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  Understanding the structural consequences of ribosome specialisation

   Faculty of Biological Sciences

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  Dr Juan Fontana, Dr J Aspden  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Protein synthesis by ribosomes (translation) and its regulation is essential to life. While it has been traditionally thought that ribosomes were not involved in the regulation of translation, it is now becoming clear that they do contribute. This is achieved, for example, through variations in the ribosomal protein and RNA composition, generating different types of ribosomes, termed “specialised ribosomes”.

We have recently found that ribosomes from different Drosophila tissues are heterogeneous ( raising the exciting possibility these could be specialised ribosomes, which translate specific mRNA pools.

This project aims to characterise the structure and dynamics of these specialised ribosomes using an exciting combination of state-of-the-art structural (e.g. cryo-electron microscopy) and omics approaches. The project will involve developing methods for characterisation of ribosome composition and how it relates to the structural dynamics, topology, interactions and function.

The student would join two vibrant research communites at Leeds: the Astbury Centre ( and Leeds Omics (


You should hold a first degree equivalent to at least a UK upper-second class honours degree or a MSc degree in a relevant subject. This project would suit someone with a strong background in tissue engineering, cancer biology or closely-related areas. Additional experience of conducting research in a multidisciplinary setting is highly desirable. Upon completion of the PhD, the successful candidate will be uniquely equipped for high-demand careers within academia or industry with desirable skills in bioengineering, regenerative medicine and cancer/cell biology.

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study. The Faculty of Biological Sciences minimum requirements in IELTS and TOEFL tests are:

  • British Council IELTS - score of 6.0 overall, with no element less than 5.5
  • TOEFL iBT - overall score of 87 with the listening and reading element no less than 20, writing element no less than 21 and the speaking element no less than 22.

How to apply:

To apply for this project applicants should complete an online application form and attach the following documentation to support their application. 

  • a full academic CV
  • degree certificate and transcripts of marks
  • Evidence that you meet the University's minimum English language requirements (if applicable).
  • Evidence of funding

To help us identify that you are applying for this project please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;

  • Select PhD in Biological Sciences as your programme of study
  • Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert

To find out more about the research in Dr Juan Fontana’s lab, you can email [Email Address Removed]

To find out more about the research in Dr Julie Aspden’s lab, you can visit

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

International or home self-funded or scholarship/fellowship PhD students are welcome to apply. Bench fees will be required. International applicants who are not native English speakers must meet the minimum English language entry requirement (IELTS 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component or equivalent). Applications can be made throughout the year.


Ribosome heterogeneity in Drosophila melanogaster gonads through paralog-switching Hopes T, Agapiou M, Norris K, McCarthy CGP, O’Connell MJ, Fontana J, Aspden JA bioRxiv 2020.01.20.913020; doi:
Ribosome heterogeneity and specialization in development. Norris K, Hopes T, Aspden JL. Wiley Interdiscip Rev RNA. 2021 Feb 9:e1644. doi: 10.1002/wrna.1644.
Ribosome Fingerprinting with a Solid-State Nanopore. Raveendran M, Leach AR, Hopes T, Aspden JL, Actis P.ACS Sens. 2020 Nov 25;5(11):3533-3539. doi: 10.1021/acssensors.0c01642. Epub 2020 Oct 28.

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