Department of Biological and Medical Sciences

The Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership

  • The Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) programme is a 4-year DPhil*/PhD programme that aims to equip a new generation of researchers with the skills and knowledge needed to tackle the most important challenges in bioscience research.

    We provide an innovative, individually-tailored training programme that includes taught courses in interdisciplinary skills and the opportunity for students to undertake two exploratory research projects with prospective supervisors in their first year before choosing their main 3-year research project. Students also undertake a 12-week professional internship to gain direct experience of the areas of work into which they can apply their skills.

    Oxford Brookes University are offering places on the BBSRC funded DTP within the Department of Biological & Medical Sciences in the areas of plant cell biology, virology, insect and spider development, mammalian cell biology, molecular biology, metabolic modelling/systems biology, parasitology and bioimaging. The successful candidates will enjoy access to our state of the art facilities, including newly refurbished laboratories and bioimaging suite.

    In addition to their choice of PhD project at Oxford Brookes University, the student will be able to undertake their exploratory research projects at any of the seven world-class research institutions that make up the DTP:

    The programme is supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) with additional support from within the Partnership.

    Please see below for potential supervisors and instructions on how to apply. 

    If you wish to apply to the DTP via Oxford Brookes University please complete the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences PhD Research Studentship Application Form (doc).

    Applications and CV must be posted to the address shown on the application form

    We have many projects available which can be taken as a short term (3-month) rotation or a full PhD project. These include but are not limited to the following projects:

    Prof Alistair McGregor (Oxford Brookes University) and Fritz Vollrath (Oxford University). Title: Investigating the genetic regulation and cellular processes underlying limb regeneration in spiders.

    Limb regeneration in spiders is an intriguing adaptation affecting their fitness through traits such as web building, hunting and sensory perception. However, nothing is known about the genetic regulation and cellular mechanisms involved. This project will identify and characterise the genes that regulate limb regeneration in spiders and study how new cells are generated and differentiate. This research will therefore not only reveal the genetics and cellular processes involved in regeneration in spiders but provide new comparative insights into regenerative mechanisms in animals more broadly.

    Dr Barbara Jennings: Mechanisms of gene repression by Groucho family proteins in development and disease

    The Groucho (Gro) family of transcriptional repressors includes Groucho in Drosophila and TLE proteins in humans. These proteins are essential for a diverse range of biological processes during embryogenesis including formation of the nervous system (neurogenesis) and generation of blood cells (haematopoiesis). In adult life Groucho family proteins are important for stem cell maintenance and have been implicated in the pathogenesis of several human cancers. We will use a combination of Drosophila genetics, CRISPR/cas9 technology, and biochemistry to determine the molecular mechanisms underlying gene regulation by Groucho family proteins and investigate how their function may be targeted to benefit human health.

    Dr Dave Carter: The role of extracellular vesicles in stress response

    Cells that become stressed have several mechanisms to help them survive. Fascinatingly, cells that are stressed also signal to neighbouring cells, which causes the neighbours to also become stressed. We have shown that this signalling, which may be a defensive mechanism to help the organism survive, is mediated by extracellular vesicles (EVs). EVs are small vesicles that carry macromolecular cargo and are emerging as important regulators of biological function. Here we will investigate the molecular mechanisms by which EVs can be used by cells in a multicellular organism to coordinate a global stress response. 

    Dr Hector Herranz: Understanding the growth regulatory role of the microRNA bantam

    How growth is controlled is a crucial question in biology. However, we still have little understanding about the mechanisms regulating tissue size during animal development. MicroRNAs are small noncoding RNAs that modulate the activity of target genes and play pivotal roles in development. Understanding the growth regulatory functions of microRNAs requires the identification of their target genes. bantam was the first miRNA identified in Drosophila and is a potent inducer of tissue growth. However, how bantam controls growth is still not understood. We plan to use Drosophila to elucidate the gene regulatory networks regulated by bantam to control animal growth.

    Dr Jack Sunter: Understanding the shape and form of Leishmania

    The Sunter lab studies the eukaryotic parasite, Leishmania that causes the devastating disease leishmaniasis that affects millions of people worldwide. A fascinating aspect of Leishmania cell biology is the different shapes and forms this parasite displays during its life cycle. In the lab we are interesting in understanding the function of these different shapes. We use a combination of cutting edge genetic technologies such as CRISPR with three dimensional electron microscopy techniques and high resolution light microscopy to investigate the function of proteins required for maintaining, regulating and changing cell shape and form.

    Dr Jordi Solana: The use of single-cell RNA-seq to identify stem cells

    Single-cell transcriptomics will revolutionize the study of stem cells in vivo as they allow the characterization of stem cells and their differentiation output in a single experiment. We have recently shown this in the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea, which contains stem cells that continuously differentiate into all adult cell types. We plan to use a combination of single-cell sequencing techniques and perturbation experiments to learn about the regulators that trigger differentiation to different lineages in vivo. By measuring changes in the differentiation output these experiments will allow us to understand how stem cell differentiation is orchestrated in vivo.

    Dr Ravinder Kanda: Genome Evolution

    A PhD project is available to investigate genome evolution by bioinformatic comparison of multiple individual genome sequences. Question of interest revolve around elucidating the various evolutionary forces that have shaped the genome. Our group combines bioinformatics, genomics molecular evolution, population genetics and modelling techniques to study the various evolutionary forces that have shaped the genome. Ideally, this project would suit a student with a Genetics background and a keen motivation to learn bioinformatics, or a computing/programming/bioinformatic background, with a keen interest in Evolution/Genetics.

    Prof Sue Vaughan: Investigating the formation of the flagellum of Trypanosoma brucei

    Prof Sue Vaughan’s lab work on a protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei which causes African sleeping sickness in Humans and Nagana in Cattle. Motility is important for the parasite and the lab investigates how the flagellum is assembled and maintained using a range of molecular tools such as RNAi and CRISPR. Her lab specialises in novel three dimensional ultrastructural microscopy such as cellular electron tomography and serial block face scanning electron microscopy. In this project the student will investigate the role of genes involved in growth of the flagellum and will use the full range of both molecular and cutting edge microscopy techniques.

    Dr Verena Kriechbaumer: Linking structure and function of the plant endoplasmic reticulum

    A great proportion of the planet’s food supply for proteins and carbohydrates is produced and transported through the plant secretory pathway. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a major factory for protein and lipid synthesis, quality control, and export. The ER forms a highly dynamic network structure composed of sheets and tubules.

    The Plant Endomembrane Group has identified various proteins involved in this complex organization of the ER network. The network structure is of great interest in tackling global research challenges in food security, issues related to climate change and crop improvement. Linking structure and function is therefore a major aim.

    Deadline for receipt of applications for first round is 12 noon on 17th November 2017

    Deadline for receipt of applications for second round is 12 noon on 18th January 2018

    Eligibility criteria: only open to UK applicatns (who must be resident in UK)

    Start date: September / October 2018

    Bursary: £14,553 for academic year 2018/19

    Applicants require a good Honours degree level equivalent to a UK degree BSc (minimum 2.1 or higher).

    Any queries please contact:

    Dr David Carter: dcarter@brookes.ac.uk