Metal-based DNA Hybrid Nanomaterials

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Scientist preparing nanomaterials for scanning

By combining the programmability of natural biopolymers such as DNA with the robustness and functionality of synthetic systems, next-generation hybrid polymers inspired by nature can be constructed with unprecedented features. This PhD project, involving a collaboration between the University of Melbourne (Prof Amanda Ellis) and the University of Birmingham (Prof James Tucker), involves the design and construction of metal-containing DNA hybrid materials that display novel redox properties for a variety of biomedical applications.

The candidate will synthesise monomeric DNA-based components and then polymerise them into new DNA-hybrid nanomaterials. The next step will be to study their properties using a range of spectroscopic and analytical methods and become proficient in a range of techniques including small molecule synthesis; DNA and polymer synthesis and characterisation; spectroscopy (e.g. UV/vis and CD); electrophoresis; electrochemistry.

Project goals

The project will build on the fields of covalent polymers, DNA origami and supramolecular polymers to generate DNA-hybrid materials that are functional, scalable, programmable, and possess intrinsic dynamic properties that cannot be obtained by any of these materials individually. In this way the new materials envisaged can move the field closer towards applications in a range of biomedical and biotechnological areas such as in-vivo sensing, drug delivery and gene editing.

Supervision team

*Click on the researcher's name above to learn more about their publication and grant successes.

Who we are looking for

We are seeking a PhD candidate with the following skills:

  • Demonstrated experience in the field of engineering and science (chemical engineering and chemistry)
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Demonstrated time and project management skills
  • Demonstrated ability to write research reports or other publications to a publishable standard (even if not published to date)
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • Demonstrated organisational skills, time management and ability to work to priorities.
  • Demonstrated problem-solving abilities.

Further details

  • The PhD candidate will benefit from the combined expertise of the project supervisors, and the embedding into two research environments.
  • Prof Jim Tucker is a supramolecular chemist with expertise in DNA synthesis and in particular the design of modified oligonucleotide systems that allow extra functionality to be brought to nucleic acids. This includes the incorporation of redox-active and photo-active groups into DNA strands that allow binding processes to be read-out for sensing applications. He also has expertise in the preparation and characterisation of metal-containing nucleic acid systems and their characterisation using electrochemical methods. Recently his group has also worked on the functionalisation of nucleic acids with units that act as monomer precursors for the preparation of hybrid polymeric systems. In this way, the PhD candidate working in the Tucker group will receive the ideal training to generate the appropriate nucleic acid precursors and materials required for the synthesis and study of hybrid nanomaterial synthesis in the Ellis group.
  • Prof Amanda Ellis is a nanotechnologist with expertise in DNA nanostructuring and polymer bioconjugates. She has undertaken research into DNA strand exchange reactions (e.g., toe-hold reactions) and their use in human identification and single nucleotide polymorph analysis in real-life DNA. She has expertise in G-quadruplexes as antimicrobial agents and for ion sensing and all the characterisation and kinetic analysis of such systems. Recently her group has been investigating phosphoramidite/polymer systems and non-enzymatic DNA reactions to produce DNA biomimetic materials. Any joint PhD student will have access to all the facilities required, as both the Tucker lab and the Ellis lab are undertaking synergist activities.
  • This PhD project will be based at the University of Birmingham with a minimum 12-month stay at the University of Melbourne.
  • The candidate will be enrolled in the PhD program at the School of Chemistry, University of Birmingham and in the PhD program at the Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Melbourne. Melbourne is host to the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication, the largest cleanroom in the Southern Hemisphere, which further has dedicated staff for UoM research training and support. The MCN is a world-class, purpose-built facility boasting state-of-the-art cleanrooms at class 10,000 and class 100, reconfigurable biochemistry and PC2 labs, a microscopy lab and a focused ion beam lab. These specialised work environments house top-of-the-line micro/nanofabrication equipment and instrumentation.


To apply for this joint PhD opportunity, and to view the entry requirements, visit How to apply.

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