University of Cambridge

Job Opportunities


PhD Studentship: Chemical Structure of Bone

Applications are invited for a 4-year BBSRC-funded PhD studentship in the research group led by Professor Melinda Duer on a multi-disciplinary project which aims to design and construct a chemical systems model of bone with which to understand the key extracellular matrix signals that control bone development and remodelling (see e.g. Chow et al, Science, 344 (2014) 742-746 and Davies et al, PNAS, 111 (2014) E1354-E1363). The design of the bone matrix model will be informed at the molecular level by solid-state NMR spectroscopy of native, intact bone, including multi-dimensional NMR spectroscopy on 13C, 15N-labelled bone, at the nanoscopic level by TEM and AFM, and at the microscopic level by state-of-the-art optical imaging techniques.

The development of bone is a highly complex process involving proteolytic removal of the initial cartilage model of bone and gradual replacement with a collagen type I matrix which is progressively calcified. The temporal and spatial sequence of the steps is critical to proper bone formation and is as yet poorly understood, primarily because of the difficulty in monitoring chemical structures over time with sufficient spatial resolution to identify key points in the process. The chemical systems model will give us control over the matrix composition and nano/micro-architectures, so that we can generate insight into how these parameters interact with osteoblasts and osteoclasts in bone development and remodelling. We will use these same physical characterisation techniques to follow how bone cells in vitro change the matrix structure in response to different stimuli, e.g. extent of hypoxia, concentration of glucose etc..

Further information about research in the Duer group is available at

Applicants must have (or expect to obtain) at least the equivalent of a UK upper second class honours degree (and preferably a Masters) in chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics, molecular biology or other relevant discipline. The studentship provides a maintenance grant and tuition fees at the UK/EU rate. Applicants must satisfy the eligibility and residence requirements of the UK Research Councils. Owing to restrictions imposed by the sponsor, non-EU citizens cannot be considered.

Applications should include a cover letter, CV, detailed academic transcripts and the contact details for at least two academic referees, and should be sent by email to Professor Duer (, to whom any informal enquiries can be addressed.

If you wish to be considered for any other available studentships in the Chemistry Department, you must also apply online via the University Applicant Portal and complete the Chemistry Department Application form (further information at Please note the earlier application deadline and that there is an application fee.

Information about all research in the Department of Chemistry is given at:

Please quote reference MA13835 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.