PhD Projects

In-cell Structural Biology using Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Spectroscopy


Structure underlies function in biology, and determining the structure of proteins gives us a window onto the mechanisms of life, and the cause of disease.  In this project you will use electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy to determine how life's building blocks -- proteins -- fit together. 

This PhD offers the chance to develop EPR for native environment structural studies of biomolecules, and to answer real biological problems.

EPR allows us to measure the energies of electron spins, and so determine the interactions they have with each other. The interactions change with the distance between spins, and so we can use EPR to infer spin separation. By attaching spins to proteins at particular positions we can then establish how proteins interact with one another. EPR is best suited to measuring nanometre distances,  and so is a tool that is complementary to the more familiar methods of X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy and NMR. To-date most structural studies with EPR have been carried out outside the cell. There is however great scope to use EPR for measurements inside cells and thus obtain structural information in a truly native environment. The motivation for studying the structure of biomolecules such as proteins is to learn how nature performs so exquisitely and what happens when there is a problem, with the aim of improving aspects of human health through better understanding of these processes.

You must have a good scientific degree (2:1 or above for Honours or a relevant MSci) for example in a such as chemistry, biochemistry, biology or physics. No prior knowledge of EPR or protein preparation is necessary but you must be motivated to learn and work across scientific disciplines.

The PhD will be run through the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews and you will also be a member of the Biological Sciences Research Complex. The teaching and research environment in the University of St Andrews is excellent.

The town of St Andrews is located on the East Coast of Scotland. The environment is beautiful and there is easy access to two large cities: Dundee and Edinburgh.

Informal enquires are encouraged prior to application and should be made to Dr Janet Lovett ( The website address is


This PhD is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and is chiefly open to UK applicants, please see their website ( for further details of eligibility. There will be opportunities to attend international conferences and arrange secondments to collaborators’ laboratories. The position is funded for 3.5 years with a start date from the 26th September 2017.

Other Positions

There are opportunities for funded PhD places throughout the year for home students and selected scholarship programmes for overseas candidates. Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss opportunities.

Undergraduate projects and summer internships

Please get in touch to discuss options for projects.

Post-doctoral positions

While we do not have any positions available at present JEL is happy to advise with applications for fellowships. Some relevant links are below. Other schemes exist, particularly internationally. Please contact JEL.

Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship

The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Fellowships

Royal Society Newton International Fellowships

Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowships

Marie-Sklodowska-Curie Fellowships

Royal Society University Research Fellowship