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PhD in DNA nanotechnology and bottom-up synthetic biology

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Saturday, February 15, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The group of Dr Lorenzo Di Michele at the Department of Chemistry of Imperial College London is looking to recruit a PhD student to carry out experimental work at the interface of DNA nanotechnology and bottom-up synthetic biology, as a part of a project recently funded by a ERC starting grant (NANOCELL – A DNA nanotechnology toolkit for artificial cell design).

Bottom-up synthetic biology aims at constructing artificial cells, micron-scale entities that replicate typical functionalities of biological cells, such as regulated metabolism, communication and adaptation to their environment. Artificial cells offer vast applicability as biosensing systems and nanomedical devices, while helping researchers to unravel the molecular mechanisms underlying biological complexity in a simplified setting. These microreactors are often constructed from a semi-permeable compartment playing the role of the cell membrane, supporting or encapsulating various active elements that enable sensing, communication and information processing.

DNA nanotechnology enables exquisite control over the structure and dynamic response of nanoscale objects constructed from synthetic DNA molecules, making it ideal for the production of nanomachines and structural elements that mimic biological ones, and can thus be applied in the context of artificial-cell research.

This PhD project aims a developing new DNA-nanotech tools that can enhance the capabilities of artificial cells. These include synthetic membrane receptors for sensing environmental cues, signalling and communication protocols to implement collective behaviours in artificial-cell consortia, and responsive structural elements that mimic the cytoskeleton and can alter the morphological and structural features of the artificial cells.

The student will design responsive DNA nanosystems (aided by computer tools), assemble and characterise them in the lab, and finally integrate them with synthetic cellular mimics. Depending on the student’s interests and skillset, experiments may be complemented by theoretical analysis and coarse-grained computer simulations.

The candidate should hold a master’s degree in physics, physical chemistry, or a closely related discipline, preferably with interest or experience on soft matter or biophysics. Experience with computer programming would be highly beneficial.
Most important, the candidate should share our curiosity and enthusiasm for research!

For further information, please contact Dr Lorenzo Di Michele ()


Location: Molecular Science Research Hub, White City Campus, Department of Chemistry, Imperial College London.
Start date: 01/10/2020
Duration: 4 years
Eligibility: UK and EU nationals

Application process

To apply, please send via email to Lorenzo Di Michele () the following material before 15/02/2020
- Covering letter (max 1 page)
- CV (max 2 pages)
- 2 letters of references
Shortlisted candidates will be contacted shortly after the deadline for an interview on skype or in person.

How good is research at Imperial College London in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 54.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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