Job ID: 61913

PhD position in the UK: Development of superselective probes to target perineuronal nets for understanding the plasticity of neurons

Position: Ph.D. Student

Deadline: 7 January 2022

Employment Start Date: 1 October 2022

Contract Length: 4 years

City: Leeds

Country: United Kingdom

Institution: University of Leeds

Department: School of Biomedical Sciences


Are you keen to progress research in glycoscience at the interface of neurobiology, chemistry and physics?

Perineuronal nets (PNNs) are specialised extracellular matrix structures on the surface of neurons. They control synapse formation and neuronal plasticity, but the underpinning biochemical and biophysical mechanisms are not well understood. Progress is hampered by the lack of tools to selectively label PNNs and visualise their organisation.

In this project, you will combine bio-conjugation techniques and advanced protein biochemistry to engineer multivalent probes that recognise specifically the glycan antigens over-expressed in PNNs. You will design and develop ‘superselective’ molecular probes that recognise PNNs whilst minimising interference by the other brain extracellular matrix structures. You will also use state-of-the-art biophysical and cell biology techniques to evaluate superselective recognition of PNN-bearing model surfaces and neurones.

If successful, this project will provide a new tool to progress our fundamental understanding of neurobiology. In the future, it may also help tackle neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease or schizophrenia.

This project is supported by a multi-disciplinary team of supervisors with expertise in all research areas relevant to this project.

Applicants are encouraged to contact the supervisors (Dr Ralf Richter for Physics, Dr Jessica for Neuroscience, Prof Bruce Turnbull for Chemistry) for more information on this project.

Funding Note

  • This studentship is part of the BBSRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) in Mechanistic Biology. ( Appointed candidates will be fully-funded for 4 years. The funding includes:
  • Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£15,609 for 2021/22 starts. Awards increase every year, typically with inflation).
  • UK tuition fees (Around £4,500 per year)
  • Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG)
  • Conference and Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS) allowances
  • We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from inside and outside the UK. We are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.
  • Not all projects will be funded; the DTP will appoint a limited number of candidates via a competitive process.

Application method

Application will be opened at the end of October 2021. Please apply via this link: