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PhD in Chemistry: Advanced microcrystallisation solutions for serial crystallography


   Cardiff School of Chemistry

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  Dr L Hatcher  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Dr Lauren Hatcher is recruiting for a PhD student on the research project: Advanced microcrystallisation solutions for serial crystallography. This is a joint studentship with Dr Mark Warren at Diamond Light Source, Diamond Light Source and Dr James Green at the XFEL Hub for Physical Sciences.

Background

The availability of ultra-bright X-ray sources for cutting-edge X-ray crystallography studies is increasing globally, as top synchrotron sources are upgraded and new XFEL facilities come online. However, the impact that these ultrabright X-rays can have on the crystal is not always positive: in particular they can cause irreparable X-ray damage to the crystal, leading to poor data quality in the final structure solution. To outrun decay processes and counteract these problems, serial crystallography methods can be used in which every data-image is collected from a different crystal. The resulting crystal structure is therefore the combination of data collected on many individual samples. These methods require many crystals to be delivered into the synchrotron beam in a fast and controlled way, which means that we need to develop new methods for sample delivery. To-date, serial crystallography has been pioneered by the protein crystallography community, with only a few studies on chemical samples.

Photocrystallography is the study of photo-switchable crystals using X-ray diffraction. It allows us to study light-responsive functional materials, to explore how their structures change in response to light and explain how this influences their useful properties. Photocrystallography studies can be used to follow ultrafast processes in real time by using time-resolved methods. This allows us to follow photo-switching that occurs as quickly as nanoseconds (at synchrotrons) or femtoseconds (at XFELs). Time-resolved photocrystallography studies are particularly limited by crystal decay caused by both X-ray and light exposure, and as such are an ideal candidate for serial crystallography methods.

A key obstacle for serial crystallography is the ability to produce the many thousands of highly-ordered microcrystals required, which must ideally be of a consistent size and shape to ensure each data-image remains comparable, even though it is collected on a different crystal. Current methods for preparing microcrystals rely heavily on post-processing steps, such as milling, sorting or sieving the crystals to ensure a consistent size and shape is maintained across the batch. These approaches are highly wasteful, which precludes the use of precious samples. Additionally, some processes such as milling have the potential to cause breakage of the crystals or even to change their structure, e.g. by inducing a polymorphic transformation. It would be far better to develop methods to control the primary crystallisation process so that we produce consistent, homogeneous microcrystals in a single step, and that is the aim of this studentship.

Project

The joint Cardiff University, Diamond and XFEL Hub student will develop new crystallisation processes that deliver homogeneous microcrystal batches of photo-switchable chemical samples, for use in serial crystallography experiments at Diamond and XFELs. They will spend 50% of their time at Cardiff University, where they will be trained in the use of advanced crystallisation methods to control the primary crystallisation process and produce homogeneous microcrystals. They will spend the remaining 50% of their time at Diamond, where they will work at the cutting-edge of serial crystallography research. They will use their microcrystals to develop serial crystallography experiments for chemical samples on Beamline I19, with a particular focus on using these new methods to develop time-resolved photocrystallography experiments. The student will also work with the XFEL Hub for Physical Sciences to gain experience in XFEL research and apply for XFEL beamtime to expand their research experience at these state-of-the-art facilities.

Academic criteria

Suitable applicants will have a good first degree (2:1 or higher) in Chemistry and first-hand experience in a relevant area of chemistry is highly desirable: e.g. crystallography, crystallization, synthetic inorganic chemistry, photochemistry or supramolecular chemistry. Experience of crystallisation methods and/or crystallographic methods is also highly desirable. Prior knowledge or experience of synchrotron or XFEL research is desirable, though not essential.

Candidates should be able to demonstrate a strong interest in solid-state chemical research, be highly motivated and show a willingness to take ownership of their own research project as their knowledge and skill-base increases.

English Language

Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to demonstrate proficiency in the English language (IELTS 6.5 or equivalent)  English language requirements for postgraduate students - Study - Cardiff University

Supervisors:

Dr Lauren Hatcher - Dr Lauren Hatcher - People - Cardiff University

Application

Application deadline Wednesday 1st June

We reserve the right to close this post early if sufficient applications are received. Early application is advised.

If you wish to have an informal chat with any of the supervisors about this possible research project please feel free to contact them directly.

To apply please follow the link and apply for a Chemistry PhD

https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/research/programmes/programme/chemistry

Please include in your application a full CV and a short supporting statement (maximum one side of A4) as to why you are the best applicant for your research area.

Start date: 1st October 2022


Funding Notes

This a 3.5 year funded PhD with Home tuition fees and stipend. The stipend and fees are at the UKRI rate (for 2020/21 is £15,285; £4,407 respectively).This studentship is open to Home, EU or Overseas Candidates. However, Overseas and EU candidates should note that they will be required to cover the difference between Home and Overseas/EU fees each year.
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