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School of Physical and Chemical Sciences

Ion permeation, gating and pharmacology in K2P channels studied with computational methods

Research Group: Chemistry
Number of Students: 1
Length of Study in Years: 3.5 years
Full-time Project: yes


  • Available to Home and overseas applicants.
  • Applicant required to start in September 2024.
  • This studentship is fully funded via the UKRI EPSRC Doctoral Training Programme for 3.5 years and includes a stipend (currently £20,622 in 2023/2024) and Fees.
  • The project is open to home and international students.  International students, however, the number of students with International fee status which can be recruited is capped according to the EPSRC terms and conditions so competition for International places is particularly strong.


Project Description

K2P (KCNK) channels form a family of potassium channels that is responsible for the ‘leak’ current in cells, and plays a role in many important cellular processes. K2P channels have been recently recognized as important drug targets, however their pharmacology remains underdeveloped. K2P channels are gated by a wide array of cues, for example lipids, pH, voltage or mechanical force, and display a variety of gating mechanisms, depending on a specific channel, but their molecular inner workings remain poorly understood. In this project, molecular dynamics/computational electrophysiology simulations will be applied to characterise ion permeation and gating mechanisms in several K2P channels (TASK-1, TASK-2, TWIK-1) on the molecular level. This knowledge will be then used in a search for novel modulators of these channels, combining molecular docking and free energy calculations to effectively navigate the chemical space. Close collaboration with experimental groups is expected. The successful candidate has a keen interest in computational molecular biophysics, physical chemistry, statistical mechanics and biocomputing.

 Research environment

Dr. Kopec’s lab is a newly established group at the Department of Chemistry at the QMUL and focuses on developing and applying computational chemistry/biophysics methods to study ion transport across biological and synthetic membranes and membrane channels. The group primarily uses computational electrophysiology simulations, to uncover the inner workings of these proteins, and free energy calculations for the optimization and search of small molecules regulating them. Recent contributions from the lab involve the discovery of the novel mechanism of ion selectivity in potassium channels (Kopec et al., Nature Chemistry 2018, Mironenko et al., 2023), the mechanism of gate coupling (Kopec et al., Nature Communications) or the mechanism of selectivity filter gating (Kopec et al., JGP 2023). The group collaborates closely with several experimental experts, in e.g. electrophysiology, solid-state NMR (Öster et al., Science Advances 2019, Öster et al., JACS 2022) and structural biology (Roy et al., IUCrJ 2021).


  • The minimum requirement for this studentship opportunity is a good Honours degree (minimum 2(i) honours or equivalent) or MSc/MRes in a relevant discipline.
  • If English is not your first language you will require a valid English certificate equivalent to IELTS 6.5+ overall with a minimum score of 6.0 in Writing and 5.5 in all sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking).

Supervisor Contact Details:

For informal enquiries about this position, please contact Dr. Wojciech Kopec


Application Method:

To apply for this studentship and for entry on to the Chemistry programme (Full Time) please follow the instructions detailed on the following webpage:

Deadline for applications: 31st of January 2024

SPCS Academics: Dr. Wojciech Kopec