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Physics of cutting and reshaping of cell membranes

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

We are looking for highly motivated students to join our interdisciplinary team for an exciting project at the interface of physics, biology, and chemistry. The goal of the project is to identify the physical principles behind the formation and function of the cellular nanomachinery that reshapes and cuts cell membranes, by means of using computer simulations.

PROJECT: Cell division and exchange of materials between the cell and its environment all require remodelling of cellular membranes. These are inherently physical processes that involve crossing of barriers and the production of mechanical forces. To do so, cells dynamically assemble and disassemble filaments that bend, reshape, and cut cell membranes. These processes consume energy and produce mechanical work. In collaboration with the experimental groups of Prof. Buzz Baum (UCL Laboratory for Cell and Molecular Biology) and Dr Jeremy Carlton (the Francis Crick Institute) we are looking to develop a computer model of a particularly interesting nanomachine, called ESCRT-III. This nanomachine dynamically polymerises into filaments that cut cell membranes in a range of cellular processes: from vesicle formation, HIV and Ebola release, to cell division. The project will involve using methods of computational soft matter physics and statistical mechanics (molecular dynamics, Monte Carlo), and regular cross-validation against experimental data.

ABOUT US: We are an interdisciplinary group that develops minimal computer models of collective phenomena in living systems. Our team involves physicists, chemists, computer scientists, and biologists and features close collaboration between theory and experiments. We are based at the UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Institute for the Physics of Living Systems (IPLS), in central London. IPLS is a lively cross-faculty institute with a mission to promote interdisciplinary research for a fundamental understanding of the complex behaviours of living systems.

ABOUT YOU: The successful applicant should have (or expect to achieve) at least the equivalent of a UK upper second class MSci or Master’s degree (or equivalent) in Physics, Biophysics, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, or a relevant subject. High level of self-motivation and enthusiasm is essential, and some experience in programming desired. No prior knowledge of biology is necessary.

HOW TO APPLY: The position is fully funded by the ERC (or UKRI), and will be for four years starting at any point after October 1st 2019. If you have any queries about this studentship, please contact Dr. Andela Saric (a dot saric at ucl dot ac dot uk) who will be supervising the research. Informal enquiries are welcome.

Please send electronic applications in the following format:

• A CV, including full details of all University course grades to date.
• Contact details for two academic or professional referees (at least one academic).
• A personal statement (750 words maximum) outlining (i) your academic excellence, (ii) suitability for the project, (iii) what you hope to achieve from the PhD and (iv) your research experience to-date.

The evaluation of applications will begin 10th September 2019 until the position is filled.

How good is research at University College London in Physics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 110.53

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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