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Quantitative theories of viral replication cycle: towards understanding COVID infections

   Department of Physics and Astronomy

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  Dr B Chakrabarti  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The COVID-19 pandemic due to SARS COV2, an RNA virus, has changed life as we know. While vaccines against DNA viruses are well known, currently the vaccines developed for Covid-19 may need further improvement in efficacy. A further understanding of the viral replication mechanism and mode of infection is therefore needed.

The aim of this project is to develop quantitative theoretical tools rooted in soft condensed matter and biology to understand the different steps of the viral replication cycle, i.e., (i) membrane mediated entry, (ii) gene insertion, (iii) self-assembly of viral components, and (iv) budding induced exit. You will develop analytical theories of each step of the viral life cycle using non-equilibrium statistical mechanics and validate the plausibility of the physical mechanisms by computer simulations.

The project is highly multidisciplinary. Along with the PI you will be collaborating with virologists, biochemists, and immunologists across departments in Sheffield and across institutions in the UK.

The final goal of this project is to understand the physical mechanisms of the viral replication and modes of infection which might pave the way for developing targeted therapies as well as test drug and vaccine efficacies.

You will be trained on an array of analytical and simulation techniques including learning techniques to address non-equilibrium phenomena for classical many particle systems, coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations, and machine learning. You will also get an extensive opportunity to work alongside experimentalists in this area. You will receive active guidance on all aspects of your degree throughout your PhD tenure from the pastoral team in the department. Alumni from our group typically move on to postdoctoral positions in reputed groups across UK and abroad or join an industry as a research scientist.

The project will be supervised by Dr Buddha Chakrabarti (Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield). For informal enquiries please contact [Email Address Removed]

 Research in the Chakrabarti group focuses on application of statistical physics, and continuum mechanics (elasticity theory, fluid mechanics, and classical field theories) to address problems at the interface of soft-matter and biological physics. These encompass understanding: (1) Small molecule migration through complex mixtures, (2) Chromosome organisation in the cell nucleus, (3) Elastic phase separation in synthetic and biopolymer mixtures, and (4) Tackling antimicrobial resistance. 

Funding Notes

The position is fully funded for 3.5 years and is open to international students with a bachelors and/or master’s degree in Physics/Theoretical Physics and/or Applied Mathematics. According to EPSRC regulations the student must have secured the UK equivalent of a first class, or 2:1. Applications are accepted round the year.
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