PhD SCHOLARSHIP – VIRUS STRUCTURE, Massey University, New Zealand

Project title: Solving the end-cap structure of a biological nanorod derived from the Ff bacteriophage (f1, M13 or fd)

Academic mentors: A/Prof Jasna Rakonjac; A/Prof Andrew Sutherland-Smith

This project aims to determine the cap structure of a versatile biological filament (Ff filamentous bacteriophage). Ff (M13, f1 or fd) phage is a natural and affordable platform for a wide array of technologies, from nano-scale batteries to cancer therapies and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Detailed structure of the end-caps will help understand how the Ff filamentous phage is formed naturally and will aid in developing/improving filamentous phage applications.

Fig1
The fine structure of the Ff end-caps has remained a mystery, as they constitute only 2% of the phage filament mass. We overcome this problem by assembling short rods (we named Ff-nano) where the end-caps amount to as much as 40% of the total particle mass. An interesting property of the Ff-nano particles is that they easily form 2D crystals. The Ff-nano particles will therefore enable analyses of the end-cap structure at a near-atomic resolution using cryo-electron microscopy and at atomic resolution using X-ray crystallography.

Fig2
Candidates with a BSc or MSc degree (1st class or high upper 2nd class Honours degree) in biochemistry, biotechnology, molecular biology or microbiology, with interest in structural biology, bacteriophage or nanotechnology are encouraged to apply.

Scholarship is for three years, covering the stipend (NZ$ 25,000 per annum, non-taxable), fees (tuition) and medical insurance. Palmerston North is a lively student city in the Central North Island, close to the ski fields, kayaking and fishing spots, beaches and tramping areas, as well as to Wellington, the New Zealand Capital.

Institute of Fundamental Sciences at Massey University is equipped with a modern structural biology suite and has access to the Australian Synchrotron.

The deadline for the application is 08/05/2017. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until the studentship is filled.

Filamentous phage topic:
http://journal.frontiersin.org/researchtopic/2352/filamentous-bacteriophage-in-bionanotechnology-bacterial-pathogenesis-and-ecology

Contacts:
A/Prof Jasna Rakonjac; j.rakonjac@massey.ac.nz
https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=N6BHLWoAAAAJ

A/Prof Andrew Sutherland-Smith; A.J.Sutherland-Smith@massey.ac.nz
https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=yHcnJ2wAAAAJ&hl=en

Massey University PhD programme:
http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/learning/programme-course/programme.cfm?prog_id=-1005

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