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Centre for Programmable Biological Matter

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PhD position available to work together with the Gyrase and Artificial Protein Areas

Engineering Artificial Cages

About the Project

Step into the cutting-edge world of protein design with a PhD researching Artificial Protein Cages (APCs). APCs have vast potential with applications ranging from revolutionary vaccine development to state-of-the-art drug delivery systems. In this PhD you will research ways in which artificial protein cages can be radically redesigned and engineered. Pushing the limits of protein engineering you will develop ways to produce cages of different sizes, shapes and dynamic properties.

What Will You Do?

  • Revolutionize and Innovate: Take on the exciting challenge of radically redesigning artificial protein cages. Your research will focus on creating cages with varied sizes, shapes, and dynamic properties.
  • Master Advanced Tools: Gain proficiency in sophisticated protein design software and immerse yourself in a variety of molecular biology, biochemistry, and physical biology techniques.
  • Employ Cutting-Edge Techniques: Utilize cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to understand the structure of your designs.

What Will You Gain?

  • Specialised Knowledge: Acquire in-depth understanding and expertise in a niche yet rapidly expanding field with both basic science interest and practical implications.
  • Versatile Skill Set: Develop a diverse range of skills that are highly sought after in both academia and industry, preparing you for a successful career in a variety of fields.
  • Impactful Research: Contribute to research that has the potential to revolutionize healthcare and biotechnology, with your work potentially leading to groundbreaking advancements in therapeutics and diagnostics.
  • You will work at the newly established Centre for Programmable Biological Matter (CPBM) at Durham University, a large, well-funded, and ambitious lab that aims to break new ground in engineering biology and synthetic structural biology. The lab is driven by the question, “What if we can make artificial biological nanomachines?” Together, we aim to be world-leading in the novelty and capabilities of our designs, and make a major contribution to the field, which is expected to be the foundation for a Fifth Industrial Revolution.

Prospective candidates will be judged according to how well they meet the following criteria:

  • at least a UK 2:1 honours degree classification (or equivalent) in a relevant subject
  • English language proficiency to the required standard (English Language Requirements – Durham University)
  • Strong evidence of problem solving
  • 2 satisfactory academic references


  • The studentship is open for home and overseas students.
    • For the eligible and successful applicant, the funding covers a tax-free stipend at the UKRI rate (is £18,622 for 2023/24) and the full tuition fees.
    • To apply for this studentship, applicants should submit their application using the online system: Please select PhD in Biological Sciences: Course Code C1A001.
    • Applications will be processed as they are received until the position is filled.
    • For informal discussion or further on the position, interested candidates should contact Prof. Jonathan Heddle ( before submitting their application.


  1. Stupka, I., Azuma, Y., Biela, A.P., Imamura, M., Scheuring, S., Pyza, E., Woźnicka, O., Maskell, D.P. and Heddle, J.G.* (2022) Chemically induced protein cage assembly with programmable opening and cargo release. Sci. Adv. 8, eabj9424-
  2. Majsterkiewicz, A., Biela, A. P., Maity, S., Sharma, M.,2, Piette, B. M. A. G., Kowalczyk, A., Gaweł, S., Chakraborti, S., Roos, W. H., Heddle, J. G.* (2022) An artificial protein cage with unusual geometry and regularly embedded gold nanoparticles. Nano Lett., 22, 3187–3195
  3. Biela, A., Naskalska, A., Fatehi, F., Twarock, R., Heddle, J.G.* (2022). Programmable Polymorphism of a Virus-Like Particle. Commun. Mater., 3, 1-9
  4. Naskalska, A., Borzęcka-Solarz, K., Różycki, J., Stupka, I., Bochenek, M., Pyza, E., Heddle, J. G.* (2021). Artificial Protein Cage Delivers Active Protein Cargos to the Cell Interior. Biomacromolecules, 22, 4146-4154.
  5. Malay, A. D.; Miyazaki, N.; Biela, A.; Chakraborti, S.; Majsterkiewicz, K.; Stupka, I.; Kaplan, C. S.; Kowalczyk, A.; Piette, B. M. A. G.; Hochberg, G. K. A.; Wu, D.; Wrobel, T. P.; Fineberg, A.; Kushwah, M. S.; Kelemen, M.; Vavpetič, P.; Pelicon, P.; Kukura, P.; Benesch, J. L. P.; Iwasaki, K.; Heddle, J. G. * (2019) An ultra-stable gold-coordinated protein cage displaying reversible assembly Nature, 569, 438-442

Engineering Artificial Protein Cages with New Capabilities at Durham University on

Please submit your application using the online system: . Please select PhD in Biological Sciences: Course Code C1A001.


Jagiellonian University

PhD position available to work together with the RNA/DNA Area

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