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The Physics of Nanoscopic Liquid Droplets in Biology


   School of Physics, Engineering and Technology

  , Prof Tom McLeish  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Liquid-liquid phase separation is emerging as a crucial phenomenon in living organisms (https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.aaf4382). Many different types of cells exhibit nanoscopic liquid condensates, however, the interplay between the physics of their formation/disruption and their biological role remains a fascinating mystery. Driving our exciting recent findings of bacterial ‘aggresome’ droplets (Science Adv 2021 https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abh2929 ) the Leake lab develops new experimental single-molecule tools that apply optics to image and manipulate single biological droplets including ‘super-resolution microscopy’ and ‘optical tweezers’. These novel data make direct contact with innovative theoretical physics in the McLeish group, modelling their dynamics and interactions, from individual protein diffusion to merging of entire condensates. We are looking to recruit a highly motivated and dedicated student to undertake a PhD to explore aggresomes as well as ‘pyrenoids’ involved in photosynthesis and ‘nuclear speckle’ droplets involved in immunology with biology collaborators Luke Mackinder and Dimitris Lagos. This unique interdisciplinary training opportunity as part of the flagship Physics of Life group (https://www.york.ac.uk/physics/research/physics-of-life/) will enable you to develop transformative skills in experimental and theoretical biophysics and multiple essential ‘wetlab’ methods in biology. The successful PhD candidate will:

1) Develop new optical microscopy and analysis software to track and manipulate components of liquid droplets in living cells.

2) Apply these to investigate liquid droplets in several biological systems to further our understanding of the physical forces that influence their morphology, stability and microrheology.

3) Engage in the development of computational methods, starting with implementation of existing code, to simulate the physical dynamics and interactions inside droplets and of their constraining environments.

We would welcome applications from students interested in one or more of the following areas: biophysics/biological physics, optical physics, microscopy, engineering, biomathematics.

Supervisor/collaborator labs: Mark Leake https://sites.google.com/a/york.ac.uk/mark-leake-group/),

Tom McLeish (https://www.york.ac.uk/physics/research/physics-of-life/theoretical-biological/)

Dimitris Lagos (https://www.york.ac.uk/biology/research/infection-immunity/dimitrislagos/)

Luke Mackinder (https://www.york.ac.uk/biology/research/plant-biology/luke-mackinder/)

Further details, email Prof Mark Leake ()

Visit our webpages for more information

Project open until a suitable candidate is found.


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