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  Quantum Effects in the Function of Biological Molecules


   Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

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  Dr Marco Sacchi  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This research project spans computational chemistry (Sacchi) and theoretical quantum physics (Al-Khalili) with the aim of understanding the timescale and dynamics of photoinduced non-adiabatic mechanisms, including the propagation of the radiation damage in DNA and the extent of coherency in proteins (e.g, photosynthetic proteins).

Department/School

School of Chemistry and Chemical Process Engineering

Project Description

Understanding the rules of life is one of the most important scientific endeavours. Tackling it requires input from molecular biology, computational chemistry and even quantum physics. The field has revolutionised both biology and biotechnology. Remarkable advances in quantum chemical methods allow us to investigate a broad range of complex and dynamic biological processes in which biochemical systems can exploit quantum behaviour to enhance and regulate biological functions. Recent evidence suggests that these non-trivial quantum mechanical effects may play a crucial role in maintaining the non-equilibrium state of biomolecular systems. Quantum biology is the study of such quantum aspects of living systems.

This research project spans computational chemistry (Sacchi) and theoretical quantum physics (Al-Khalili) (enrollement is through the Chemistry PhD Programme) with the aim of understanding the timescale and dynamics of photoinduced non-adiabatic mechanisms, including the propagation of the radiation damage in DNA and the extent of coherency in proteins (e.g, photosynthetic proteins). By employng multiscale Quantum Mechanical and Open Quantum systems methods, we will be able to address some of the most fundamenta questions in Quantum Biology and Biophysics. This ambitious goal is both timely and relevant to the general public as there is currently no rigorous quantum mechanical understanding of the mechanism of radiation damage in DNA that includes non-trivial open quantum system effects such as decoherence and dissipation within the coupling between the thermal bath with the bond-breaking mechanism

[1] Slocombe, Al-Khalili and Sacchi, Quantum and classical effects in DNA point mutations: Watson–Crick tautomerism in AT and GC base pairs, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2021, 23, 4141-4150. https://doi.org/10.1039/D0CP05781A 

[2] Slocombe, Sacchi and Al-Khalili, An open quantum systems approach to proton tunnelling in DNA, Commun Phys 5, 109 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42005-022-00881-8  

[3] Susannah Bourne Worster et al., Structure and Efficiency in Bacterial Photosynthetic Light Harvesting, J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 2019, 10, 23, 7383–7390. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jpclett.9b02625 

Candidate Profile

Applicants should have a MS degree or a 1st class degree in Physics, with knowledge in the broad contexts of quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics. Previous knowledge of quantum thermodynamics is an advantage.

How to Apply

Applications should be submitted via the Chemistry PhD programme page. In place of a research proposal you should upload a document stating the title of the projects (up to 2) that you wish to apply for and the name(s) of the relevant supervisor. You must upload your full CV and any transcripts of previous academic qualifications. You should enter ’Faculty Funded Competition’ under funding type.

You may opt to apply for a single project or for 2 of these Centre of Quantum Biology studentships projects.

Funding

The studentship will provide a stipend at UKRI rates (currently £17,668 for 2022/23) and tuition fees for 3.5 years. An additional bursary of £1700 per annum for the duration of the studentship will be offered to exceptional candidates.


Physics (29)
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 About the Project