PhD Studentship in Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials: Understanding Biological Pathways for Nanoparticle Synthesis

Newcastle University

Value of award

Depending on how you meet the EPSRC’s eligibility criteria, 100% tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for the duration and an annual stipend £14,296 (2016/17).

Number of awards: 1

Start date and duration: 2016/17 for 3 years.

Application closing date

Prompt application is advised as this position is only available until a suitable candidate is found.


Did you know that your own body can create nanoparticles? This PhD project will investigate the mechanisms of their biological production with the aim of exploiting these findings through synthetic biology.

Protein cages are spherical proteins with a large internal cavity. Their biological function is protection of DNA from excessive amounts of iron. This role is performed through transfer of iron ions from external solution into the cavity and their subsequent conversion into a nanoparticle. Crucial components in this process are ion channels, narrow pores in protein shell whose functioning at a molecular level is still insufficiently understood. It has recently emerged that these pores can also conduct various other ions as well as larger compounds.

This has led to an interest in non-biological applications of protein cages, ranging from nanoreactors to drug delivery vehicles. This lack of discrimination for entering species is a major obstacle for their more widespread use in synthetic biology, such as in bacterial production of nanoparticles with high purity. The aim of this project is to use molecular simulations to unravel the mechanisms of ion transport into the interior of protein cages and use them to design new cages with increased selectivity for chosen ions and small molecules.

Your task would be to prepare molecular models of protein cages and investigate the process of ion permeation into their interior.  An emphasis will be placed on studying the capacity of amino acid mutations to increase selectivity to permeating species.


Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council EPSRC (DTA)

Name of supervisor(s)

Dr Mijajlovic, School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials, Newcastle University

Eligibility Criteria

You should have a first class or upper second class Honours degree or international equivalent in chemistry, chemical engineering, materials science, computer science, applied mathematics or a related subject. 

Familiarity with statistical mechanics and computer programming are an advantage. 

Application is open to UK/EU and non-EU international candidates.  If English is not your first language, you should have IELTS 6.5 or equivalent.

How to apply

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system. To do this please ‘Create a new account’.

Only mandatory fields need to be completed. However, you will need to include the following information:

  • insert the programme code 8030F in the programme of study section
  • select 'PhD Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials' as the programme of study
  • insert the studentship code CE055 in the studentship/partnership reference field
  • attach a covering letter and CV with two references
  • attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications.


Dr Milan Mijajlovic
School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials
telephone: +44(0)191 208 8281

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Northern England