PhD (University of Queensland)
Zhenling Cui completed her Ph.D. in Chemical and Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland under the supervision of Professor Kirill Alexandrov in 2016. She received Dean’s award for outstanding higher Degree by research and got the opportunity to extend her research expertise in the same group. She joined QUT in 2019. Zhenling’s research interest lies in the field of protein engineering, synthetic biology and genetic code expansion technology. Her previous research had focused on exploiting redundancy of the genetic code in order to productively hijack the natural protein translation machinery, with the proof of concept centred on site-selective non-natural amino acids incorporation in vitro. She had made significant contributions primarily to understanding the role of synthetic transfer RNAs (tRNAs) and their usage in terms of adapting the connection between sense codons and various unnatural amino acids with bio-orthogonal groups for future application in producing cyclized peptides, antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) and probes for structural conformation analysis. Zhenling’s current research focus on 1) establishing an in vitro display platform with extended chemistry beyond the 20 canoncial amino acids for discovery of new constrained peptides; 2) application of the developed sense codon reassignment methodology from E. coli to a eukaryotic cell free translation system, which will serve as an essential platform to produce more complicated proteins including GPCRs with useful handles for various future applications, such as for biosensor construction.