Medicine: Fully funded Cardiff/Swansea (BBSRC SWBio DTP) PhD Studentship: Interplay between cholesterol homeostasis and neural development

Closing date: 7 December 2020

Key Information

This studentship is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) as part of the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP).

Start date: October 2021

Subject areas: Neurodevelopment, neural stem cell, cholesterol metabolism, mass spectrometry, hedgehog signalling

Supervisors:

The brain is the most cholesterol rich organ in the body. Cholesterol is an essential structural molecule in cell membranes, a major component of myelin sheaths and is important for synapse formation. Inborn errors of cholesterol biosynthesis lead to neurodevelopmental defects, in addition altered cholesterol homeostasis has been linked to neurodevelopment disorders, including autism. Mounting evidence argues that neurodevelopment defects cannot be simply explained by alterations in the steady state level of cholesterol per se. Indeed, cholesterol precursors and metabolites display biological activities towards signalling pathways that are important for neural development, e.g. hedgehog signalling. Little is known about what type of sterols are produced during human neural development and what roles they play. It is also important to find out how neuronal cells regulate their cholesterol homeostasis during different developmental stages.

This studentship will combine state-of-the-art neural stem cell technology (Cardiff) and advanced mass spectrometry (Swansea) to address these questions. The student will benefit from a multidisciplinary collaboration of two leading laboratories. She/he will learn how to differentiate cortical neurons from human stem cells, immunostaining and imaging analysis of neural cell markers. He/she will also learn how to identify and quantify sterol molecules using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. The student will also be trained in other modern molecular biology techniques to study gene expression, protein-DNA interactions and protein-protein interactions.

We want to support diverse and inclusive work environments. We therefore welcome applications from individuals regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, gender, or disability status. We welcome applications from individuals who have previously studied at any recognised Higher Education Institute and from a range of career paths (please refer to the SWBio DTP academic criteria for eligibility), including individuals who have previously trained in the sciences and are wanting to return to scientific research.

Eligibility

Academic criteria

Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a Master’s degree or have significant relevant non-academic experience.

In addition, due to the strong mathematical component of the taught course in the first year and the quantitative emphasis in our projects, a minimum of a grade B in A-level Maths or an equivalent qualification or experience is required.

We would normally expect the academic and English Language requirements (IELTS 6.5 overall with 5.5 in each component) to be met by point of application. For details on the University’s English Language entry requirements, please visit – http://www.swansea.ac.uk/admissions/english-language-requirements/

Equivalent qualifications/experience

Physics A-level (grade B and above). Undertaking units as part of your degree that have a significant mathematical component (significant mathematical component examples include; maths, statistics, bioinformatics).

Applicants must ensure they highlight their Maths background within their application and to upload any supporting evidence.

Residence criteria

This studentship is open to students of any nationality.

Please visit the SWBio website for further information.

Funding

A fully funded four-year SWBio DTP studentship will cover:

  • a stipend (at the standard UKRI rate; £15,285 per annum for 2020/21)
  • research and training costs
  • tuition fees (at the standard UKRI rate)
  • additional funds to support fieldwork, conferences and a 3-month internship

How to Apply

To apply, go to the SWBio DTP website and click on the Cardiff link for application guidance and links to the application form.

All applications should include a fully completed application form, CV, a transcript of module marks and two references. 

The application deadline for this studentship is midnight, Monday 7 December 2020.