two men and two women in lab coats lean over a lab bench looking at microscopes and petri dishes.

Using lipid nano-particles to study G-protein-coupled receptors

Eligibility: UK/EU graduates with the required entry requirements

Funding details: Stipend and tuition fees

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

Application deadline: 30 June 2022

Interview date: Interview dates will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2022

For further details contact: Professor Mark Wheatley

Coventry University is inviting applications from suitably-qualified graduates for a fully-funded PhD studentship. We have been voted ‘Modern University of the Year’ three times running by The Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide and have a global reputation for research with impact and high-quality teaching.

Research within the Centre for Sports, Exercise & Life Sciences (CSELS) reflects a broad range of research from the level of molecules and cells through to the whole body. The Centre is a major contributor to research ‘Allied to Health’ within Coventry University and has considerable research expertise, ranging from molecular pharmacology, cell biology, biochemistry, microbiology, safety pharmacology, nutrition & food science, physiology, physical activity and sport performance. Our labs are modern and very well equipped with specialist equipment and instrumentation. In the recent national research assessment (Research Excellence Framework; REF2021), 93% of our Allied to Health research at Coventry University was ranked as ‘World leading’ or ‘Internationally Excellent’. Furthermore, CSELS PhD student doctoral training was awarded prestigious accreditation from the Royal Society of Biology, the first university in the UK to hold this accolade.

Project Details

G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) allow hormones and neurotransmitters to generate intracellular signals, they 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 encapsulated in nano-scale SMA lipid particles (SMALPs), in the complete absence of detergent, thereby preserving the native lipid environment of the GPCR and opening novel avenues of research.

This is a multidisciplinary project combining molecular pharmacology, fluorescence 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. We will also use SMALPs to develop new approaches for studying membrane proteins and their interactions.  This project will benefit from established collaborations with world-leading research labs in other institutions. In particular, the student will benefit from spending several months with Prof Bert Klumperman (Stellenbosch University, South Africa) developing novel SMA-like polymers specifically tailored 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.


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. 

On successful graduation, the candidate will be awarded a PhD degree by Coventry University and also a PhD degree by Stellenbosch University.


Co-tutelle reciprocal PhD studentship arrangement with Stellenbosch University:

Coventry University funds fees and stipend for the period the candidate spends at CU through a QR studentship as follows:

  • Fees waived for the 3.5 PhD years
  • Stipend at standard UKVI levels for the period spent at CU
  • 1 return flight +visa costs for the research visit to Stellenbosch University (3-6 months)

Stellenbosch University waives their fees for the programme and provides a bursary to cover living expenses for the 3-6 months the candidate is based with them.

Entry Requirements

Entry criteria for applicants to PHD 

  • 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 overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)

Additional Requirements

Candidates must apply and be accepted to both universities in order to be accepted for the co-tutelle programme.

How to Apply

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

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. 

Apply to Coventry University
 Queen’s Award for Enterprise Logo
University of the year shortlisted
QS Five Star Rating 2020
Coventry City of Culture 2021