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White Rose BBSRC DTP studentship: Exploring the nanoscale dynamics of critical plant photosynthetic membrane proteins using cutting-edge microscopy techniques


   Faculty of Biological Sciences


Leeds United Kingdom Biochemistry Biophysics

About the Project

Structural biology is often conducted using “static” snapshots of dynamic systems, therefore information on assembly/disassembly processes are poorly resolved. New quantitative approaches, often developed in collaboration with physicists and chemists, can provide dynamic mechanistic information. Time-resolved Electron Microscopy (TrEM), video-speed Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) and Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging Microscopy (FLIM) are being developed to provide temporally-resolved structural biology. This project integrates newly developed methodologies in TrEM and AFM/FLIM to address fundamental questions in the biophysics of photosynthesis, relevant for the next generation of solar technologies.

Photosystem II (PSII) is a membrane protein supercomplex, essential for photosynthesis in plants and algae. PSII contains “core” subunits and many loosely associated “light harvesting” subunits, acting like an adjustable satellite dish. Time-resolved observation of structural changes to supercomplexes will provide new understanding of the dynamics of this important system. Furthermore, the PSII supercomplex is an excellent experimental model for method development because its biochemical purification is well-established and the protein is naturally fluorescent (“tags” are not needed). Objectives are: (1) Further develop the current TrEM apparatus into workflows with video-speed AFM/FLIM, (2) Quantify the kinetics of assembly/disassembly of PSII supercomplexes, and (3) Integrate spatiotemporal information to produce a mechanism for PSII assembly.

Funding Note

This studentship is part of the BBSRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology. (https://www.whiterose-mechanisticbiology-dtp.ac.uk/). Appointed candidates will be fully-funded for 4 years. The funding includes:

Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£15,609 for 2021/22 starts. Awards increase every year, typically with inflation).

UK tuition fees (Around £4,500 per year)

Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG)

Conference and Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS) allowances

We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from inside and outside the UK. We are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.

Not all projects will be funded; the DTP will appoint a limited number of candidates via a competitive process.

How to apply

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).

To help us identify that you are applying for this studentship 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
  • For source of funding please state you are applying for a White Rose BBSRC DTP funded studentship

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