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Responsive DNA-based hydrogels: From structure to tailoring properties (WALLERZU20SCIO)

Project Description

When thinking about DNA, people often imagine the the iconic Watson-Crick “twisted ladder” double helix; but it can actually adopt many different types of structures. As well as being the genetic material, DNA is also a bio-compatible material which can be used in making nanotechnological devices, nano-computers and gels. DNA-based gels are supramolecular assemblies held together by noncovalent interactions, making these materials dynamic and potentially reversible in response to triggers (e.g. pH, light, ions, temperature). Bio-compatible responsive/dynamic hydrogels have a plethora of applications, including sensing of biomolecules and ions, as media for cell culture, tissue engineering and targeted drug delivery.

This PhD project will involve developing conditions to create responsive and dynamic DNA-based gels. The project will be highly interdisciplinary and will involve training in a wide range of techniques: from gel formation to cutting-edge NMR to characterize the materials. Led by Dr Zoë Waller and Prof Yaroslav Khimyak, there will be the opportunity to work using different facilities in the School of Pharmacy at UEA and also in the Norwich Research Park.

The student will have, or expect to obtain a first class, 2(i) or equivalent Honours degree in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Pharmacy or a related area.

Informal enquiries are welcomed: please contact Dr Zoë Waller () or Prof Yaroslav Khimyak ().

For more information on the project’s supervisor, please visit: https://people.uea.ac.uk/z_waller
Type of programme: PhD
Start date of project: October 2020
Mode of study: full time
Studentship length: funded for 3 years
Location: UEA
Entry requirement: acceptable first degree in Chemistry, Pharmacy, Physics, Biochemistry. The standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1.

Funding Notes

This PhD project is in a competition for a Faculty of Science funded studentship. Funding is available to UK/EU applicants and comprises home/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend of £15,009 for 3 years. Overseas applicants may apply but they are required to fund the difference between home/EU and overseas tuition fees (which for 2019-20 are detailed on the University’s fees pages at View Website . Please note tuition fees are subject to an annual increase).


i) Peters, GM; Davis, JT; Supramolecular gels made from nucleobase, nucleoside and nucleotide analogs Chem. Soc. Rev., 2016,45,3188
ii) Day, HA; Pavlou, P; Waller, ZAE; i-Motif DNA: structure, stability and targeting with ligands. Bioorg Med Chem. 2014, 15, 4407
iii) S.M. Ramalhete, K. P. Nartowski, N. Sarathchandra, J. S. Foster, A. N. Round, J. Angulo, G. O. Lloyd and Y. Z. Khimyak, Supramolecular multi-component amino acid-based hydrogels: probing the contribution of additive molecules using NMR spectroscopy, Chem. Eur. J., 2017, 23, 8014-8024

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