Hamish Swanson

Project Title: A Joint Computational and Synthetic Approach for Directed Discovery of “Peptoid” Self-assembly of Bio-nano-materials.

Self-assembling materials, found throughout nature, form complex structures from simple building blocks. This behaviour is often brought about in response to environmental stimuli, e.g., changes in temperature. Self-assembly gives rise to the structure of cells and viruses; among countless other components of biological systems on all size scales. A deeper understanding of this phenomena is the first step towards the informed design of self-assembling materials and would mark a great advance for biotechnology.

I propose to use computational methods to screen for self-assembling materials, this alongside practical verification, will identify interesting materials from large data sets. From these, key material design principles may be discerned. Materials which can be simply edited and prepared will make expedited discovery possible. Peptoids, which mimic peptides the building blocks of all life, fit this requirement well.

Peptoids may move freely in biological systems without stimulating an immune response and are resistant to break-down by enzymes; these are attractive features for biotechnological applications. Peptoids are also promising antimicrobial materials and this activity paired with self-assembly presents a novel approach to developing such materials. Optimising material design for this function will represent success for this work and address the global concern of antimicrobial resistance.

Awarded: Carnegie PhD Scholarship

Field: Chemistry

University: University of Strathclyde

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