Students Staff

PhD studentships

We regularly offer studentships for research students throughout the year, including those from our EnvEast Doctoral Training Partnership. When they are advertised you will find information on this page or the EnvEast page. You can also contact us with any studentship enquiries.

Current Opportunities

Elucidating Interactions Within Bacterial Tripartite Drug-Efflux Pumps

A PhD studentship is available in the group of Dr Vassily Bavro to study the mechanisms of recognition between the components of tripartite multidrug-efflux (MDR) pumps

Developing artificial hemoglobin-based blood substitutes: Understanding the mechanisms and effects of targeting damaging oxidative reactions and nitric oxide scavenging

The use of cell-free synthetic Hemoglobin (Hb) is ideal starting material for blood substitutes or oxygen therapeutics. However, these Hemoglobin based Oxygen Carriers (HBOCs) display an inherent capacity to induce oxidative reactions, causing cell and tissue damage. They also scavenge nitric oxide (NO) leading to hypertension. At Essex we have engineered HBOCs that are designed to decrease the intrinsic damaging oxidative reactivity of Hb through enhanced ferryl and ferric reductase activities. In addition, we have also developed HBOCs with decreased NO scavenging without associated loss of heme from protein.

Structure-function relations of non-symbiotic plant hemoglobins and their role in stress response mechanisms

Over the past couple of decades, several new classes of hemoglobin have been discovered that are appear not to bind oxygen as their main function. The physiological functions of these metalloproteins are largely unknown, unlike their well characterised oxygen-carrying cousins. Plants have three classes of the non-symbiotic hemoglobins (nsHbs). Each class of nsHb has distinct structural and biochemical properties likely relating to a diverse array of physiological roles, all related to their ability to act as redox active enzymes (1). Evidence suggests that class 1 nsHbs are related to nitric oxide regulation. Overexpressing class 2 nsHbs show enhanced survival to hypoxic stress and has been shown to promote the accumulation of polyunsaturated lipids in seeds. Combined class 1 and class 2 silencing leads to seedling death. Class 3 nsHbs (often referred to as the truncated Hbs) appear to be ubiquitous in plants, however very little is known about their cellular role. The first crystal structure of this class of protein from Arabidopsis thaliana was recently discovered at Essex (2).

From biomass to fuel: Capturing the structural dynamics of catalysis in biomass degrading metalloenzymes

Deconstructing plant biomass is becoming a major industrial route to access “renewable” carbon to create biofuels and chemicals which can be used as precursors for pharmaceuticals. A bottle-neck to these processes is the recalcitrant nature of the components of plant biomass which pose a considerable chemical challenge to breakdown. Microbes such as Streptomyces secrete enzymes which act to deconstruct plant biomass in their natural habitats. Harnessing the catalytic power of these enzymes to create ‘cocktails’ for biotechnology applications is a major global initiative to achieve a low-cost carbon economy and other commodities for a greener future.

  • Studentship details:(.pdf)
  • Apply now
  • Application deadline: 28th February 2018
  • Supervisors: Dr Mike Hough, Dr Jonathan Worrall, Dr Richard Strange and Dr Dima Svistunenko

Utilising styrene-maleic acid copolymers (SMA) for structural studies of membrane transporters associated with bacterial antibiotic resistance and copper homeostasis

Bacteria possess numerous membrane-transporter proteins, which play key physiological roles, as well as contribute to their virulence and pathogenicity. Understanding the atomic structure of these transporters is critical for gaining insight into their mechanisms of action and ultimately for devising novel approaches to counter bacterial diseases.

Characterisation of RSK isoforms in cancer proliferation and metastasis

30% of all human cancers feature upregulated MAPK signalling (including lung, breast, colorectal, pancreatic cancer and melanoma). Despite the promise of novel treatments targeting the MAPK pathway, the majority of patients ultimately develop therapy resistance. As such, there is a growing need for novel therapeutic strategies that can prevent and/or overcome therapy resistance. The p90 ribosomal S6 kinase (RSKs) protein family holds promise as a novel therapeutic target. In fact, RSKs are the very downstream effectors of the MAPK pathway and are implicated in cell proliferation, survival, migration, and invasion. Loss of RSK regulation can lead to tumorigenesis, cardiac disease, and incorrect neuronal development. RSKs are an important family of serine/threonine kinases composed of four isoforms: RSK1/2/3/4. Studies on samples from lung cancer patients have shown that RSK1 levels are reduced compared to non-tumorigenic samples, while the amount of RSK4 is increased. Although the connections between RSKs and cancer are established, there is very little information on the different roles the four members of the RSK family have in cancer.