The Department typically admits 65-70 PhD and 90 - 100 MRes students each year. Funding for these students comes from a diverse range of sources, including the EPSRC, industry, scholarships and self-funded students. A selection of PhD Studentships currently available are detailed below or visit our other pages to find out more about MRes studentships.
Accordion - available studentships
Novel adjuvants for antibody-based cancer therapeutics: design, biological characterization and influence on membrane-protein structure
Applications are invited for a 4-year PhD studentship in Structural Biology, funded by Cancer Research UK, and supervised by Dr Doryen Bubeck (Department of Life Sciences) and Prof Ed Tate (Department of Chemistry).
Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are one of the most exciting new classes of anticancer agent, with a current market of over $20 billion forecast to grow by 50% in the next 3 years. The mechanism by which mAbs kill cancer cells during cancer immunotherapy treatments is complex, and involves the interplay of multiple effectors, including selective activation of complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC). Membrane attack complex (MAC) pores contribute to CDC, and are counteracted by membrane-bound complement inhibitors such as CD59, which are overexpressed on tumour cells and can provide a mechanism for immune evasion. Interestingly, bacterial pore-forming toxins with a similar structural fold to MAC proteins (e.g. Streptococcus Intermedilysin, ILY) compete for CD59-binding through a specific interface, and increase cells’ susceptibility to CDC. This project will integrate a platform of technologies to determine how MAC pores lyse cells and how CD59 regulates this process, providing fundamental insights into the mechanism of action of rituximab. This platform will be exploited to design and optimize compounds that can specifically block CD59, and thus potentiate anticancer immunotherapy.
The project would ideally suit an outstanding biochemistry graduate with some existing experience in protein chemistry and/or structural biology. You should also have a strong interest in structural and functional characterization of protein complexes and protein-drug interactions, and in developing and applying these methods in the context of cancer treatment. The successful candidate will receive training in all relevant aspects of protein chemistry, biophysics and structural biology.
To apply, please send a letter of motivation and your full CV, including your nationality and full contact details of two academic references, to Dr Doryen Bubeck.
Closing date: 15th January 2018
For further details on eligbility and funding please see the full advert.
PhD in the development of mechanically interlocked sensors
Mechanically interlocked molecules, such as rotaxanes and catenanes, have become increasingly of interest over the last four decades. The ability of the interlocked components to move relative to one another has inspired investigation into their potential uses in myriad areas.1 This was recently recognised through the award of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to two pioneers in this field: Sir Fraser Stoddart and Jean-Pierre Sauvage.
One particular area of focus is their use as novel sensors for anions and cations.2 However, their use as detectors of small molecules has been largely overlooked. With the need for increasingly sensitive, portable and cheap detection of explosives an ever pressing matter, this project will aim to prepare novel materials for the detection of these hazardous chemicals.
James Lewis is an independent Imperial College Research Fellow at Imperial College London; the group conducts research in various areas of supramolecular chemistry, including mechanically interlocked molecules and self-assembling systems. The Lewis Group is housed within the Fuchter Group laboratory, and the project will be jointly supervised by Dr James Lewis and Dr Matthew Fuchter.
The successful candidate will be involved in the design, synthesis and testing of mechanically interlocked molecules as sensors for explosive compounds. The detection of explosive molecules by the interlocked sensors will result in mechanical motion that will induce a change in the electronic absorption/emission properties of the sensor. This is a multi-disciplinary project that will involve aspects of both synthesis and spectroscopic analysis.
Applicants should be UK/EU citizens and have or be expecting to obtain a first or upper second class degree in chemistry. You should be an enthusiastic and highly motivated individual with experience in synthetic organic chemistry. Experience with single crystal X-ray diffraction and UV-vis/fluorescence spectroscopy would be advantageous but is not essential.
Applications, including a full CV and the contact details of at least two referees, should be sent to Dr James Lewis at email@example.com. The scholarship covers fees and a stipend paid at the RCUK doctoral stipend rate (2017 value £16,553 per annum, inclusive of London weighting) to start in October 2018.
Group website: www.lewisgroup.org.uk
1J. E. M. Lewis, M. Galli, S. M. Goldup, Chem. Commun. 2017, 53, 298.
2M. J. Langton, P. D. Beer, Acc. Chem. Res. 2014, 47, 1935.
