PhD studentships



What are the relationships between photosynthesis, ligth-harvesting, photodamage, and repair?


This position is open to externally funded candidates with a degree in Chemistry, Physics or Computer Science. 


Candidates will be required to seek funding through the appropriate external funding bodies.



Background and Aims


Plant light-harvesting is not only highly efficient. However, this efficiency poses a serious problem during periods of high light, leading ultimately to a flooding and delicate photosynthetic machinery and irreversible oxidative damage. The photoinhibition is mitigated by a regulatory mechanism known as Non-Photochemical Quenching (NPQ). Short periods of high light lead to the reversible formation of excitation traps in the antenna of photosystem II (PSII) which capture excess energy and harmlessly dissipate it as heat. Despite decades of experimental study the identity of these traps, their location within the PSII antenna, and the mechanism of their formation/deactivation are still hotly debated.


The Duffy Lab adopts a theoretical approach. using the methods of physical chemistry, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics and computational modelling. Recently, we published the first 'all-pigment' theoretical model of the major component of the PSII antenna (the light-harvesting protein LHCII). This model gave the first molecular picture of the NPQ mechanism and indicates that the carotenoids (the other photosynthetic pigments) are central to light-harvesting regulation.


Currently, we are aiming towards establishing the fundamental theoretical foundations of light-harvesting regulation and in particular the role of carotenoids. We hoping to attract a talented young PhD student to help create the theoretical, mathematical and computational tools necessary to understand how the regulation of light-harvesting operates as part of a complete photosynthetic system. In the process we hope to develop novel computational tools that will guide experimental researchers in their efforts to understand the keystone of the biosphere.



Contact Information

Dr Christopher Duffy

Lecturer in Cellular and Molecular Biology

School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

Queen Mary University of London

Mile End

London E1 4NS


Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 8006


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