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The best of both worlds: A new spectoelectrochemical method to study enzymes

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M Roessler
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Biocatalysis is essential for processes such as respiration and photosynthesis. The Roessler group studies the biochemical and biophysical reactions of metalloenzymes at the nanoscale, using spectroscopy, electrochemistry and biochemical methods. Gaining insight into these reactions is not only of great value to our fundamental understanding of how biological systems carry out some of the most difficult chemical transformations known, but are also essential for guiding medical studies and providing technological inspiration. We are interested in deciphering how electrons travel through these metalloenzymes in order to effectuate catalysis efficiently and prevent unwanted side-reactions. In particular, unpaired electrons can provide detailed insight into the structure-function properties that underlie the mechanisms of very large and complex enzymes.

The enzyme complex I is essential for the production of ATP and, as a prime source of reactive oxygen species, thought to have a major influence on the rate at which we age. Moreover, complex I dysfunction is associated with severe (often fatal) and currently incurable mitochondrial diseases. Understanding of how complex I works is thus of fundamental importance [1]. We plan to develop a methodology that enables a particularly important but elusive step of the mechanism of complex I to be resolved (the reduction pathway of ubiquinone), through simultaneous electrochemical (protein film electrochemistry) and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy measurements. Individually these techniques provide insight into the catalytic reactions of complex I [2] and detailed information on catalytic states with unpaired electrons [3], respectively. Combining them will enable us to detect and characterize fleeting radicals that are important pieces in the jigsaw puzzle of the mechanism of complex I. Although the project is focused on mitochondrial complex I, the method we will develop will be applicable to redox-active proteins in general.
The project is highly interdisciplinary, combining chemistry, biochemistry and material science. We will collaborate with two research groups in Cambridge (UK): Dr Erwin Reisner (Chemistry Department, University of Cambridge) for the fabrication of electrode materials based on ITO-nanoparticles [4] and Dr Judy Hirst (Medical Research Council) for the biochemical aspects.
Project start date: September/October 2016 (flexible).

The PhD student will join a vibrant and well-funded growing research lab in a modern building and work in a collaborative, international and multi-disciplinary research environment. The student will receive training in a number of biochemical and biophysical techniques, and will be given the opportunity to attend international conferences and the biannual EPR summer school. Moreover, our laboratory will host a major international EPR conference in 2018. Further information about the work of the Roessler group is available at:

As a member of the prestigious Russell group, QMUL is one of UK’s leading research-focused higher education institutions, where multidisciplinary research is carried out at the highest level. The university is unique in London by providing a completely integrated residential campus. All researchers are part of the QMUL Doctoral College, which provides high quality training in transferable key skills and free English language courses are also available through the Queen Mary Language Centre.
The School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at QMUL is a highly interdisciplinary environment and home to state-of-the-art facilities, including EPR spectrometers at multiple microwave frequencies. The School holds an Athena SWAN Silver Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students.

Outstanding students with, or expecting to receive, at least an upper-second class honours degree (or equivalent) and preferably as Masters degree in a scientific discipline that is relevant to the project. Candidates must demonstrate a good command of the English language.

Candidates are strongly encouraged to e-mail to Dr Roessler ([Email Address Removed]) with cover letter and CV to verify eligibility for the position. Formal applications to the College will require completion of the online application form (

Funding Notes

The studentship will cover tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant for EU nationals for three years: (i) a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£16,057 for 2015-2016, typically increasing annually in line with inflation), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.


[1] Hirst and Roessler, BBA Bioenergetics, in press, doi:10.1016/j.bbabio.2015.12.009
[2] Y. Zu et al. JACS 125 (2003) 6020-6021
[3] M.M.Roessler et al. PNAS 107 (2010) 1930–1935
[4] D. Mersch et al. JACS 137 (2015) 8541–8549

How good is research at Queen Mary University of London in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 14.00

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