Thursday, 10 October 2013

The PhD that was

After having submitted my thesis last week, I thought it time to retire the PhD page from my blog. So here it is for posterity...

I had the pleasure of working with Dr Bruce Turnbull at Leeds. My project was to develop general strategies towards controlling protein self-assembly into designed nanostructures.

Taking advantage of weak protein-carbohydrate interactions we aim to construct three-dimensional nanoscale virus-like particles and other nanoarchitecture (my new favourite word). Ligands of various lengths, and with different carbohydrate moieties of varying affinity, have been covalently attached to the cholera toxin B‑pentamer (CTB). The carbohydrate units bind into the natural binding pocket of another CTB pentamer, bringing the proteins together to form different aggregates and particles. Analysis of the structures can be performed with AUC, MS, AFM, SEC, ITC, DLS and any other acronym you can think of.

PhD strategy

So what does it all mean?

Well, to simplify things just imagine a brick. Now stick some velcro to that brick. Then get a load of these in a bag, shake them about a bit and hopefully out should pop a discrete spherical object. If this sounds unlikely and a bit crazy then you've grasped the idea perfectly.

If we can build organised, controlled structures on the nanoscale then this opens up possibilities for nanomachines, templated reactions and drug delivery vehicles.

PhD life

Doing a PhD is stressful, hard work and immensely fun. The work differs day to day with massive highs when your reactions unexpectedly work and terrible lows when your proteins commit suicide. There is a lot of self-motivation and commitment needed to complete a successful PhD, and it also helps having a great team around you and a kind word of encouragement every now and then (cheers Bruce). All for the advancement of the human race, and maybe also for the title of Dr before your name.

Turnbull lab group

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