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PhD studentship: Theory of minimal molecular systems for information transmission

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

We invite applications for a 4-year PhD studentship within Dr Ouldridge’s "Principles of Biomolecular Systems" group [1], as part of the ERC-funded project "Rational Engineering of Synthetic Systems for the Propagation of Information by the Catalytic Assembly of Copies". Students interested in the application of theoretical physics and chemistry, particularly statistical mechanics, thermodynamics and the analysis of stochastic processes, to fundamental biological systems are encouraged to apply.

The assembly of copies of information-bearing polymer templates is vital to living organisms. The “central dogma” of molecular biology describes how information contained in a sequence of nucleotides in DNA is copied into a sequence of nucleotides in RNA, and then into a sequence of amino acids in a protein. Despite the fundamental importance of copying, and its potential for the engineering of complex molecular systems, we do not understand the basic physical principles that enable accurate and reliable copies to be made of polymer templates, and consequently are unable to build minimal synthetic copying systems.

Using fundamental physical theory, leveraging recent advances in the thermodynamics of small, fluctuating systems and the thermodynamics of information processing, the student will explore minimal models of copying to identify these principles. The student will then work with simulators and experimentalists to help them implement minimal synthetic copying systems based on these insights.

The work will involve the construction of minimal models of molecular copying systems, and the analysis of these models using numerical simulation, and analytical approaches for stochastic processes. The results will be interpreted through the framework of stochastic thermodynamics and information theory. Ref. [2] provides a prototypical example of this kind of work within the group. Candidates with a degree in mathematics, computation, physical sciences or engineering are encouraged to apply. Previous experience modelling and simulating stochastic processes, and an interest in thermodynamics, biophysics or information theory, would be beneficial.

To apply for this position, please email a single PDF file including: a (1 page max) cover letter describing your interests and research experience, a CV detailing academic performance (including grades/marks) and names and contact information of two referees, to Dr Thomas Ouldridge (). Candidates will be considered continuously until the position is filled, with a first gathered field on Friday 13th December.

Funding Notes

This project is funded by the European Research Council as part of the RESSPICAC project. Funding includes payment of college fees for UK/EU students and a tax-free stipend for four years, set at the Research Council recommended level (including London weighting). The stipend is £17,009 for 2019/2020.



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