Based at the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

Chemical Biology of the Genome and the Epigenome

Applications are invited for a 4-year PhD studentship in the group led by Professor Sir Shankar Balasubramanian, on a multidisciplinary project exploiting both chemistry and biology to explore fundamental mechanisms of genome function (  We seek a creative and enthusiastic PhD student to work on one of our two primary research goals. The first area is the investigation of the structure and function of DNA (and RNA) secondary structures called G-quadruplexes. Studies both in vitroand in cells suggest G-quadruplexes may be important for the control of transcription, translation and other key processes in biology. We employ cutting edge technologies in chemical biology, molecular biophysics, structural biology, cell biology and genomics to explore mechanisms involving G-quadruplexes, with an emphasis on intervention strategies for cancer [e.g. see Nature Biotechnology 2023,; Nature Chemistry 2021, 13, 626–633; Trends in Chemistry, 2020, 2:2, 123-136; Nature, 2018, 558, 465]. The second area investigates base modifications in nucleic acids. The DNA alphabet includes natural chemical modifications to DNA bases that can change the structure, recognition and function of the DNA. Our research aims to elucidate these modifications and their effects on the folded structure of DNA, protein-DNA interactions and the assembly of nucleosomes with the goal of explaining how and why this modulates function in cells and organisms.  We employ and develop chemical, physical, biological and genomic approaches to map and to gain mechanistic insights into modified base function in human, mouse and parasite genomes [e.g. see: J. Am. Chem. Soc, 2023, 10505; J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2020, 21484; Nature Chemistry, 2019, 11, 629; Nature Chemistry, 2018, 10, 1258;].

This position will be primarily based in the Balasubramanian lab in the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry and will involve collaborative interactions with the group’s lab, at the CRUK Cambridge Institute.

Applicants must have (or expect to obtain) at least the equivalent of a UK upper second-class Master’s degree in a chemical or biological discipline that is relevant to the project. Ideally, the candidate will have a strong background in organic chemistry and/or chemical biology.  A good knowledge of nucleic acid chemistry and/or molecular biology methods is desirable. Motivation, creativity and intellectual independence are desirable as are excellent communication skills with the ability to work collaboratively.

The studentship commences in October 2024 and provides a maintenance grant and tuition fees at the UK rate.  Non-UK applicants will only be considered if they are able to fund the overseas fees differential or if they are awarded a suitable scholarship.

To apply, please email a cover letter, CV, detailed academic transcripts and the contact details for at least two academic referees to:  Jo Lockhart, Balasubramanian Group Science Administrator (email:, including ‘PhD – Chemistry’ in the subject.

Your cover letter should explain why you wish to be considered for the studentship and describe thequalities and experience you will bring to the role. Please also state how you learned of the studentship.

For queries regarding the post, please contact Jo Lockhart at