I obtained my MSci in chemistry from the University of Birmingham. My masters research project was interdisciplinary and involved inserting a ferrocene derivative into the DNA backbone of various DNA strands, differing in their sequence, using phosphoramidite chemistry. These strands could then form complex self-assemblies with a wide variety of applications.
The project I am now working on was of particular interest to me as it is on the interface of molecular biology, protein biochemistry, structural biology and single molecule biophysics. The project also offers the opportunity to work internationally with experts at DreamPore (Paris, France), granting use of their facilities to help valorize my research. I believe these factors will be important in achieving success of the goal of my PhD project in addition to the growth of my skill-set and academic growth.
Current research looks at using solid state materials, such as silicon nitride, to separate charge. A high energy electron beam can then be used to create a nanopore in the solid state support. When a voltage is applied, this drives charged species through the pore, establishing a constant current. Occupation of the pore by different biomarkers can induce unique changes in the current. This is ultimately a very useful technique for sensing applications. However, limitations of this include edge erosion and the inability to reproduce nanopores of the same size. Both of these factors make it difficult to obtain reproducible or consistent results.
My project looks at using the portal protein from thermophilic bacteriophage to create a hybrid nanopore to aid reproducibility of pore sizes < 5 nm due to specific protein folding. Using a portal protein adapter for this application also offers the opportunity to tune the pore diameter, or engineer the protein to include chemical groups which may have specific interactions with biomarkers or water pollutants which would induce an event of unique current change and dwell time (amount of time the pore is occupied for). To conclude, I hope to create a basic hybrid nanopore which can then be fine-tuned to create a toolbox of nanopore scaffolds with varying properties which can be used for various biotechnological applications.