Daum Group

Welcome to our group!

We employ the method of electron cryo-microscopy (cryoEM) to determine the structure and function of molecular machines and assemblies, which form the very fabric of life.

Our research will provide important new insights into the inner workings of cells and also inform new ways to re-engineer biomolecules for novel applications in nanotechnology and drug delivery. 

Our Research



Many bacteria and most archaea are enveloped in S-layers, protective lattices of proteins. These S-layers define both the cell’s shape and periplasmic space and play essential roles in cell division, adhesion, biofilm formation, protection against harsh environments and phages and comprise important virulence factors in pathogenic bacteria. We investigate the structure S-layers in order to gain a deeper understanding into their function and to explore how these fascinating protein lattices can be engineered into novel materials in nanotechnology and drug delivery.


Microorganisms use a variety of filaments that extend up to several micrometers from the cell surface. These filaments have a wide spectrum of functions essential to microbial life: They enable cells to move, adhere to surfaces, and interact with each other and their environment. These filaments are controlled by molecular machines that are anchored to the cell membrane and drive their assembly and motion. Our lab uses cryoEM to study the structure and function of these filaments and the molecular machines that control them. Our work will shed new light on microbial biology and has important implications for drug development and synthetic biology.


Using electron cryo-tomography, we investigate how tiny eukaryotic parasites called microsporidia infect animal and human cells.

Our work will provide new insights into how to combat infectious diseases at the molecular level.


Dormancy is an essential developmental process in many organisms, including bacteria, plants, fungi, and animals. We study the cellular process of dormancy in eukaryotes and the role that ribosomes play within it.

Our work will shed new light on how ribosomes are switched off as cells transition into dormancy and how ribosomes are reactivated again when the cells “reawaken” from dormancy.


Unlocking the molecular mechanisms governing stem cell dormancy 

Dormancy is a biological phenomenon whereby cells reduce their metabolism to a minimum. It is a survival strategy that helps cells and organisms endure unfavourable environmental conditions. Moreover, dormancy is a hallmark of developmental processes across the biological spectrum – from plant seeds and fungal spores to the pausing of developmental stages in mammals, for example, certain stem cells. In many forms of cancer, dormancy enables the formation of metastasis and renders cancer cells resistant to therapy, which greatly limits the success of treatment. Thus, studying the molecular mechanisms that govern dormancy is paramount to understanding how organisms develop and design new strategies to treat cancer.    

In this exciting interdisciplinary PhD project, you will work at the interface of two diverse research groups (Daum and Smith), housed at the Living Systems Institute of the University of Exeter. You will use a multimodal approach to investigate the molecular mechanisms of dormancy in mammalian embryonic stem cells. You will focus on the ribosome and study how it is put into a “hibernation” mode in dormant cells. By employing electron cryo-tomography, you will solve the structure of the hibernating ribosome inside dormant cells and determine the “hibernation factors” that deactivate the ribosome during dormancy. By cutting-edge proteomics and RNA sequencing, you will examine how changing the expression of these hibernation factors modulates the activity of the ribosome as the cell transitions into and out of dormancy. Finally, you will use modern genetic modification techniques to knock out or overexpress the hibernation factors. By investigating these mutants with live cell imaging, you will study whether knocking out ribosome hibernation factors can prevent cellular dormancy and if their expression induces or enhances it. The discoveries that you will make will reshape our comprehension of stem cells and their relationship to cancer, and guide the development of better cancer treatment options.

This project is the ideal opportunity to work in a truly interdisciplinary, diverse, and inclusive research team. You will collaborate with experts across fields, blending biology, imaging, bioinformatics and artificial intelligence to decipher living systems. You will acquire expertise in cutting-edge techniques, which will place you at the forefront of research into life’s most fundamental processes. You will make impactful discoveries, which will shape our understanding of stem cell dormancy and gain insights that have the potential to facilitate a step change in the way we understand embryonic development and cure disease. 

To find out more about the Daum Group check out our website: daumlab.exeter.ac.uk

If you are interested in the project, feel free to contact us via email: b.daum2@exeter.ac.uk