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Fully-funded White Rose BBSRC DTP Chemistry project: Probing and manipulating the bacterial cell wall using chemically modified sugars

   White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology

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  Dr L Willems  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Lead supervisor: Dr Lianne Willems (Department of Chemistry)

Co-supervisors: Dr Christoph Baumann (Department of Biology)

The student will be registered with the Department of Chemistry

Antimicrobial resistance is a major and increasingly prevalent global health concern. Therefore, an urgent need exists to identify new therapeutic strategies to fight bacterial infections. At the same time, there is also a demand for the development of robust technologies that help us characterise the effectiveness of new interventions. In this project, you will explore the manipulation of specific sugars in the bacterial cell wall as a means to generate innovative research tools and identify potential antibacterial targets.

Firstly, you will synthesise chemically modified sugar derivatives and test their incorporation into the cell wall of gram-positive bacteria such as Bacillus subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus. Then you will use these tools in combination with super-resolution and diffraction-limited fluorescence microscopy techniques for the imaging of cell wall dynamics. Finally, you will also develop novel inhibitors targeting components of the cell wall biosynthetic machinery and characterise their effectiveness using your newly developed imaging platform. The results of your project will enhance our understanding of how interfering with specific steps in the biosynthesis pathway impacts on cell wall composition and distribution. In addition, you may identify novel targets for the development of antibacterial agents.

This project provides excellent specialised and multidisciplinary training in cutting-edge single-cell imaging methods combined with synthetic chemistry, bioorthogonal chemistry, protein biochemistry, membrane biophysics and glycobiology. You will join a vibrant cross-disciplinary community of PhD students with diverse backgrounds in physical and life sciences. You will also improve your professional skills by participating in group meetings, (cross-)departmental seminars and research conferences, and participating in outreach activities. Further professional skills training will be provided by the White Rose DTP.

The Departments 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 White Rose BBSRC 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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