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Peptide polymer fibres: Novel structured, syntheses and applications


The Centre for Sustainable and Circular Technologies

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Dr Hannah Leese , Prof Andrea Robinson No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

The Centre for Sustainable & Circular Technologies (CSCT) at the University of Bath is inviting applications for the following PhD project which is part of a joint PhD programme between the University of Bath and Monash University in Australia. 

This project is one of a number that are in competition for up to four funded studentships. 

Home institution: University of Bath

Supervisor(s) at Bath: Dr Hannah Leese (lead)

Supervisor(s) at Monash: Prof Andrea Robinson

  High performance fibres and synthetic textiles are used in large quantities in both industrial and consumer products. They are produced from petrochemical sources and are rarely biodegradable. Whilst some are in principle recyclable, laundry operations, for example, lead to uncontrolled release of microplastic pollution into the environment. Nature provides many examples of exquisite protein engineering serving a wide range of functions, including high-performance fibres i.e. spider silk. There are obvious advantages to copying these designs, however, the resultant peptide-based materials can be marred by poor in vivo stability and availability, challenging synthesis, upscaling and high manufacturing costs. But we can utilise chemistry to overcome these limitations to engineer enhanced chemical, physical and mechanical properties into the native, biologically active or functioning peptide. Therefore, this project aims to combine peptide design and fibre spinning into high-performance fibre materials to drive towards circular textiles.

The project will develop a novel catalysis-driven polymerisation strategy to generate well-defined linear peptide polymers, and exploit methods to design, synthesise and evaluate functional mimetics of resilin (and other native bioelastomers). Resilin is an elastomeric protein found in specialised regions of insect cuticles where it functions to provide low stiffness, high strain and efficient energy storage, and remarkable locomotion (i.e. the jump in fleas, acceleration of spittle bugs and hover of dragonflies). A short elastic repeat motif may be the key to resilin’s extraordinary resilience (recovery after deformation) which exceeds synthetic polybutadiene, a high resilience rubber.

This project will develop, for the first time, a simple, catalysis-driven polymerisation method for linking multiple copies of a peptide sequence with directional N®C ligation throughout the entire biopolymer. Recent advances in homogeneous catalysis now provide highly efficient, biocompatible catalysts capable of forming new C-H (hydrogenation) and C-C bonds (metathesis) within peptides, with excellent stereo-, chemo- and regioselectivity. This control facilitates the incorporation of specially designed residues and the generation of synthetic materials with novel structures, properties and applications.

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To apply:

We invite applications from Science and Engineering graduates who have, or expect to obtain, a first or upper second class degree and have a strong interest in Sustainable & Circular Technologies. 

You may express an interest in up to three projects in order of preference. See the CSCT website for more information.

Please submit your application to the Home institution of your preferred project.  You should note, however, that you are applying for a joint PhD programme and applications will be processed as such.

If this is your preferred project, apply using the relevant Bath online application form.

Please quote ‘Bath Monash PhD studentship’ in the Finance section and the lead supervisor(s)’ name(s) and project title(s) in the ‘Your research interests’ section.  More information on applying to Bath may be found here.

If the Home institution of your preferred project is Monash, apply here.

Enquiries about the application process should be sent to [Email Address Removed].

Studentship eligibility

Funding for Bath-based projects, such as the one advertised here, is available to candidates who qualify for Home fee status only. In determining Home student status, we follow the UK government’s fee regulations and guidance from the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).  Further information may also be found within the university’s fee status guidance.

EU/EEA citizens who live outside the UK are unlikely to be eligible for Home fees and funding.

Funding for Monash-based projects is available to candidates of any nationality. 

Please see the CSCT website for a full list of available projects.


Funding Notes

Bath Monash PhD studentships include tuition fee sponsorship and a living allowance (stipend) for up to 42 months maximum. Note, however, that studentships for Bath-based projects will provide cover for Home tuition fees ONLY. See the ‘Studentship eligibility’ section above. Non-Australian nationals studying in Australia will be required to pay their own Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). Additional and suitably qualified applicants who can access a scholarship/studentship from other sources will be also considered.
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