  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Lead supervisor: Dr Chris Spicer (Department of Chemistry)

Co-supervisors: Prof Luke Mackinder (Department of Biology) and Dr Michael Plevin (Department of Biology)

The student will be registered with the Department of Chemistry

Rubisco is one of the most important proteins on the planet, catalysing the first step in the conversion of carbon dioxide fixation in plants and algae. Understanding the biochemistry of Rubisco is essential if we are to harness this enzyme in the fight against climate change and food shortage. In this highly interdisciplinary project, we will therefore exploit our expertise in synthetic chemistry and chemical biology to gain unprecedented understanding of a currently poorly understood aspect of Rubisco biochemistry – the role of physicochemically conserved, yet disordered binding domains in controlling Rubisco assembly.

Objectives: 1) To develop novel protein modification chemistries that allow us to install photo-affinity labels site-specifically into peptides and proteins; 2) To apply these chemistries to identify sites of interaction between Rubisco and its binding partners.

Experimental approach

This project is ideally suited to an applicant with an interest in chemical biology. Years 1-2 will focus on developing new methods for bioconjugation, and students will be trained in protein expression, chemical modification, and analysis via mass spectrometry. In Years 3-4 the project will move towards studies of Rubisco, where the student will be trained in a range of molecular biology techniques, including photo-affinity labelling and proteomic analysis, unnatural amino acid incorporation, ligand binding assays, site-directed mutagenesis studies, algal cell biology, confocal microscopy, and cryo-electron microscopy.


The highly interdisciplinary nature of the project will provide applicants with a broad range of skills across chemical biology and molecular biology, placing them in an ideal position for a future career in biotechnology. The student will join the groups of Dr Chris Spicer (Chemistry), Prof Luke Mackinder (Biology), and Dr Michael Plevin where they will be trained in all necessary techniques. They will also join the York Biomedical Research Institute giving them access to world-leading expertise in biomedicine.

The Department of Chemistry and Biology both hold an Athena SWAN Gold Award. We are committed to supporting equality and diversity and strive to provide a positive working environment for all staff and students.

The WR DTP and the University of York are committed to recruiting future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and we have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

Entry Requirements: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with any biological, chemical, and/or physical science backgrounds, or students with mathematical background who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions. 

Programme: PhD in Biological Chemistry (4 years)

Start Date: 1st October 2023

Interviews: Friday 10 February 2023 or Monday 13 February 2023. Please keep these dates free.

Funding Notes

This project is part of the BBSRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology. Appointed candidates will be fully-funded for 4 years. The funding includes:
Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£17,668 for 2022/23 academic year)
UK tuition fees
Research support and training charges (RSTC)
International students will need to have sufficient funds to cover the costs of their student visa, NHS health surcharge, travel insurance and transport to the UK as these are excluded from UKRI funding.

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