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WR DTP iCASE project with ONT: Enhancing motor protein performance for nanopore DNA sequencing via directed and Darwinian evolutionary approaches

Department of Biology

About the Project

Nanopore sequencing is revolutionizing our ability to rapidly and inexpensively sequence long DNA molecules. This transformative technology has already demonstrated its utility in a wide range of biological applications across many research disciplines. The technology can be further improved through the identification and engineering of novel DNA helicases, which serve as the motor proteins in nanopore sequencing devices.

The goal of this project is to identify and develop DNA helicases that are capable of very high performance as motor proteins for nanopore sequencing. Two approaches will be used. The first will involve producing untested helicase proteins from a diverse range of species to identify targets with favourable operating properties (the Darwinian approach). The second will establish an in vivo protocol to generate and screen large numbers of sequence variants of our established helicase targets (the directed approach). Promising hits from both approaches will be subjected to detailed characterisation using a range of biochemical, biophysical and structural techniques.

This BBSRC-funded CASE studentship is a collaboration between Chong and Plevin groups at the University of York, and Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) and part of the White Rose Doctoral Training Programme in Mechanistic Biology. You will work across both academic laboratories and be trained in bioinformatics, protein purification and characterization, molecular and structural biology, and anaerobic genetic engineering. You will have access to state-of-the art facilities to support this work, including a brand-new centre for structural biology in York. Throughout the project, you will collaborate closely with highly experienced research scientists at ONT and have access to their cutting-edge nanopore research technologies. As a BBRSC WR DTP CASE student, you will spend three months on secondment at ONT’s flagship research facility in Oxford.

This project is ideally suited to a candidate who wants to work at the interface of academia and industry and who is interested in engineering proteins for biotech applications.

The White Rose DTP in Mechanistic Biology is committed to recruiting extraordinary future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

Funding Notes

This project is part of the BBSRC White Rose Doctoral Training Programme in Mechanistic Biology. Appointed candidates will be fully-funded for 4 years. The funding includes:

Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£15,285 for 2020/21)
UK tuition fees (£4,473 for 2021/22)
Research support and training charges (RSTC)
Annual funding contribution (£2650) from the industrial partner Oxford Nanopore Technologies

International candidates (including EU) will be considered however they will need to have adequate funds to meet the difference in tuition fees. International tuition fees for 2021 entry is £22,250.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, or students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions. If English is not your first language, you will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for your country. Please check our website:

START DATE: 1st October 2021

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