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Team of Medical Research Scientists

Using lipid nano-particles to study G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs)

Eligibility: UK/International (including EU) graduates with the required entry requirements

Duration: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

Application deadline: 6 May 2024

Interview date: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2024

For further details contact: Professor Mark Wheatley


This exciting PhD project in the laboratory of Professor Mark Wheatley, Professor of Biochemical Pharmacology is a joint PhD between Coventry University and Stellenbosch University with the student being registered for a PhD at both universities. The successful candidate will be based at Coventry University and will spend a few months in the laboratory of Professor Klumperman at Stellenbosch University during the course of the PhD. Upon successful completion, the student will be awarded a PhD by both Institutions

Project details

G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) form the largest family of membrane proteins in the human genome and are the therapeutic target for ~40% of clinically-prescribed drugs. Understanding their structure & function at the molecular level is of fundamental importance. Using styrene maleic acid (SMA) co-polymer, we reported the first purification of active GPCR encap-sulated in nano-scale SMA lipid particles (SMALPs), in the complete ab-sence of detergent, thereby preserving the native lipid environment of the GPCR. This is ‘cutting edge’ research.

This is a multidisciplinary project combining molecular pharmacology, fluo-rescence techniques and biophysics. We will exploit our powerful SMALP technologies to provide new insights into GPCR structure and molecular mechanisms, including conformational changes associated with activation and drug binding, using engineered receptors with fluorescent ligands and probes combined with exploiting novel SMA-like polymers specifically tai-lored for GPCR research.

This project will provide the student with a broad skill-base, working with an international collaborative team and expertise relevant to a future career in either academia or the pharmaceutical industry.


This is a fully-funded studentship, including tuition fees and stipend/bursary.

1 return flight +visa costs for research period at Stellenbosch University (3-6 month stay, timing to be agreed with the candidate depending on project requirements).


The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Entry requirements

Applicants must have an MSc in order to fulfil the Stellenbosch University entry requirements.
Candidates must apply and be accepted to both universities in order to be accepted for the co-tutelle programme.

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.


  • The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a 3.5 years.
  • A minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS academic overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component).

Candidates are strongly advised to apply to Coventry as soon as possible, and to both universities well in advance of the 6th May 2024 deadline for complete applications with full supporting documentation.

Stellenbosch University reserves the right to request original and/or additional supporting documentation should this be deemed necessary at any point.

How to apply

To find out more about the project, please contact Professor Mark Wheatley

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

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