Biochemistry of cell-cell communication: revealing how signalling proteins move and interact in the extracellular space


Dr Ralf Richter

Project description

Cell-cell communication is vital to all multicellular life and key in diseases such as cancer. In this PhD project, you will devise new strategies to design advanced biomaterials that guide cell-cell communication for tissue repair or to interfere with diseases such as cancer metastasis or chronic inflammation. This is a formidable challenge that requires multiple disciplines – biology, chemistry, physics and materials sciences – to work hand in hand.

A key factor in this process is signalling proteins (such as chemokines and growth factors) which carry information from one cell to another. The extracellular matrix (ECM) binds these proteins and tightly controls their distribution. In this project, you will combine synthetic biology and advanced bioconjugation techniques to create models of ECM. You will then analyse how signalling proteins diffuse and distribute in the ECM, down to the molecular level, using biophysical techniques. By combining experiments on well-defined ECM models and on cells, the project will provide new insight into how cells communicate.

SUITABLE CANDIDATES would have a background in biochemistry, biomedical engineering, or a closely related field, and keen interest in multidisciplinary work. Experience in protein biochemistry, cell biology or surface biofunctionalization is an advantage.

BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES AND PHYSICS AT LEEDS. The University of Leeds operate “low-wall” principles with the aim of encouraging cross-disciplinary approaches to big science questions. This project will take place at the Faculty of Biological Sciences ( in tight collaboration with the Molecular and Nanoscale Physics Group ( The Faculties offer superb facilities, provide a high quality research training environment and deliver an exceptional student education.

Please apply online, and include a CV, transcripts of your university record and contact details of two referees in your application. You do not need to provide a research proposal at this stage, but a motivation letter on why you want to join the project is desirable.

Key benefits

The studentship is for 3 years and covers academic fees and a stipend of £14,777 p/a.

Entry requirements

Candidates should have, or be expecting, a 2.1 hons at Undergraduate level or above, in a relevant subject. A masters degree is an advantage. If English is not your first language, you will need a recognised English Language qualification to be admitted onto any of the University's degree programmes: language requirements

Additional staff contact

 For questions about the project, please contact Dr. Ralf Richter ( For questions related to the application process and eligibility, please contact Martha Smith (

How to apply

Please apply online


Please include supervisor name and project title.  A research proposal is not required.  Please upload a CV and transcripts.

How to apply (email)

How to apply (phone)

+44 (0)113 343 8186