Plastic Electronics Centre for Doctoral Training
Studentships in the Plastic Electronics Centre for Doctoral Training
Fully funded and self-funding multi-disciplinary 1+3 year (MRes+PhD) studentships are available in the Plastic Electronics EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT), for October 2018 start. This year we have fully-funded projects supervised by Prof James Durrant, Prof Milo Shaffer and Prof Martin Heeney.
Studentships in the Institute of Chemical Biology (ICB) Centre for Doctoral Training
Fully funded 1+3 year (MRes + PhD) studentships are available at the ICB Centre for Doctoral Training for entry October 2018.
This year we will have many co-funded studentships with industry as well as fully funded CDT studentships.
For full details please see - : http://www.icb-cdt.co.uk/how-to-apply/available-projects
You will need to apply via Apply.Imperial under the course code F1ICB [Chemical Biology: Multi-Disciplinary Physical Scientists (1plus3) (MRes 1YFT + PhD 3YFT)|F1ICB|1|SK|FT|CN)].
PhD in the computational modelling of amorphous porous materials
PhD in the computational modelling of amorphous porous materials
A 36 month PhD position in computational chemistry is available within the research group of Dr. Kim Jelfs (jelfs-group.org) at the Department of Chemistry, Imperial College London for a project focusing upon developing methods to predict the assembly, structure and function of amorphous porous materials. The focus will be on both organic polymers used to make membranes for molecular separations and to investigate amorphous metal-organic frameworks. The project will be a continuation of our work in this area, see for example Nature Materials, 2016, 15, p760 and Chem. Commun., 2016, 52, p3750. Now we seek to move beyond rationalisation of experimentally observed structures and properties, towards prediction of the most promising materials for our experimental collaborators to synthesise.
This research will involve the use of a range of computational chemistry methods, including forcefield-based methods and electronic structure calculations, as well as some development of small-scale in-house software to assist in the structure prediction and analysis. The project will involve collaborations with our experimental partners; with the groups of Prof. Andrew Livingston and Dr. Qilei Song at the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College for the polymer membranes and with Dr. Thomas Bennett from Cambridge University for the metal-organic frameworks.
The position is available to both UK and EU graduates with a good degree in a relevant subject (Chemistry, Physics or Materials Science). Previous experience with computational chemistry or physics methods is not a requirement but can be an advantage.
Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Dr. Kim Jelfs (firstname.lastname@example.org) by email, along with a CV. This position is available for October 2018.
Chemistry Doctoral Scholarships
Each year, the Department of Chemistry awards 10 Chemistry Doctoral Scholarships to outstanding PhD applicants, funded by the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Successful scholars will receive full tution fees and a stipend at advertised EPSRC rates for a PhD place in the Department of Chemistry at Imperial College London. Recruitment for the 2018 intake is now open. The next deadline for submission of all the application materials is 26 Janauary 2018. More details.
PhDs in Inorganic and Organometallic Chemistry
PhDs in Inorganic and Organometallic Chemistry
Two 36-month PhD positions in synthetic inorganic and organometallic chemistry are available within the research group of Professor Nicholas Long (http://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/n.long).
The first position features the synthesis and application of redox-active/stereoselective catalysts for polymerisation. The work will involve a range of synthetic organometallic and inorganic coordination chemistry techniques and working with a Schlenk line, as well as spectroscopic and electrochemical characterisation. The project is in collaboration with Prof. Charlotte Williams (Oxford) and builds upon recent research in the group, see for example Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., (53) 9226-9230 2014; J. Am. Chem. Soc., (134) 20577-20580 2012.
The second position involves the synthesis and evaluation of new inorganic compounds for molecular imaging, particularly dual-modal imaging. The project will feature the synthesis of new organic ligands and chelates, and their metal coordination chemistry with transition metals and lanthanides. Applications will be evaluated in collaboration with biomedical collaborators and will involve optical imaging, magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography. The work builds on recent research in the group e.g. Chem. Eur. J. (21) 5023-5033 2015; Angew. Chem Int. Ed., (53) 9550-9554 2014.
The positions are available to both UK and EU graduates with a 1st or 2:1 class UG degree in Chemistry. Previous experience with synthetic inorganic/organometallic chemistry and/or biomedical imaging is not a requirement but would be an advantage.
