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  Fully-funded White Rose BBSRC DTP Chemistry project: Understanding the mechanism of how PspA protects mycobacterial bioenergetics in response to antibiotic and environmental stressors


   White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology

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  Dr J Blaza  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Lead supervisor: Dr Jamie Blaza (Department of Chemistry)

Co-supervisors: Prof Gavin Thomas (Department of Biology)

The student will be registered with the Department of Chemistry 

The bioenergetic systems of organisms transduce the energy required for growth and to power diverse processes. While attention has focused on the enzyme complexes that transduce energy, equally important is the membrane over which a proton motive force is sustained. This studentship focuses on PspA, a member of a widely-conserved family (IM30) of proteins. These are known to bind to and stabilise membranes during stress but how this protects the membrane and cell is unknown. 

This studentship will focus on PspA in mycobacteria. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the cause of tuberculosis, one of the most devastating infectious diseases worldwide and new drugs such as bedaquiline are known to target the mycobacterial bioenergetic system. Mycobacteria are also closely related to industrially relevant organisms (such as Corynebacterium glutamicum). 

We will use bacteriological physiological methods, cryo-EM imaging, and a ‘bioenergetic chamber’ to explore how PspA protects the cell. Cryo-EM and bacteriological methods are well-established and much in demand sets of techniques, which the student will learn. The bioenergetic chamber is a specialised device being developed in York to measure metabolism as it occurs within living cells, avoiding the limitations of techniques that require rupturing cells, which disrupts the system under study. Much of the work will focus on the safe and fast-growing Mycobacterium smegmatis, but we will also seek to translate our findings to ‘real-world’ ‘organisms. These organisms include pathogenic mycobacteria, for which we have excellent microbiological facilities and to industrially relevant organisms. 

The student will be part of a consortium of researchers from four different universities working to apply different techniques to understand the mechanism behind the family of PspA proteins in different organisms. This consortium will provide a brilliant opportunity for the student to learn more about different areas of biochemistry/microbiology/imaging/mass spectrometry to enrich the work they do in York and will provide the student with a network of fantastic researchers as they advance their careers, in academia or beyond. 

The student will be joining a lab that strives to continually build a positive research culture and to have a positive impact on the world. Supported by a UKRI Future Leader Fellowship, the PI, Jamie Blaza, is present in the lab on a day-to-day level to help with trouble-shooting and experimental design. The PhD will be built around a co-development model of research supervision, where the student is provided with both support and independence to make the most of their expertise and talents and develop their interests through the research project.

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.


Biological Sciences (4) Mathematics (25) Physics (29)

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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