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Synthesis and computation to understand and redesign self-assembling carbohydrate materials

Project Description

Polysaccharides are widespread in nature and fulfil many important biological functions; they are important foodstuffs and they are exploited as bulk commodities across industry sectors due to their physical properties. However, our ability to produce such carbohydrate ‘materials’ with defined properties remains limited, due to our lack of fundamental understanding of how the emergent properties of carbohydrate architectures arise as we extend from molecules to materials.
The aim of this project is to integrate synthetic and computational chemistry approaches to underpin understanding and rational (re)design of polysaccharide materials. At the experimental level, the project will involve a thorough grounding in synthetic carbohydrate chemistry, in support of the generation of specifically modified oligosaccharides that are designed to assemble into stackable double helices. This will be integrated with computational modelling studies to assess and predict the structure and dynamics of such carbohydrate assemblies. Initial model studies will be based around the structure of starch and glycogen – the major sugar storage materials in plants and mammals, respectively – with major strategic relevance to nutrition and human health.
The project would suit a Masters-level student with interests in synthetic and supramolecular chemistry, keen to be involved in both experimental and computational studies. While no previous experience with carbohydrate chemistry is necessary - full training will be provided – demonstrated experience in organic synthesis is required. Informal enquiries may be directed to Rob Field or Andrew Almond.

Applicants are expected to hold, or be about to obtain, a good Masters degree in Chemistry or a related subject, or a minimum upper second class BSc Chemistry degree and substantial laboratory experience in organic synthesis.

Contact for further Information:
Rob Field –
The Field group will relocate to Manchester in January 2020 -
Andrew Almond –
The Field and Almond groups are both located in the MIB -

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year funded studentship covering tuition fees and stipend (£15,009 in 2019-20)

Open to UK/EU applicants only.

We expect the programme to commence in January 2020.


• Multiscale modeling of glycosaminoglycan structure and dynamics: current methods and challenges. A. Almond, Current Opinion in
Structural Biology, 2018, 50, 58-64.
• Complex pectin metabolism by gut bacteria reveals novel catalytic functions. D. Ndeh, A. Rogowski, A. Cartmell, A. S. Luis, A. Baslé, J.
Gray, I. Venditto, J. Briggs, X. Zhang, N. Terrapon, F. Buffetto, S. A. Nepogodiev, R. A. Field, M. A. O’Neill, B. Urbanowicz, G. J. Davies,
D. W. Abbott, M.-C. Ralet, E. C. Martens, B. Henrissat, H. J. Gilbert, Nature, 2017, 544, 65-70.
• Underpinning starch biology with in vitro studies on carbohydrate active enzymes and biosynthetic glycomaterials, E. C. O’Neill, R. A.
Field, Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, 2015, 3, 136.
• Microsecond kinetics in model single- and double-stranded amylose polymers. B. M. Sattelle, A. Almond, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys.,
2014,16, 8119-8126.
• Sugar-coated sensor chip and nanoparticle surfaces for the in vitro enzymatic synthesis of starch-like materials. E. C. O’Neill, A. Rashid,
C. E. M. Stevenson, A.-C. Hetru, A. P. Gunning, M. Rejzek, S. A. Nepogodiev, S. Bornemann, D. M. Lawson, R. A. Field, Chemical
Science, 2014, 5, 341-350.

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