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Synthetic biology: catalysis inside protein cages


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Nature is a master of self-assembly, constructing functional nanoscale architectures from simple protein building blocks. Using synthetic chemistry, we can harness the power of self-assembling proteins to create new architectures for catalysis.


Dr Yu Heng Lau.

Research location

School of Chemistry

Program type



We have several projects available that involve chemical modification of encapsulins, bacterial proteins that spontaneously assemble into hollow ~30 nm shells (see Nat. Commun. 2018, 9, 1311). A unique feature of encapsulins is their ability to house other molecules, in a targeted binding process that is mediated by a simple peptide tag. These projects will involve creating nano-sized reaction vessels by functionalising the interior of these shells with synthetic molecules. These encapsulin compartments will then be probed in a range of functional assays to establish new applications in catalysis and synthetic biology.

This project is in collaboration with Dr Tobias Giessen (University of Michigan, USA).

Additional information

These projects are suited for students who are interested in the interface between chemistry and biology. Previous experience in organic chemistry or molecular biology is desirable. Feel free to contact Dr Lau to learn more about the project, the application process, and potential funding opportunities.

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

  • Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
  • Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
  • Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
  • Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
  • Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
  • Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
  • Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
  • Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
  • Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
  • Hold a current scuba diving license;
  • Hold a current Working with Children Check;
  • Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

Want to find out more?

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2400

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