PhD Studentship: The dynamics of protein/peptide self-assembly in stress granules

University of Sussex - Department of Biochemistry, School of Life Sciences

A Ph.D. studentship (42 months) is available from September 2018 under the supervision of Prof Louise Serpell, Department of Biochemistry, School of Life Sciences.

Coacervation plays a key role in the formation of cellular stress granules generated by combination of proteins and RNA in cells. Cells respond to heat or oxidative stress by storing partially translated RNA and proteins and and these structures are then disassembled following recovery. It has been suggested that these cellular bodies could serve as precursors for protein misfolding in neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s (HD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This project aims to examine the mechanisms of reversible self-assembly of proteins and nucleic acids, and to interrogate the structural intermediates formed. The potential for self-assembly into amyloid fibrils will be investigated and compared to dynamic assembly, gelation and disassembly under non-pathogenic conditions.

The project will involve biophysical and electron microscopy characterisation of assemblies and X-ray fibre diffraction will be used to examine and elucidate information about structural intermediates. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) will be conducted in collaboration with Dr Wei-Feng Xue from the University of Kent who is an expert in the use of AFM for amyloid fibrils.  Previous experience in protein self-assembly and biophysical methods is preferred. An interest in structural biology is essential.

Informal enquiries are encouraged by contacting the supervisor.

Please submit a formal application using our online application system at, including a CV, degree transcripts and certificates, statement of interest (clearly stating supervisor’s name and the project title) and names of two academic referees. Programme of Study is PhD Biochemistry.

Applicants will have an excellent academic record and should have received or be expected to receive a relevant first or upper-second class honours degree in Biochemistry, Chemistry or related subject. The full award is available to UK and to EU students who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for the previous 3 years. EU candidates who do not meet this criteria will be eligible for a fee waiver only and Overseas (non EU) students are not eligible to apply.

The EPSRC award covers Home/EU PhD fees, a tax-free living expenses at Research Council UK rates (currently £14,553 per annum) and research/training expenses for 3.5 years

Contact Anna Izykowska for application enquiries (

Contact Prof Louise Serpell ( enquiries about the project

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