Project: Antifungal Molecular Harpoons

Antifungal Molecular Harpoons

Deadline 12 May – now closed for applications

Project description:
The project will investigate the antimicrobial effects of ‘molecular harpoons’. Research at the University has found that they preferentially attack fungal cells. We hypothesise that the mode of action, unlike currently available agents, is related to a fungal-specific component of the cell membrane called ergosterol. I am currently investigating the structure-activity relationship between the chemical composition of the harpoons and the order to which the fungi belong.

Research will comprise biological tests (disk diffusion and minimal inhibitory concentration determinations) on the molecular harpoons and their enzymic breakdown products. This opportunity also provides the option to observe/undertake some organic synthesis and molecular modelling.

By carrying out these tests we will be able to determine the antifungal effects of a range of molecular harpoons and assign chemical characteristics to those who show promising preliminary results. This will allow us to find a group of compounds which are most effective and be able to give reasons as to why they are effective.

The student who undertakes this project will be mentored through tasks such as collecting and analysing data, carrying out microbiological tests, organic synthesis (optional) and computational modelling (optional).

The project crosses the boundaries between chemistry and biology, computer prediction and lipidomics, and will demonstrate the interconnectivity of scientific disciplines to the student.

I, Georgia, am a first-generation female PhD student in science who wants to encourage students who are also from underrepresented groups to work with me on this project to gain invaluable research experience beyond their degree.

Tasks and activities to be undertaken by the UG/PGT student:
Tasks will include:

  • disk diffusion/inhibition tests
  • minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) tests

Optional tasks will include:

  • computer modelling and property prediction
  • organic synthesis

Experience and knowledge required/desired:

  • Microbiological skills useful but not essential as training will be provided
  • Basic (GCSE) chemical knowledge
  • Basic laboratory experience and the ability to work safely in a laboratory
  • Some knowledge of Excel would be useful

Skills, knowledge, experience to be gained:

  • How to test a hypothesis
  • How to undertake research in a microbiology laboratory
  • How to prepare and test samples
  • How to record and interpret results from research


  • How to design and undertake simple chemical synthesis
  • How to use programs to visualise molecules and predict their properties

Project lead: Georgia Whitehand,

School: Applied Sciences