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Department of Chemistry

Enantiomeric discrimination of odorants

Research division: Chemistry
First supervisor: Dr Maria Sanz
Second supervisor:  Professor Philip Blower
Sponsor:  School of Biomedical Sciences
Duration:  4 year
Study mode: Full time
Eligibility: Home/EU students
Stipend: £15,740
Start date:  Aug-Sep 2013
Application closing date: 10 April 2013
Reference: 13/CHEM/S02

Project description

Chirality plays a central role in many biological interactions. One of the most intriguing examples involves our sense of smell. There are enantiomers that smell differently while others have the same odour. These different responses to enantiomers are puzzling and refer to a most fundamental question that is still unsolved: how does the human olfactory system recognize an odorant? What are the molecular mechanisms by which odorants are identified? Enantiomers constitute interesting models to explore the factors that determine receptor response. A recent hypothesis related enantiomeric discrimination to molecular flexibility, proposing that flexible enantiomers that are able to sample a wide range of conformations would be perceived differently by the human olfactory system while those with rigid structures would smell the same. We will test this hypothesis by investigating the conformational space of several enantiomers that produce different responses from olfactory receptors. We will also investigate how the conformational space of the isolated enantiomer is modified by interactions with olfactory receptors by studying complexes of these enantiomers with mimics of amino acid residues.

The successful applicant will benefit from working on a project that lies at the intersection of chemistry, molecular physics, and biology and he/she will gain expertise in spectroscopy and molecular modelling.


This project is open to home/EU students only.

Candidates must possess, or expected to achieve, a 1st or 2:1 class degree in Chemistry or closely related subject.

How to apply

Applicants should apply using the King's online application form.

Please ensure in the Research Proposal Section, to add ‘Dr Sanz’ in the supervisor’s ‘Name’ field and quote the reference 13/CHEM/S02 in the field 'Brief synopsis of your research proposal'. Please also state the project title, ‘Enantiomeric discrimination of odorants’ where requested.

When completing the application form please do the following to ensure that you apply for the right programme/studentship:

  • Under ‘type of programme’ choose ‘Research degrees’
  • Enter ‘Chemistry’ in the keyword box and click ‘search’.
  • From the list displayed select ‘Department of Chemistry MPhil/PhD (Full-time)’

Please include a copy of your CV, two references and a statement indicating why you are interested in this project with your application.

IMPORTANT Please ensure that you quote reference number 13/CHEM/S02 under ‘Research proposal’ and specify Dr Maria Sanz as the supervisor. Please also quote the reference number 13/CHEM/S02 in the funding section under question 4d.

The deadline for applications is Wednesday, 10th April 2013.

Further information

For further information, please contact Dr Maria Sanz.

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