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RNA Biodesign: Developing Molecular Switch Components for Enzyme Expression Systems

Project Description

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD studentship to commence in October 2019.

This fully-funded studentship is supported as part of the University of Portsmouth’s investment to grow its newly developed Centre for Enzyme innovation. The Centre focuses on the discovery, engineering and deployment of enzymes with potential application to the circular economy. Visit the Centre for Enzyme Innovation webpage at:

The work will include:
-Work with potential novel riboregulator molecules identified from RNAseq data from none model organisms.
-Carrying out studies to demonstrate the utility of the patented high-throughput array platform technology for riboregulator molecular switch development.
-Developing aptamers and riboswitches, and test functionality using the array platform technology.
-Focusing on biodesign steps to improve and optimise the molecular switches developed.

Project description

This project will utilise our patented high-throughput array platform technology1,2,3 to support discovery, optimisation and biodesign of the molecular switch components of gene expression systems. The regulation of gene expression, particularly within the context of applied enzymatic systems, is of critical importance. Central to transcriptional and post-transcriptional/translational control are non-coding riboregulator RNAs. Their prevalence and diverse function, within nature, has inspired their exploitation as molecular switches coordinating and controlling enzyme production. The ability to assemble versatile, programmable regulators into genetic circuits in order to achieve precise and predictable control of enzyme expression is a major goal of this work.

The goal of this PhD studentship is to expand the repertoire of riboregulator molecular switch components to support controlled and coordinate enzyme production within systems.
In addition to a full program of training provided by the Graduate School, specialist training will be provided for the patented high-throughput array platform technology as well as a range of in-house instruments and techniques. Additionally, the Portsmouth laboratories are equipped with a comprehensive suite of biochemical and biophysical instruments.

Entry Requirements

General admissions criteria
The project requires a candidate with a good first degree (minimum 2.1 or equivalent) in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology or a related subject, and a desire to excel as a disciplined scientist within a cohesive research team. Potential applicants with a Masters-level qualification, or equivalent experience in a relevant field, are strongly encouraged to apply.
We require English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements
We are looking for a talented student with a strong background in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, and a specific interest in riboregulator RNA mechanisms, which are key to efficient enzyme expression.

How to Apply
We’d encourage you to contact Prof. Anastasia Callaghan () to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting both the project code and the project title.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form making sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

When applying to the University, please quote project code: BIOL4550219

Funding Notes

This fully-funded studentship is available to UK and EU students only and covers tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant of £14,777 (RCUK 2018/19 rate). University funding will be made available to offer extensions into a 4th year where this will maximise scientific output and boost research careers.


1. Phillips et al. (2018) High-density functional-RNA arrays as a versatile platform for studying RNA-based interactions. Nucleic Acids Research. 46(14). e86.
2. Callaghan US Patent US9777268B2 (2017)
3. Callaghan EU Patent EP2732047A1 (2014);

How good is research at University of Portsmouth in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 23.80

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

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