Prof Simon Turner BSc, PhD

George Harrison Professor

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Funded PhD studentship

How plants create a nanoscale highways in their cell membrane

Professor Simon Turner

University of Manchester

Faculty of Biology Medicine and Health

Rapidly changing weather patterns have made the impact of climate change increasingly obvious. Cellulose is the planet’s most abundant bio-polymer and represents our largest resource of renewable feedstock that can be used to make a variety of different bulk products including biofuels, chemicals and biomaterials. It represents the only current viable alternative to products that are at present derived from fossil fuels, particularly oil, and has the potential to replace many of our oil-based products with the ones that are biodegradable and produced with little, or no, net CO2 emissions.

Cellulose is composed of glucose chains bound together to form rigid microfibrils that are essential for all aspects of plant growth.  It is synthesised by a large complex that is driven through the plasma membrane as it extrudes a growing microfibril. Allowing unimpeded movement of the complex is essential to a cell’s ability to accommodate this process while also maintaining plasma membrane integrity. This proposal will test the hypothesis that protein modification organises membrane partitions that are essential for unimpeded movement of the complex.  Understanding this process will improve our ability to alter plant growth and/or utilise cellulose for bioprocessing.

The overall project is a multidisciplinary approach that uses molecular genetics, proteomics and live cell imaging to study protein post translational modification and its effect on protein localisation in the membrane. This involves the latest techniques including proximity labelling and use of the most up to date and sensitive mass spectrometers and microscopes to study protein organisation within the cell. The PhD student will work with an experienced research associate also funded on this project, but will be responsible for their own particular objectives.

The project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the PhD student is funded for 4 years. The start date is the end of September 2020, but a later start dates may be possible. Further information and informal enquires may be made to Professor Simon Turner (, Application should be made online, further information can be found at

To ensure full consideration application should arrive by August 19th, but applications after this date will be considered if the position is not filled.