Interested applicants should contact Prof. Long (email@example.com) by email, along with a CV and the contact details of two referees. These positions are available for October 2018.
Chemistry Doctoral Scholarships
Each year, the Department of Chemistry awards 10 Chemistry Doctoral Scholarships to outstanding PhD applicants, funded by the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Successful scholars will receive full tution fees and a stipend at advertised EPSRC rates for a PhD place in the Department of Chemistry at Imperial College London. Recruitment for the 2018 intake is now open. Application deadline for all materials is 26 Janauary. Read more
Cell free DNA size analysis using engineered hydrogel nanopore (EHN) sensors: a non-invasive diagnostic tool for cancer
Current tests for the diagnosis, prognosis and stratification of prostate cancer suffer from two main drawbacks, being either invasive (requiring biopsies) or inaccurate and therefore unreliable. To reduce the current overtreatment with associated morbidity, it is imperative to distinguish men who will benefit from aggressive treatment from those who won’t and those who don’t require it. Recent studies have highlighted the potential of plasma cell-free nucleic acids (cfNA) as non-invasive diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for various clinical pathologies, including cancer. The challenge with current cfNA sensing strategies relate to the low target concentration and high sequence homology between fragments. Therefore, technologies that can quantitatively characterise populations of cfNAs based on the sizes rather than sequence in a few drops of blood would represent a novel paradigm shift over the current state-of-the-art. There is currently no gold standard technology to achieve size profiling of endogenous cfNA of unknown sequences with high enough resolution and sensitivity. Furthermore, all available technologies require heavy sample processing (no clear answer from whole blood) which, in the absence of standardised procedures is a significant source of error. Herein, we propose to use novel nanoscale devices, dubbed EHN (engineered hydrogels nanopores) for two applications: (1) automated sampling / size sorting and genomic analysis of cfNA from human plasma and (2) cfNA size profiling, and characterisation of new molecular signatures for improved diagnosis and prognosis of prostate cancer. The proposed enabling technology will identify and clinically test the first signatures based on cfNA fragment sizing for prognosis, stratification and monitoring of prostate cancer which in turn provides new opportunities for analytical measurements in complex systems and for the bench-to-bedside development.
Development of non-invasive platforms for early stage liver cancer diagnostics
Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) is aprimary liver malignancy arising in the bile ducts. It has a devastating prognosis of which 95% of patients die within 5 years of diagnosis. This is due to surgical resection being the only cure and the vast majority of patients present when the cancer is too advanced for resection. Although some at risk groups are recognised, there is no effective surveillance as there are no accuaret biomarkers, no clear diagnostic imaging tests and obtianing tissue for early histological diagnosis is usually difficult due to the anatomical lication of CCA. The aims of this project are to combine single molecule nanopore sensing and DNA molecular carriers to design and develop a new class of sensors based around an aptamer recognition element for thedetection of CCA.
Engineering the cancer immune response using biofunctional nanographene oxide
Next-generation cancer treatment will rely heavily on immunotherapies that effectively tissue-engineer the immune system, targeting and controlling the immune response to cancer. Here we focus on Natural Killer (NK) cells, one of the most important anti-cancer cell types, that directly target and kill tumour cells via recognition of stress-induced molecules. The project will create advanced biofunctional nanoparticles as prototype therapeutic agents. Specifically these will exploit and develop state-of-the-art graphene-based nanotechnologies to deliver precisely-controlled biological stimuli that enhance the anti-cancer functions of NK cells.
The student will experience an exceptional breadth of science, combining nanoparticle/graphene chemistry with in vitro and in vivo immunology, with full training given across all aspects of the project.
ICB/Oxford Nanopore - Controlling nanopore loading in Droplet Interface Bilayers
Recent advances in ‘fourth-generation’ genome sequencing methods have led to a dramatic reduction in the cost per base – driving a marked expansion in our understanding of the subtleties and variations in how genetic profiles affect disease. In particular, Nanopore sequencing has been highlighted as a technology with the potential to further disrupt this field. In nanopore sensing, the flow of ions through a nanoscopic protein or solid-state pore is disrupted by the presence of an analyte. If this analyte is DNA, blockades in the current corresponding to the sequence are detected. In collaboration with Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT), we will combine optical single channel recording and single-molecule fluorescence imaging to understand and then optimise the mechanistic steps of nanopore – analyte interactions; from membrane binding, to capture and readout. It is expected that a successful outcome will facilitate the development of improved nanopore sequencing and help design nanopore sensors for protein-protein, and protein-DNA interactions.
