Ph.D. Positions in Biophysical Chemistry/Structural Biology/Biomolecular Engineering.

Several Ph.D. positions in the Biophysical Chemistry/Structural Biology/Biomolecular Engineering Lab of Professor Cotten are available through the Department of Applied Science at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia: http://www.wm.edu/as/appliedscience/

Contact: Myriam Cotten mcotten@wm.edu; http://mcotten.blogs.wm.edu/

Research project description

The Ph.D. positions are part of a concerted experimental effort to develop and employ biophysical, biochemical, and biological methods to investigate the interplay of host defense mechanisms at biological membranes. The main research tasks are to 1) identify physicochemical principles underlying molecular recognition and synergistic effects between biomolecules that converge at lipid membranes to exert their host-defense function; and 2) develop quantitative tools to engineer biological macromolecules and systems with useful biological properties for innovative applications in wound healing, and the treatment of infectious and inflammatory diseases. The work encompasses molecular design, synthesis, assembly, biophysical characterization of binding affinities and three-dimensional structures, and testing of biocompatibility and biological efficacy. The specific molecules of interest are host-defense metallopeptides, membrane receptors, and functional lipids that act on drug resistant bacteria, persister cells, biofilms, and tumors. Biophysical techniques such as solid-state NMR, oriented circular dichroism, and surface plasmon resonance will be employed to identify the structural and physicochemical characteristics underlying function while biological assays will be used to quantify function, efficacy, stability, and cytotoxicity.

The positions provide opportunities to interact with leading groups in the fields of solid-state NMR, neutron diffraction, molecular dynamics, chemical biology, catalytic metallopeptides, bacterial infections, G-protein coupled receptor activation of immune cells, and cancer imaging. The NMR facility at William and Mary houses two Bruker wide bore superconducting magnets operating at field strengths of 17.6 T and 7.05 T. An NMR specialist maintains and services the facility, and trains new users. The NMR laboratory is coupled with a biophysical and biological chemistry wet lab facility for sample preparation, housed in the new integrated science center. Additional instrumentation is available through core facilities at William and Mary and collaborations with scientists at national laboratories and institutes.

Eligibility, application, and program information

We are looking for highly motivated, enthusiastic, inquisitive, creative, and outcome-oriented Ph.D. candidates who have the ability to interact collaboratively within a team and engage in interdisciplinary research.

Candidates must apply online at https://www.wm.edu/as/graduate/admission. Candidates must hold an undergraduate degree in chemistry, physics, chemical engineering, bioengineering, or a related field, and must have a strong academic record and prior research experience. The College of William & Mary values diversity and encourages applicants from underrepresented groups who will enrich the research, teaching, and service missions of the university. Applications are reviewed on an ongoing basis.

The Applied Science Ph.D. program at William and Mary features: 1) Flexible graduate research projects and courses that are tailored to student needs and interests. The curriculum typically includes Math, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology courses; 2) Graduate stipends and full tuition fellowships. Students receive a Research Assistant stipend, tuition, and health insurance; 3) A historical and scenic campus in Colonial Williamsburg. Other local attractions include Busch Gardens, Virginia Beach, Washington, D.C., the Appalachian mountains, and Shenandoah National Park.

Undergraduate researchers

Inquiries about joining the lab are always welcome. Motivated and enthusiastic students are encouraged to contact Myriam Cotten, mcotten at wm.edu.