Postgraduate Scholarship in Discover of Therapeutic Sequence-Defined Polymers

University of Kent - School of Physical Sciences & School of Biosciences

Supervisor: Dr Christopher Serpell

A PhD studentship at the University of Kent is available funded by the Rosetrees trust, led by Dr. Christopher Serpell at the School of Physical Sciences in collaboration with Prof. Michelle Garrett at the School of Biosciences, in the establishment of a new approach to treat challenging diseases.

This project consists of the first steps in the development of a new high-throughput platform to identify synthetic macromolecules which will eventually be used to block pathogenic protein-protein interactions which are key steps in diseases as diverse as cancer, HIV, Alzheimer’s, and cystic fibrosis. This involves the creation of perfectly sequence-defined polymers, which like proteins are capable of folding and molecular recognition, but are completely non-natural. These polymers are uniquely suited for drugging of difficult protein-protein interactions because of their large size and high structural definition. In this project, the student will use these to address RAS, a protein which is overactive in 30% of cancers, but is as yet undruggable, standing as a major hurdle in cancer therapy.

The student will receive diverse, cross-disciplinary training encompassing organic synthesis, protein expression and labelling, precision macromolecular synthesis and analysis, flow cytometry, and biophysical assays, and will work in both the Schools of Physical Sciences and Biosciences within the University of Kent. The candidates will thus develop a deep understanding of the behaviour of precision macromolecules and proteins, and skills in a wide range of experimental techniques. Both of these skill sets will be broadly applicable beyond the PhD. The candidate will also be trained in a diverse range of key transferable skills. 

The project will be jointly supervised by Dr Serpell, an expert in therapeutic and sequence-defined polymers and nanoscale chemistry, and Prof Garrett, who has extensive experience in cancer drug discovery, and three cancer drugs currently in clinical trial.

This PhD Studentship is due to start in September 2018

Entry requirements and Funding: The project is fully funded for UK and EU students. Top-up fees will apply to other nationalities. Applicants should have or expect to obtain a first or upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in Chemistry, Biochemistry, or a related subject. Masters qualifications or experience in relevant techniques will be beneficial. This studentship will be offered at the standard stipend rate (currently £14,553; to cover living costs) and will additionally cover tuition fees at the Home/EU rate (currently £4,121 per annum).


Contact: For further information or informal enquiries, please contact Dr Christopher Serpell (

How to Apply: To apply please go to:

You will need to apply through the online application form on the main University website. Please note that you will be expected to provide personal details, education and employment history and supporting documentation (Curriculum Vitae, transcript of results, two academic references).

Deadline Date for Applications: Monday 2nd April 2018

Interviews to be held between: 9-13th April 2018

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