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Sticky biomolecules – from sediments to astrobiology

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, January 06, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Adhesion of biological material to igneous rocks and silicates is still a poorly understood phenomenon at a molecular level. Yet such information is crucial in many domains where biological material comes into contact with rocky formations. This is the case for biofilms growing on clay sediments in river banks, for chemically accurate models of comets, but also for the formation of building blocks of life on other planets.

This project will use supercomputers to investigate the adhesion of simple amino acids to clay and silicate surfaces at a molecular level. The information obtained will then be used to assess the influence of those biomolecules on sediment cohesion and help to formulate improved models of biologically stabilised sediments in rivers, both on earth and for parallel observations made on martian terrain.

Further links with astrobiology and origins of life will be established by applying the findings to processes occurring at hydrothermal vents (on earth and on Jovian moons). The latter part will also be supported by laboratory models of vents formation and existing ocean-based observations to focus on determining parameters that define biofilm binding as a function of environmental variables (pH, gas/ions concentrations, for example).

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a Masters level qualification in chemistry, physics, biology, geosciences or a related field and a keen interest for working on an inter-disciplinary project.

Application deadline: Monday 6 January 2020

This Studentship will start on 21st September 2020

Funding Notes

This PhD is part of an EU-funded ERC project (GEOSTICK) and Full-time UK/EU PhD Scholarships will include fees at the ‘home/EU' student rate and maintenance (£15,009 in 2019/20) for three years, depending on satisfactory progress.
PhD students at the University of Hull follow modules for research and transferable skills development and gain a Masters level Certificate, or Diploma, in Research Training, in addition to their research degree.

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