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Structural biology of flavivirus replication mechanisms

   Department of Biosciences

   Wednesday, August 31, 2022  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

We are seeking an enthusiastic and motivated PhD candidate to study the mechanism of flavivirus replication using a structural biology and biophysics approach.

The mosquito-borne Zika and Dengue viruses can cause life threatening haemorrhagic fever, neurological problems, congenital disabilities or miscarriage. In the absence of drugs or safe and effective vaccines, this project aims to characterise a potential target for treatment, the viral replication complex, which makes copies of the single-stranded positive-sense viral RNA genome.

In the lab of newly appointed Assistant Professor Dr Liz Morris in Durham University’s Biosciences Department, you will characterise how the viral non-structural proteins, such as the enzymes NS3 and NS5, assemble to form the viral replication complex. You will learn how to generate recombinant proteins using E. coli and biophysically and structurally characterise their interactions. Training is available in structural techniques, such as X-ray crystallography, NMR, SAXS or electron microscopy. You will also have the chance to develop a high-throughput assay to measure the activity of viral enzymes.

Our goal is to build a model of how flavivirus non-structural proteins interact in the replication complex. We will characterise individual protein-protein interactions, determine their stoichiometry and measure the enzyme activity of assembled sub-complexes.

About You

You must possess or expect to obtain a first or upper second class Master’s or Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry or a related discipline.

Structural biology experience is NOT essential, however an interest in protein structures is. Experience in molecular biology, generating recombinant proteins, enzyme kinetics, biophysics or structural biology may be an advantage.

Due to funding restrictions, this studentship is only available to UK candidates.

About Durham

You will join a team of Bioscientists embedded within Chemistry studying biomolecular interactions, such as protein-protein or protein-nucleotide interactions central to a range of disciplines including eukaryotic and prokaryotic virus replication, chromatin structure, cell signalling and metal acquisition. We have state-of-the-art facilities for generating proteins and studying their structure and interactions (AKTA Pure, mosquito crystal nanolitre crystallization robot, 600 and 700 MHz NMR spectrometers, Beam Allocation Grant for Diamond Light Source synchrotron, Microcal ITC, Biacore SPR, qPCR for thermal shift assays).

Durham University is an outstanding centre of research and teaching excellence. Here you will join one of the University’s seventeen colleges through which you can access student-led activities, such as sports, theatre, music or volunteering, as well as welfare support.

What we offer

The stipend for this four-year studentship is £15,609 per annum. Funding will cover tuition fees at the UK rate only.

The proposed start date of 1st October 2022 is negotiable. This position will remain open until filled.

How to apply

To apply for this PhD studentship, please email :

- a full academic CV,

- a cover letter detailing your scientific experience and interest, and

- copies of your degree certificate and transcript of marks.

Funding Notes

The stipend for this four-year studentship is £15,609 per annum. Funding will cover tuition fees at the UK rate only.

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