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Redesigning the absorption and storage of solar energy for photosynthesis

  • Full or part time
    Prof Neil Hunter
    Dr A Hitchcock
    Dr D Swainsbury
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, March 31, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Photosynthesis is the fundamental biochemical process on Earth that converts solar energy into chemical energy, releasing the oxygen we breathe, providing the food we eat and absorbing the carbon dioxide we produce. Because it maintains the level of oxygen in the atmosphere and, directly or indirectly, provides the nutrients for nearly all life forms, photosynthesis is vital for the survival of the biosphere.

The light reactions of photosynthesis are performed by two large protein complexes termed photosystems that absorb photons and use their energy to generate a proton gradient and reducing power. To ensure that the photosystems function at high rates, phototrophs evolved diverse light-harvesting chlorophyll-protein complexes to collect and transfer photon energy to the photosystems. Although some parts of the light reactions are highly efficient, there is ample scope to make significant enhancements to the overall process for increased yields of food, energy or high value compounds.

The successful candidate will join the international PhotoRedesign research team funded by a recent €7.5 million ERC Synergy grant ( which aims to redesign the light reactions to harvest and safely convert energy from an expanded solar spectrum by synthetic biology and adaptive laboratory evolution. This PhD programme will provide training in molecular genetics, de novo protein design, biochemical preparation and analysis of protein complexes, spectroscopy and microscopy. The student will be based in the collaborative, multidisciplinary molecular photosynthesis research group in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, where they will have access to the world-class facilities available at the University of Sheffield.

For informal enquiries please contact .

Science Graduate School

As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you’ll be part of the Science Graduate School – a community of postgraduate researchers working across biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and psychology. You’ll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You’ll be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit to learn more.

Funding Notes

A 3.5–year PhD studentship is available. The studentship comes with full tuition fees and is available to UK/EU students. Stipend is at the standard UKRI rate (currently £15.009 pa).

Eligibility: Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, a minimum of an upper-second-class Honours degree (2.1 or above) in a relevant subject.

How good is research at University of Sheffield in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.90

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

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