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Structuring Role of Confined Water in Biointerfaces under Extreme Conditions

Faculty of Environment

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Prof Michael Rappolt , Dr A Tyler , Prof Lorna Dougan No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project aims to initiate a new chapter in lipid membrane research. Providing a fundamentally new, holistic approach on characterizing the molecular structure of biomimetic membranes, will not only grasp the structure of lipid self-assemblies, but moreover, add an equally profound analysis of the co-involved confined water structure. This DTP-scholarship will specifically focus on the interplay of lipid-self assemblies and water under full to low hydrational and sub-zero environmental conditions.

The biologically most relevant state of cell membranes is the fluid crystalline state, and the first bilayer model from Gorter and Grendel based on their Langmuir-Blodgett trough experiments from 1925. Since then biomembrane-research has come a long way, and both, our experimental techniques at hand as well as our biophysical knowledge has improved manifold. We recognise now that biomembranes come in many shapes and with a broad range of compositional variation. Depending on their functional purpose, biointerfaces are flat and have saddle-like shape or display curved tubular and spherical micellar aggregation forms. Moreover, life has to withstand a broad range of extreme environmental settings, such as high pressures of the deep sea, dry desert conditions and a broad range of temperatures.

Your DTP-scholarship will aim to determine the structure and dynamics of model membrane systems mimicking these biointerfaces. In particular, you will focus on the confined water of these lipid/water systems in great detail, and hereby shedding light on its interaction with the lipid matrix. Clarifying how confined water behaves under well-defined extreme conditions, e.g., from full hydration to low relative humidity or sub-zero temperatures as well as investigating how the structure of water differs under the influence of different geometries and sizes of confinement (planar, tubular, spherical and saddle-like landscapes), will be key to your project.

With dedicated access to the Diamond Leeds (DL) SAXS Facility you will have greatest technical support for all planed experiments. These experiments will be complemented by studies in my SAXS/WAXS lab at School for Food Science & Nutrition at the University of Leeds as well as by specific beamtime grants at large-scale facilities. The project team comprises me and the co-supervisors Prof Lorna Dougan with great expertise in water structure and dynamics as well as Dr Arwen Tyler, who is well renowned for her work on lipid self-assemblies concerning curved-membrane/water systems.

Funding Notes

EPSRC DTP 3.5 years fully-funded awards are for British nationals who meet the residency requirements; settled and pre-settled status EU nationals; and those with ILTR in the UK. There is up to one award for overseas applicants although you should speak with the project supervisor before applying if you are in the overseas funding category
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