THz techniques for studies of protein structure and dynamics (astrophysics/instrumentation)
The long term aim of this project is two-fold:
1. to use novel THz spectroscopy techniques to aid understanding of protein dynamics and structure and their fundamental role to life;
2. to develop a THz imaging spectrometer specifically tuned for biophysics applications.
The global conformation of a molecule is of immense importance in many large biomolecules such as proteins, RNA and DNA and plays a major role in the biological activity of these molecules. The collective conformational response of these large biomolecules to incoming EM radiation is known to be dominated by low frequency (THz) vibrational modes resulting from motions associated with intermolecular
hydrogen bonds. Such modes are highly sensitive to the intra and inter molecular structure and thus provide a unique fingerprint on the conformational state of the molecule and the effects of its environment.
However to date, despite great interest in THz detection, experimental studies are inconsistent, suffer from poor quality data or rely on high intensity THz sources. This project proposes a different experimental approach and pools on interdisciplinary expertise within Cardiff University. The Astronomy Instrumentation Group develops world leading THz technology and designs and builds photometric and spectroscopic instruments of ultimate sensitivity.
Initial spectroscopic studies of proteins will make use the bespoke Fourier-transform spectrometer (FTS) suite within this group. These instruments provide the high sensitivity, broad bandwidth and excellent spectral resolution required for protein studies at THz frequencies. These will also be complimented by more conventional MIR spectroscopy. Preliminary data have been taken and are most encouraging.
Biochemists within the School of Chemistry are manipulating bio-molecular interactions by triggering protein or nucleic acid conformational switching and have the expertise to synthesise and precisely tag protein molecules. They are very interested in the development of techniques in THz spectroscopy and will tailor samples for this project.
You will therefore be required to work in an interdisciplinary team, learn enough biochemistry to assist in the design of suitable samples, learn and implement FT spectroscopic techniques and work with instrumentalists to develop a spectroscopic instrument specifically tuned for bio-physical studies.
This project is available to students applying for funded PhD studentships and may be altered or withdrawn.
Studentships will be awarded to successful applicants from all applications received. Applicants must satisfy RCUK residency rules for the full studentship.
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