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Molecular basis of mechanobiology: The pressure-sensitive Piezo channels

   Faculty of Biological Sciences

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  Prof F. Sobott, Dr S Muench, Dr A Kalli, Prof D J Beech  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Sensing mechanical force is fundamentally important in biology. Although a bang on the head is obvious, we fail to notice many forces, such as red blood cells squeezing through tiny blood vessels delivering oxygen to our muscles. 

The sensing of force goes right down to the cellular and molecular levels with the cells of animals, and even plants, feeling and responding to force, using newly recognised ion channels such as the PIEZOs (Nobel Prize 2021). We made important discoveries about the critical role of how PIEZO triggers signals in the cell and provided evidence of close attachments with specific lipids. Here you will use a multi-disciplinary structural approach based on innovative mass spectrometry methods (e.g. native, HDX) and cryo-EM data feeding into powerful computational models of dynamic PIEZO behaviour. We will complement this with cutting-edge biology, chemistry and physical techniques to determine PIEZO interactions between molecules, cell changes downstream of PIEZO1 and lipid environments of the channels, including in human placental cells. This could have important longer term social and economic impacts, for example by enabling potential development of new therapeutic drugs to control blood flow in disease and agents to improve crop growth in challenging environments.


You should hold a first degree equivalent to at least a UK upper-second class honours degree or a MSc degree in a relevant subject.

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study. The Faculty of Biological Sciences minimum requirements in IELTS and TOEFL tests are:

  • British Council IELTS - score of 6.0 overall, with no element less than 5.5
  • TOEFL iBT - overall score of 87 with the listening and reading element no less than 20, writing element no less than 21 and the speaking element no less than 22.

How to apply:

To apply for this project applicants should complete an online application form and attach the following documentation to support their application. 

  • a full academic CV
  • degree certificate and transcripts of marks
  • Evidence that you meet the University's minimum English language requirements (if applicable).

To help us identify that you are applying for this studentship please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;

  • Select PhD in Biological Sciences as your programme of study
  • When asked for source of funding please make it clear that you are applying for a "White Rose BBSRC DTP Studentship"
  • Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert. You can be considered for up to 3 projects in total.

If you have any further queries regarding this opportunity, please contact [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

This opportunity is funded by the White Rose BBSRC DTP and will attract an annual tax-free stipend of £17,668 (based on the 2022/23 rate). The award will also cover academic fees. This opportunity is available to UK and International fee rated applicants. Please note that any expenses related to the relocation of international students to the UK (visa, insurance, NHS fees, flights, etc) would be their responsibility and are not covered by this award.

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