PhD Studentship: Investigating DNA's Mysterious Structures

University of East Anglia - Pharmacy

Start Date: 1st October 2017
No. of positions available: 1
Supervisor: Dr Zoe Waller

Project description:

Think you know the structure of DNA? Think again. It is often assumed that DNA exists only as the iconic Watson-Crick “twisted ladder” double helix; but it can actually adopt many different types of structures. These “alternative” structures may play a role in gene expression (whether genes are switched on or off) and also in the development and progression of genetic diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Compared to the double helix, much less is known about these structures, how and when they may form in the genome. Potentially, targeting these alternative DNA structures could allow for specific therapeutics for genetic diseases.

This PhD project will involve developing specific probes so we can learn more about these alternative DNA structures. The project will be highly interdisciplinary and will involve training in a wide range of techniques, from creation of new DNA interacting molecules, to characterisation of their interaction with DNA and their effect in cells. Led by Dr Zoë Waller and Dr Chris Morris, there will be the opportunity to work using different facilities in the UEA School of Pharmacy, Biomedical Research Centre and the Norwich Research Park.

Informal enquiries are welcomed; for further information please contact Dr Zoë Waller ( or Dr Chris Morris (

Further Reading:

  1. Brooks, TA et al. Making sense of G-quadruplex and i-motif functions in oncogene promoters FEBS J. 2010, 17, 3459.
  2. Day, HA et al. i-Motif DNA: structure, stability and targeting with ligands. Bioorg Med Chem. 2014, 16, 4407.

Person specification: The student will have, or expect to obtain a first class, 2(i) or equivalent Honours degree in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Pharmacy or a related area.

Funding notes: Full Studentships cover a stipend (RCUK rate: £14,296pa – 2016/7), research costs and tuition fees at UK/EU rate, and are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.

Students from EU countries who do not meet the UK residency requirements may be eligible for a fees-only award. Students in receipt of a fees-only award will be eligible for a maintenance stipend awarded by the NRPDTP Bioscience Doctoral Scholarships, which when combined will equal a full studentship. To be eligible students must meet the EU residency requirements.

Details on eligibility for funding on the BBSRC website:

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