New Tools and Strategies to Better Understand Neurodegenerative Disease Progression
Recent advances in our understanding of disease processes have emphasised the need for biosensors that are much more sensitive and selective for their target molecules. For example, for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s diseases (PD), which are major neurological disorders with a large economic, societal and personal burden, there is still no laboratory diagnostic test that can be employed ahead of observable clinical manifestations. Our approach is based on the observation that these diseases are strongly linked to protein aggregation. More specifically, small soluble proteins aggregates have been identified as important targets for the development of drugs and diagnostics. These small aggregates, however, are exceptionally challenging to detect as they can have a range of sizes and comprise only a small fraction (typically less than 1%) of the total concentration in a clinical sample. A paradigm shift in this regard is provided by single molecule methods that promise to measure and characterise ultra-low concentrations (pM) of their target molecules in complex media, with unique specificity. The proposed collaboration unites chemists, physicists and medics in a project to develop a platform to sense biomarkers linked to pathological process in the above neurological diseases. We envisage a stepwise progression in sensor design from the chemical laboratory, to in-vitro biomarker diagnostics capable of monitoring molecular changes for early stage prognosis and disease progression. Within this project new classes of single-molecule sensors utilizing both fluorescence microscopy and label-free nanopore sensing with tuneable, robust and selective recognition chemistry will be developed. The technology can provide novel methods of identifying disease markers and can pave the way for a broad range of techniques to study pathogenesis and for diagnostics, not only in neurodegenerative diseases, but also in a range of other diseases caused by protein misfolding and aggregation, including cancer types where p53 has been seen to aggregate.
Novel techniques for high-throughput permeability assays in drug discovery
The development of in-vitro assays capable of predicting the efficacy of drugs in biological systems, from plants through to the human body is of paramount importance to the rational drug design process. This project will look at the application of microfluidic technologies to manufacture artificial biological membranes that are able to replicate the key features of in-vivo biomembranes, unlocking our ability to accurately measure the permeability of drug molecules in the lab. Using this technology, this project will lead to the development of novel engineering rules that will allow us to correlate and predict how the structure of drug molecules affects their ability to cross membranes and effectively get to their site of action. This project will bring together a wide variety of biophysical techniques, from fluorescence microscopy through to microfluidics.
Targeting DNA secondary structures to investigate ageing biology
Targeting DNA secondary structures to investigate ageing biology - PhD project with Dr Marco Di Antonio
The aim of this research project is to investigate the role of DNA packaging and DNA G-quadruplex secondary structure thorough ageing and accelerating ageing disorders.
G-quadruplexes are stable non-B DNA structures that form in guanine-rich DNA sequences, acting as knots and posing a threat for polymerases processivity during transcription and replication. G-quadruplex prevalence is highly dependent on chromatin architecture and recent findings have suggested that is the lack of resolution of DNA G-quadruplex structures, particularly those formed within the guanine-rich ribosomal DNA, the underlining cause of accelerating ageing in Cockayne syndrome. However, a clear cause-effect between the build-up of unresolved G-quadruplex structures, chromatin structure alteration and ageing biology remains yet to be elucidated. Investigating chromatin architecture variation thorough lifespan and targeting age-dependent DNA structural features to revert ageing phenotypes is an unexplored opportunity that could radically improve our understanding of ageing biology.
The successful PhD candidate will develop small molecule probes to target, visualise and disrupt G-quadruplex structures within cells. These chemical tools will be used to study G-quadruplex structures prevalence and influence on chromatin during ageing. This project will expose the successful student to synthetic chemistry, biophysics, molecular biology and microscopy, which will be combined to unravel changes in chromatin architecture and DNA secondary structures formation that are linked with ageing. This work will pave the way towards the targeting of DNA and chromatin structural features to revert ageing associated conditions and treat rare accelerating ageing disorders.
For further information, please email Dr Di Antonio at firstname.lastname@example.org