Experimental phase diagrams to optimise membrane protein crystallization (ESR9)

Applications are invited for an Early Stage Researcher (ESR)/PhD studentship position funded by The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Innovative Training Networks (ITN) programme “Rationalising Membrane Protein Crystallisation” (RAMP) and working Dr Jennifer McManus in the Soft Matter and Biophysical Chemistry group in the Department of Chemistry at Maynooth University (Maynooth Campus). This is an experimental physical chemistry/biological physics project, using protein phase diagrams to optimise the conditions for membrane protein crystallization.

The PhD project is one of 12 in the EU Marie Skłodowska Curie Action (MSCA) network RAtionalising Membrane Protein crystallisation (RAMP). Other PhD students in the network will use multidisciplinary approaches, including structural biology, microfluidics, and coarse-grained modelling to better understand membrane protein crystallization. The Ph.D. project will involve secondments to academic and industrial partners across the RAMP network.
The successful candidate will join a well-equipped and dynamic research group at Maynooth University with a focus on understanding protein self-assembly from several different perspectives. This project is very interdisciplinary in nature and will appeal to those with a background in physical chemistry, physics or chemical engineering and a willingness to learn new approaches and techniques to understand the physical basis underlying membrane protein crystallization.

To obtain high resolution information about the structure of membrane proteins, they must be crystallized. This is extremely difficult to do – much more difficult than for globular proteins. RAMP aims to use an interdisciplinary approach to understand how best to crystallize membrane proteins, how to improve the quality of the crystals and then simplify the process of obtaining structural information from these crystals. While protein phase diagrams have been successfully used to improve the success and quality of protein crystals for globular proteins, these methodologies are less widely used for membrane proteins. We will develop techniques to measure phase diagrams for membrane proteins and will then use these approaches to optimise the conditions for crystallization.

Applicants should have, or expect to have, a first class or upper second class honours degree (B.Sc.) or a Masters degree in physics, chemistry or chemical engineering (or a related field). A willingness to learn new skills and techniques across disciplines, including molecular biology, physical chemistry and physics is required. Secondments to other partners within the RAMP network will be required at different stages throughout the project, so a willingness to travel is essential.

The salary is in line with standard rates for MSCA, for 36 months.
Eligibility – To comply with MSCA eligibility rules, applicants must not have worked in Ireland for more than 12 months in the last 3 years (i.e. must undertake transnational mobility).

Author: Richard Sear

Computational physicist at the University of Surrey. My research interests are in crystallisation, soft matter & biological physics