School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

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Biocatalysis at the nanoscale

About the project

Biocatalysis underpins metalloenzyme chemistry and is essential for processes such as respiration and photosynthesis. The Roessler group studies the biochemical and biophysical reactions of metalloenzymes at the nanoscale, using spectroscopy, electrochemistry and biochemical methods. Gaining insight into these reactions is not only of great value to our fundamental understanding of how biological systems carry out some of the most difficult chemical transformations known, but are also essential for guiding medical studies and providing technological inspiration. We are interested in deciphering how electrons travel through these metalloenzymes in order to effectuate catalysis so efficiently and prevent unwanted side-reactions. In particular, unpaired electrons - spins – can provide detailed insight into the structure-function properties that underlie the mechanisms of very large and complex enzymes such as mitochondrial complex I, an enzyme that we all rely on for the production of ATP.

This project will combine biochemical and electrochemical methods to generate such unpaired electrons in mechanistically key locations in some of the largest and most enigmantic enzymes known (e.g. mitochondiral complex I) and interrogate their environment using electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy, a technique whose fundamental concepts are analogous to NMR. We will work closely in collaboration with the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, as well as with computational and organic chemists at Queen Mary University. We will also exploit new ways to trap redox-active enzymes in different states in the catalytic cycle by combining electrochemical and spectroscopic methods with material chemistry.

Research environment

The PhD student will join a vibrant and well-funded growing research lab in a modern building and work in a collaborative, international and multi-disciplinary research environment. The student will receive training in a number of biochemical and biophysical techniques, and will be given the opportunity to attend international conferences and the biannual EPR summer school. Moreover, our laboratory will host a major international EPR conference in 2018 and the candidate would have the opporutnity to be involved in the organisation should they wish to. Find out more about the Roessler group.


As a member of the prestigious Russell group, QMUL is one of UK’s leading research-focused higher education institutions, where multidisciplinary research is carried out at the highest level. The university is unique in London by providing a completely integrated residential campus. All researchers are part of the QMUL Doctoral College, which provides high quality training in transferable key skills and free English language courses are also available through the Queen Mary Language Centre.

The School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at QMUL is a highly interdisciplinary environment and home to state-of-the-art facilities, including EPR spectrometers at multiple microwave frequencies. The School holds an Athena SWAN Silver Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students.


Outstanding students with, or expecting to receive, at least an upper-second class honours degree (or equivalent) and preferably as Masters degree in an area relevant to the project (e.g. chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics). International students are required to provide evidence of their proficiency in English language skills. See the Entry Requirements page for further details.

How to apply

Candidates should e-mail Dr Roessler with cover letter and CV, explaining how they intend to fund their project. Informal enquiries about the project are welcome.

Funding notes

Applicants wishing to apply for PhD funding through CONACYT, the China Scholarship Council or the Higher Education Commission Pakistan are welcomed, as are those applicants who can self-fund.

Applicants should be able to demonstrate that they can cover the cost of living expenses and tuition fees for a minimum of 3.5 years. However, the University offers a limited number of tuition fee only scholarships for excellent applicants; if you wish to apply for one of these please get in touch with Dr. Roessler.


  • M. M. Roessler et al, PNAS, 2010, Vol. 107, pp. 1930-1935
  • M. M. Roessler et al, JACS, 2012, Vol. 134, pp. 15581-15594
  • J. Hirst & M. M. Roessler, BBA Bioenergetics, accepted
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