Undergraduate summer studentships

Dean's Vacation Research Studentships

These projects are offered by Faculty postdocs and internally funded.  Applicants will be shortlisted and invited for interview.  The intention of these awards is that successful candidates will be supervised in the lab by the postdoc leading the project.  However, whilst every effort will be made to offer lab placements, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be that an alternative literature project has to be offered.  The stipend offered to the undergraduate is £200 per week.

Project Leader/Project Docs

Project Details

Dr Hope Adamson

Job description

Accelerating Development of Infection Diagnostics for Patient Management and Reduction of Antibiotic Misuse

The lack of a rapid and reliable diagnostic test to diagnose viral vs. bacterial infections leads to inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics and contributes to increased antimicrobial resistance. This is a significant healthcare threat and in response we are developing a rapid test for infection diagnosis. Our team have generated new binding proteins (Affimers) that recognise a number of important infection biomarkers. We have also developed an enzyme-switch biosensor, which is activated by a target biomarker and generates a signal to quantify the target. In this project you will develop a rapid assay for infection biomarkers by incorporating the new Affimers into the enzyme-switch. You will clone the Affimer coding sequences into the enzyme-switch biosensor constructs, then express the constructs in E. coli and purify the biosensor proteins. You will characterise the proteins with SDS-PAGE, western blot and ELISA, then perform plate-based assays to quantify the targeted infection biomarkers using the purified enzyme switches. This project is an opportunity to contribute to the development of infection diagnostics, with the aim of reducing unnecessary antibiotic prescribing and reducing antimicrobial resistance. You will gain skills in molecular cloning, protein production and purification, protein characterisation and assay development.

Dr Lynda Djerbal

Job description

Characterisation of the glycans-binding sites on semaphorin 3A/neuropilin 1 binding

Neuronal plasticity is the ability of the neuron to modify itself in response to experience and injury. This phenomenon is instrumental to CNS development, learning, memory and recovery after injury. Semaphorin3A (Sema3A) is a neuronal guidance signalling protein involved in neuronal plasticity regulation. Sema3A acts through neuropilin 1 (Nrp1, binding coreceptor) and plexin A (signalling receptor). Sema3A binds to Nrp1 through its C-terminal domain with a high affinity. However, the exact binding-sequence(s) are not identified yet. Furthermore, Sema3A also binds to the extracellular matrix (ECM) glycans with a high affinity. We have previously identified the glycan-binding sites in Sema3A, one of which is close to the Nrp1 binding region, and developed Sema3A mutants for those sites. The aim here is to analyse the binding of these Sema3A mutants to Nrp1 using surface plasmon reasonance (SPR). SPR is an important optical biosensing technology in the areas of biochemistry, biology, and medical sciences to analyse the interaction between biomolecules. The SPR results will contribute in identifying Nrp1 binding sites in Sema3A and also understanding how glycans modulate Sema3A function.

Dr Martina Foglizzo

Job description

Investigating the functions of SPATA5/5L1 in DNA replication

Replication of human DNA is required for the replacement of damaged or dead cells, and for the faithful transfer of genetic information from parents to progeny. Errors in DNA replication lead to a range of human diseases, including cancers and neurological syndromes. Key players in this process are the ATPase associated with diverse activities (AAA+) proteins SPATA5 and SPATA5L1. SPATA5/5L1 form an enzymatic complex that interacts with, and degrades, components of the replication machinery. How exactly SPATA5/5L1 assemble, which mechanisms they employ for substrate processing, and how these relate to their cellular functions is unknown. Throughout this project you will investigate the mechanisms underpinning SPATA5/5L1 assembly. The proposed project aims to: a) Establish a minimally active SPATA5/5L1 complex. This will be achieved by assessing SPATA5/5L1 activity in the absence and presence of interacting partners in vitro. b) Provide a preliminary understanding of complex assembly. We will reach this objective by employing low-resolution negative stain electron microscopy. Through this project you will gain hands-on experience on various techniques, including proteins purification, biochemical, structural and computational analyses. Protein constructs and procedures for enzyme assays and structural analyses are available, and you will be able to begin the work described above without delay.

Dr Steven Laird

Job description

Do outdoor piglets benefit from iron supplementation?

This project sets out to determine if piglets reared in outdoor production systems benefit from supplementary iron within the early post-partum period.  Preliminary in-house data obtained at the University of Leeds farm suggests that supplementary iron, when provided within 3 days of birth, improves the growth performance of outdoor reared piglets, however, this response is seemingly variable throughout the year.  It is possible that differences in management policies between farms, or within farms, influence the response to iron treatment by restricting time spent outdoors foraging: those spending more time foraging outdoors will have less ‘need’ for supplementary iron.  Therefore, an additional objective of this project is to determine the relationship between early iron supplementation and piglet management strategies commonly employed by farmers, most notably fender use.  This project will provide the student with a unique opportunity to carry out applied research in the newly built, world-leading pig research facility at Leeds.  In addition, this project will provide valuable information on outdoor piglet iron nutrition that may be used to influence standard farming practices across the UK towards more sustainable production.