Thursday, September 25, 2008

PhD Studentship in Biophysics

University of Modena and Reggio Emilia PhD Studentship in Biophysics
University of Modena and Reggio Emilia
PhD Studentship
Department of Physics

Field(s): physics, biophysics
Application deadline: Oct 15 (Wed), 2008
Contact: Dr. Ciro Cecconi
Phone: (+39) 059 205-5328
Fax: (+39) 059 2055651

Address: Department of Physics, University of Modena e Reggio Emilia, Via Campi 213/A 41100 Modena, Italy

Job description: Protein folding remains a major unsolved challenge for modern biophysics. Despite the experimental and theoretical efforts of many laboratories in the last 40 years, our understanding of the basic rules that govern the attainment of a protein structure is still incomplete. This lack of information is partly due to the inadequacy of conventional bulk methods to study a process that is highly heterogeneous. During folding, individual molecules are thought to follow different pathways and populate different intermediate structures on their journey to the native state. Such a diversity of behaviors is often blurred in the ensemble average measured by bulk methods.

Recent advances in single molecule manipulation techniques, such as laser tweezers, have made it possible to revisit protein folding with a new approach. In these experiments, individual molecules are directly manipulated and their unfolding and refolding trajectories described along a well-defined reaction coordinate, namely their molecular end-to-end distance. In a work published in Science, Cecconi et al. has recently presented a method to manipulate individual globular proteins using laser tweezers [Cecconi et al., Science 2005; Cecconi et al., European Biophysics Journal 2008]. Using this novel experimental approach, Cecconi et al. investigated the folding pathways of single RNase H molecules with unprecedented details, uncovering information inaccessible to ensemble methods.

At the Department of Physics of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia a new line of research has recently been started that focuses on the study of the folding mechanism of single protein molecules using laser tweezers. Individual molecules are directly manipulated and their response to force characterized in terms of different parameters, such as: i) deformability of the native state, ii) unfolding and refolding pathways, iii) magnitude of the forces that hold together secondary and tertiary structures; iv) anisotropy of the protein's energy landscape, v) distances from the folded and unfolded states to the transition state(s), vi) thermodynamics and kinetics of fluctuations between different molecular conformations. We are therefore seeking a motivated PhD student willing to undertake research in this field. The PhD appointment is for a period of three years. Candidates should have a B.S. or M.S. in physics or related fields.

For further details please contact Dr. Ciro Cecconi. Applicants should send their resumes (including email address) to Dr. Ciro Cecconi (