PhD Studentship: Revealing RNA's Secret Structures

University of East Anglia - Pharmacy

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

Project description:

The diversity of DNA and RNA structures is wide and varied, from hairpins and bulges through to triplexes and quadruplexes. These structures are able to control numerous biological functions from sensing of messenger compounds to dictating whether genes are switched on or off. This project will focus in particular on G-quadruplexes, four-stranded RNA structures which are formed from sequences which contain a lot of the base guanine (1). This project will aim to reveal some of the RNA-based mechanisms which alter gene regulation. This has wide applications from understanding the development of genetic diseases (such as cancer and diabetes) to how plants response to environmental stress (for example during periods of drought).

This PhD project will determine the type of structures which the RNA is able to fold into, how they change in response to the environment and what happens to the biology when they form. The project will be highly interdisciplinary and will involve training in a wide range of techniques, from biophysical and physiological characterisation to in vivo testing. Led by Dr Zoë Waller at UEA and Dr Yiliang Ding at the John Innes Centre, the successful applicant will enjoy the benefits of working in both a University environment and research institute.

Informal enquiries are welcomed, please contact Dr Zoë Waller ( or Dr Yiliang Ding (

Further reading:

  • (1) Bochman, M. L. et al. DNA secondary structures: stability and function of G-quadruplex structures (2012), Nature Reviews Genetics, 13, 770.

Person specification: The student will have, or expect to obtain a first class, 2(i) or equivalent honours degree in Biology, 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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