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  Structural and functional characterisation of effectors of glycan mimicry in respiratory pathogens

   School of Biology

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  Dr T Gloster  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae (Sp) and Haemophilus influenzae (Hi) are a frequent cause of respiratory illness, which can be fatal, particularly in young children and the elderly. Additional research in this field is now urgent, due to a) rising antibiotic resistance and b) interplay with viral disease (e.g. COVID 19) where bacteria contribute to potentially deadly secondary infections.

As human adapted colonisers, both Sp are Hi are able to exploit "glycan mimicry" to imitate structures coating the human cell and so evade identification and destruction by the immune system. An important aspect of mimicry is the incorporation of a terminal sialic acid (SA) onto bacterial surface glycans. This project will: i) seek insights into metabolic pathways that manufacture glycans decorated with SA and ii) investigate the import of SA into Sp/Hi via a critical membrane transporter.

This interdisciplinary project will present opportunities for the student to learn skills in molecular biology, protein expression/purification, enzymology, and structural biology (crystallography and cryo-EM). The project will translate the enzymology expertise of the Gloster lab, who have experience investigating the human SA metabolic pathways, to gain important insights into SA metabolism in Sp/Hi. In the Walsh lab, the project will build on existing protein expression and purification results of the Sp/Hi SA membrane transporters, to enable crystallography and/or cryo-EM (in collaboration with eBIC) towards a structural understanding.

The PhD is fully funded for 3.5 years, and the student will have a 50/50 time split between the University of St Andrews (supervised by Tracey Gloster) and Diamond Light Source/Research Complex Harwell (supervised by Petra Lukacik and Martin Walsh). If you would like further information or to discuss the project/application, then please get in touch with Tracey Gloster ([Email Address Removed]), Petra Lukacik ([Email Address Removed]) and/or Martin Walsh ([Email Address Removed]).

A first class or 2.1 BSc degree (or equivalent) in biochemistry, molecular biology, chemistry, or related subject is required. An undergraduate/postgraduate Masters and/or relevant research experience will significantly strengthen the application.

We welcome applications from UK, EU and international students. There is an overseas fee waiver available meaning the successful student will not incur the cost of any fees.  

We encourage applications to be submitted as early as possible; there will be a rolling deadline until the position is filled.

How to apply

Please make a formal application to the School of Biology through our Online Application Portal.

The following documents are required;

  • CV
  • Personal statement
  • Contact details for 2 referees
  • Academic qualifications
  • English language qualification (if applicable).

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

The PhD is fully funded for 3.5 years, covering Home/International fees and a stipend.

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