A 4-year PhD studentship is available in the Adaptive & Responsive Nanomaterials Group in the Department of Chemical Engineering at University College London. The overarching aim of the team led by Dr Stefan Guldin is to create colloids and interfaces that can selectively interact with chemical and biological targets via molecular recognition using principles of molecular self-assembly. The group works closely with industrial partners on a number of applications, including disease diagnostics, therapeutic drug monitoring, functional coatings and advanced analytical techniques. This studentship will be focused on elucidating complex colloidal phenomena found in nature by studying suitable model systems with advanced materials characterisation methods.
The interactions between macromolecules in aqueous solutions are complex phenomena that govern many important chemical and biological processes. For example, the intermolecular interactions of proteins dictate their spatio-temporal distributions, such as cluster formation, aggregation and liquid-liquid phase separation. Although the percentage of non-polar residues on protein surfaces may be as high as 70%, the cellular concentrations of proteins are maintained at extremely high level, i.e. up to 40% in volume fraction. In comparison, most synthetic colloidal systems precipitate at such high concentrations due to various attractive interactions and electrolyte screening of Coulomb repulsion. One of the most important forces in water-based chemical and biological environments is the hydrophobic interaction as displayed in lipid bilayer organisation and protein folding. Although vital at the bionano interface, its underlying principles have not been fully understood. We have developed a modular platform, which is based on the synthesis of gold nanoparticles in a labile capping agent followed by subsequent functionalization with prescribed mixtures of target thiol ligands. This approach not only caters for tailored nanoscale colloids with tunable ligand shells but also offers the investigation of colloidal phenomena by small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) due to the pronounced scattering length density of the Au core. The obtained scattering profiles can then be used to extract colloidal interaction terms via machine learning algorithms (carried out in collaboration). Based on some preliminary work (and in combination with complimentary techniques), this model system offers unique opportunities to unravel colloidal phenomena found in nature with relevance for fundamental science but also various industrial applications (e.g. in drug delivery, biosensing, food science and personal care).
The candidate will have, or be expected to obtain, a first degree (minimum 2:1) in natural sciences (chemistry, physics, materials), engineering (bio, chemical), or a related subject. The ability to work in an interdisciplinary environment that tackles questions across various fields of nanoscience is expected. A strong interest in physical chemistry, supramolecular chemistry and colloid science is desirable, as is previous experience in experimental research related to general wet chemistry, nanoparticle synthesis and relevant materials characterisation techniques. Effective written and verbal communication, good time-management and the ability to work in a team are essential.
The studentship is available to UK/home as well as overseas applicants. For further information on the work of the Adaptive & Responsive Nanomaterials group please visit: www.ucl.ac.uk/responsive-nanomaterials.
If you have any queries regarding the vacancy, please contact the principal supervisor of this studentship Dr Stefan Guldin ([email protected]).
Please submit your application via https://evision.ucl.ac.uk/urd/sits.urd/run/siw_ipp_lgn.login?process=siw_ipp_app&code1=RRDCENSING01&code2=0033 . Your application should be supported by a CV, a personal statement (approx. 500 words) and contact details of two referees. Please nominate Dr Stefan Guldin as supervisor on the application form.
Duration of Studentship: 4 years
Stipend: £18,609 per year minimum (UKRI enhanced stipend) + tuition fees
Start date: 26-09-2022