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Prestigious Fellowship awarded for academic to map viruses

Leverhulme Trust Fellowship

16 June 2014

The microscopic world of viruses and their structures is set to be explored in detail by an Aston scientist who has secured a major engineering research scholarship. 

Dr Dmitry Nerukh is one of only seven engineering researches in the UK to receive the RAEng Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship for his ongoing work into modelling living structures at the atomic level. 

The award is reserved for engineers judged to be conducting important research and will allow Dr Nerukh to concentrate full-time on his study. 

The project has been made possible by new advances in microscopic molecular measurement technology, which enables scientists to look deeper into living organisms, such as viruses. Dr Nerukh intends to map their structure and then simulate their behaviour with computer models. 

For his work to be biologically and medically useful, however, simulation of organisms needs to include the effects created by water, which is present in and around all living entities. It must also span a relatively long time interval to allow proper observation of their behaviour. 

Using a recently developed ‘personal supercomputer', Dr Nerukh will model both molecular dynamics and continuum fluid dynamics to simulate an entire living virus and investigate the workings of its protective protein shell among other processes. 

Dr Nerukh, of Aston’s Non-linearity and Complexity Research Group, said: “I am delighted to have been awarded the Fellowship. It is a great honour and will me concentrate on and further my research over the next year. Everyone working on the study is very enthusiastic and at peak productivity. 

“We have very big plans for this project. Using our hybrid molecular dynamics and hydrodynamics approach, we hope to directly benefit the biomolecular research community by producing a tool that could help determine, for example, which interactions hold a virus’s shell together.” 

The project is collaboration between Dr Nerukh and four other researchers across the world, including Professor Makoto Taiji, of the Yokohama RIKEN Institute in Japan, who will coordinate the group. The RAEng Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship will permit Dr Nerukh to spend considerable time in Japan working closely with Professor Taiji. 

The Fellowship will cover the salary costs of a replacement academic for Dr Nerukh for the duration of the one-year project.

The Leverhulme Trust was founded in 1925 to provide grants and scholarships for research and education. It is one of the largest providers of academic funding in the UK, distributing over £60m a year.

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For further media information, please contact Jonathan Garbett, Aston University Communications on 0121 204 4552 or j.garbett@aston.ac.uk