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.  Successful candidates will be supervised in the lab by the postdoc leading the project.  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

Assembly, activation and function of JAMM/MPN deubiquitylating complexes

Recruitment of the BRCA1-A supercomplex to sites of DNA damage involves the selective interactions between poly-ubiquitylated nucleosome core particles (NCPs) and the ARISC–RAP80 subcomplex. RAP80 bears multiple domains involved in ubiquitin chains recognition and chromatin binding, however how each of these regions precisely contribute to substrate recruitment is currently unknown. Throughout this project you will investigate how RAP80 modulates substrate recognition and chromatin engagement by BRCA1-A. The proposed project aims to: a) Establish how the different substrate recognition domains of RAP80 contribute to NCPs recruitment. This goal will be achieved by measuring the affinity of interactions of the full-length ARISC-RAP80 complex and truncated variants with NCPs in vitro. b) Provide a preliminary understanding of how RAP80 interacts with NCPs. We will reach this objective by employing low-resolution negative stain electron microscopy analyses. This project will give you the unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience on a wide range of techniques, including molecular cloning, proteins expression and purification, biochemical, structural and computational analyses. Protein constructs, NCPs and procedures for enzyme assays and structural analyses are already available, and you will be able to begin the biochemical and structural characterisation described above without delay.

Dr Helen Gray

Job description

PigSustain

The future of global food security requires us to have an understanding of how the health of our livestock affects, and is affected by, our farming practices and production efficiency. This is especially important in the contexts of climate change and a global push to reduce antimicrobial usage. The overall objective of this project therefore is to use in-depth data from a single farm to examine how health and welfare concerns in pigs are related to production traits (e.g. pig weight and feed conversion), antimicrobial use, farm management (e.g. room temperature, biosecurity and ventilation) and local weather data.

Objective 1: Collate data from the University of Leeds Research Farm relating to pig production, management practices, antimicrobial use and disease prevalence.

Objective 2: Use R software to clean, sort and match the datasets before analysing how weather and farm management influence pig herd health, welfare and production.

The successful candidate will develop the following skills over the course of the project:

1.            On-farm data collection

2.            Dataset handling and management

3.            Basic data analysis using R software

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.