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Department of Biochemistry


We welcome applications from potential PhD students. Most PhDs in the UK commence on the 1st of October. All applicants should start out by looking at the application information. There is more information there about fees and funding and the application procedure.

UK/EU Students

For home students, their are a number of research council funded studentships available e.g. BBSRC ( and MRC ( The deadline for applications for these studentships is around December the year before. There are also Departmental and University studentships available which have a similar deadline. If you are eligible for one of these studentships, get in touch with us by email and come for a visit to discuss projects. 

Overseas Students

For overseas applicants the deadline for competitive scholarships administered through the University of Cambridge is December the year before the starting date. See the Graduate Admissions website. which includes a section on fees and funding. for information about the different scholarships available and the application procedures.

Current projects

The main focus of our lab lies in investigating interactions between small G proteins and their downstream effectors and in studying the effectors themselves, using structural as well as functional analyses. We have many different projects underway in this general area, for example:

Ras family: Ral and its effector RLIP76/RalBP1.

We have recently published the structure of the Ral binding domain of RLIP76 and the complex that it forms with RalB. We have also published the structure and dynamics of RalB itself. We are continuing to investigate the structure and interactions of RLIP76 to try to understand the mechanism of action of this important protein.

Rho family: Rac1, RhoA, RhoB, Cdc42 and the effectors ACK1, IQGAP and PRK1.

We have a long-standing interest in the Rho family and have published several papers on the complexes formed between Cdc42 and the kinases ACK1 (a tyrosine kinase) and PAK (a serine/threonine kinase). More recently we have also begun to investigate the interactions of ACK1 with other molecules. We have worked on IQGAP, an effector of Rac1 and Cdc42 that contains a RasGAP-like domain which has no GAP activity in collaboration with David Sacks (NIH). Finally, we solved the structure of the HR1b domain from the serine/threonine kinase PRK1 in complex with Rac1 and found that the interaction required the C-terminal polybasic region of Rac1, which has never been found in a small G protein interaction before. Our interest in coiled-coil effectors of the HR1 domain type continues and we are studying a number of HR1 domains and their interactions with the Rho family.

Peptide Inhibitors.

We have used some of our structural information to generate stapled peptides that inhibit small G proteins. These peptides have been validated biophysically and in cell-based assays. We have also generated peptides from cis-display screens that inhibit Rho family G proteins and have used screens to enhance the binding of our stapled peptides.

Techniques in use in the laboratory

Some of the techniques that we use are: NMR, scintillation proximity assays, isothermal titration calorimetry, fluorescence (stopped flow and steady state), tissue culture, circular dichroism, analytical ultracentrifugation, site-directed mutagenesis, protein expression (bacterial and baculovirus), Western blot, co-immunoprecipitation, X-ray crystallography.

If you are most interested in structural biology and biochemistry apply to Helen Mott. If you are more interested doing cell biology, apply to Darerca Owen. All students are supervised by both of us in practice but by one of us officially.

Contact details

Research Group Leader  Helen Mott


Location  Sanger Building


Research Group Leader  Darerca Owen


Location  Sanger Building


The Mott and Owen Group is accepting enquiries from prospective interns, undergraduate students, postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers.