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Sequence Selective Peptide Encapsulation in Supramolecular Cages

   Department of Chemistry

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  Dr I Riddell, Dr Ralph Adams  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

A fully funded 4-year PhD studentship is available in the Riddell group. This position is available from April 2022 but must commence at the latest by September 2022. The successful candidate will develop novel metal-organic cages1,2 and evaluate binding of short peptide chains within these complexes. The candidate will also work closely with Dr Ralph Adams in the NMR Methodology Group to develop experiments suitable for the challenging materials targeted in this project.

Peptides are essential in the regulation of a multitude of biological functions, ranging from the control of metabolism and immune response, to acting as neurotransmitters and hormones.3 Being able to control and modulate the bioavailability of peptides through selective binding is therefore crucial to expedite the development of novel therapeutics. To date, however, synthetic chemists have been unable to emulate the binding specificity and affinity displayed by natural systems.4 This PhD project will build on ongoing work within our laboratory, systematically modifying metal-organic cages and evaluating their affinity and sequence specificity for a range of short peptides.

The successful candidate will form part of an expanding research group and receive full training in inorganic synthesis and advanced molecular characterisation that will enable them to design, synthesize and evaluate the outcome of metal self-assembly reactions in the presence of peptides. The candidate will use multiple characterisation techniques, including mass spectrometry, X-ray crystallography, NMR (1D, 2D, heteronuclear and DOSY) spectroscopy and optical spectroscopies (UV-vis, fluorescence and circular dichroism) during the course of their research. 

Academic background of candidates 

Applicants are expected to hold, or about to obtain, a minimum upper second-class undergraduate degree (or the overseas equivalent) in Chemistry. A Master’s degree in a relevant subject and experience in practical synthetic inorganic chemistry would be advantageous, although training will be provided.

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

The School is committed to Athena SWAN principles to promote women in science; the School’s website documenting activity in this area can be found at:

The University will actively foster a culture of inclusion and diversity and will seek to achieve true equality of opportunity for all members of its community.

Contact for further information 

Imogen Riddell [Email Address Removed] 

Dr Ralph Adams

Please submit a cover letter and CV with your application. The cover letter should describe your research interests and motivation for the proposed project in a short paragraph. Please see the application process at:

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year funded PhD studentship covering fees and stipend (£15,609 in 2021-22)
Open to Home applicants only.
This position is available from April 2022 but must commence at the latest by September 2022.


1. L. L. K. Taylor, I. J. Vitorica-Yrezabel, I. Borilovic, F. Tuna, I. A. Riddell, Self-assembly of a trigonal bipyramidal architecture with stabilisation of iron in three spin states, Chem. Commun., 57, 11252 (2021).
2. I. A. Riddell, M. M. J. Smulders, J. K. Clegg, Y. R. Hristova, B. Breiner, J. D. Thoburn, J. R. Nitschke, Anion-induced reconstitution of a self-assembling system to express a chloride-binding Co10L15 pentagonal prism. Nat. Chem. 4, 751 (2012).
3. N. Sewald, H. Jakubke, Peptides: Chemistry and Biology, 2nd ed.; Wiley-VCH: Weinheim, Germany, ISBN 9783527318674 (2009).
4. J. N. Martins, J. C. Lima, N. Basílio, Selective Recognition of Amino Acids and Peptides by Small Supramolecular Receptors, Molecules, 26, 106 (2021).

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