08/04/2020

EPSRC DTP studentship: Quantum coherence in single biomolecules measured by multidimensional optical micro-spectroscopy

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  • ORGANISATION NAME
    Cardiff University
  • ORGANISATION COUNTRY
    United Kingdom
  • DEADLINE DATE
    30/06/2020
  • RESEARCH FIELD
    Natural sciences

Outline

Life is based on the intricate interactions between a multitude of biomolecules, including lipids, proteins, and DNA. They are dynamical in nature and maintain the non-equilibrium state of life. To understand the machinery of life, the interactions between the molecules are finely tuned as a result of long-term evolution. While many mechanisms can be described by non-equilibrium thermodynamics making use of local equilibrium with spatial gradients of concentrations, some examples have been highlighted which show the importance of quantum coherence of excitations over molecular complexes [10.1098/rsif.2018.0640]. Specifically in the functions of sensing (smell, vision) and photosynthesis, the interplay between long range coherent coupling, e.g. via dipole-dipole interaction, and coupling to local vibrations, is an intriguing mechanism being investigated [10.1126/science.1235820]. Building on the pioneering work of the supervisor’s laboratory in developing advanced laser micro-spectroscopy techniques, this project will investigate the coherent quantum dynamics of single biomolecule functional units.

You will translate the two-dimensional coherent micro-spectroscopy technique “Heterodyne Spectral Interferometry”, developed and available in our laboratory, from the investigations of semiconductor nanostructures [10.1038/ncomms2764, 0.1038/nphoton.2016.2], towards this ambitious goal. The evolution of the coherence in light-harvesting complexes will be studied from low temperatures (5K), where long lived coherence is expected, up to room temperature, where the thermal excitations reduce the coherence time and the biomolecules are in their operating range. This will allow you to identify the mechanisms of decoherence and verify if nature has tuned the balance optimally at living conditions of the related organisms, such as algae, and sulphur/purple bacteria. Using this insight, we plan to study these coherences in artificial light-harvesting structures [10.1126/science.1249771], which are being developed as a green energy source, in order to understand and optimize their performance.

You will have the unique opportunity to join a highly multi-disciplinary research group which includes physicists (with both experimental and theory background), biologists and chemical engineers. You will be trained by world-leading academics in the field of coherent spectroscopy techniques with access to a state-of-the-art laboratory, one of just a handful worldwide where these measurements can be performed, and advanced computational modelling framework.

Outline and timeline of work: Year 1: Training in sample preparation and optical spectroscopy techniques on model molecules, literature review and study of background. Year 2: Experiments and analysis of ensembles and individual light harvesting complexes at low temperature, publish results. Year 3 Experiments at physiological conditions (at room temperature, embedded in a membrane in aqueous environment), publish results. Year 4: Thesis writing and submission, further analysis and publications.

Research Environment: You will be embedded in a vibrant research group encompassing your 4 supervisors, around 10 PhD students and 5 postdocs, covering theoretical physics to biosciences. You will have access to world leading experimental facilities including the unique coherent micro-spectroscopy technique. The group is embedded into the School of Physics and Astronomy and the School of Biosciences, with more than 100 academic staff and a large, vibrant, and diverse postgraduate community.

Training and Development Opportunities: Research skills in optical spectroscopy and microscopy, sample preparation, knowledge of the field. Transferable skills in presentation, data handling and analysis, programming, scientific writing. Global mobility opportunities - visiting partner groups across Europe and beyond. Academic career skills – you will be able to participate in teaching and demonstrating, and scientific publishing.

What is funded

Tuition fees at the home/EU rate (£4,407 in 2020/21) and an annual stipend equivalent to current Research Council rates (£15,285 stipend for academic year 2020/21), plus support for travel/conferences/consumables.

This studentship is open to Home or EU students who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least three years prior to the start of the studentship. Other EU students may also be eligible for a limited number of full awards

Duration

3.5 years full-time.

Eligibility

Candidates should hold a good bachelor’s degree (first or upper second-class honours degree) or a MSc degree in Physics or a related subject.

Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to demonstrate proficiency in the English language (IELTS 6.5 or equivalent).

How to Apply

Applicants should submit an application for postgraduate study via the Cardiff University webpages (https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/research/programmes/programme/physics-and-astronomy) including:

• an upload of your CV

• a personal statement/covering letter

• two references

• Current academic transcripts

Applicants should select Doctor of Philosophy, with a start date of October 2020.

In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project and copy the project description in the text box provided. In the funding section, please select "I will be applying for a scholarship / grant" and specify that you are applying for advertised funding from EPRSC DTP. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to attend an interview in April/May.

Disclaimer:

The responsibility for the funding offers published on this website, including the funding description, lies entirely with the publishing institutions. The application is handled uniquely by the employer, who is also fully responsible for the recruitment and selection processes.