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Researchers in the Academy of Primary Care

PhD scholarships

Current funded opportunities

Animal free alternatives to the study of nutrition in pregnancy

It’s never been more exciting or more important to study how the early mammalian embryo is formed. While we know lots about embryo development, we know surprisingly little about how development occurs within the body – and that which we do know has relied heavily on research using animals. However, we now have developed a cutting edge model of the reproductive environment that has no reliance on animal tissue. We now want to find you, the next expert in early development to undertake a fully-funded project that will examine how the female tract modulates mammalian embryo development, whilst reducing the reliance on animals in research. The project will be supported by a supervisory team with expertise in embryo development, cell biology and transcriptomics (Sturmey, Ruane, Stevens).

The project will model how the very first stages of embryonic development, from fertilisation through to implantation can be affected by nutritional changes in the reproductive tract. However, this important question will be tackled in a unique way, by validating methods to study nutrition in pregnancy without using animal models. We can say with some confidence that the conditions in which fertilisation and early development occurs can influence lifelong health, but this knowledge has been built on data generated from large numbers of studies using mice as a model species. The use of animal models has been unavoidable to date, however we have advanced a new organoid-based model of the female reproductive tract which may enable studies of the interaction between diet and early development to be carried out in vitro; vastly reducing the reliance on animal models. In this project, you will undertake vital studies on the physiology of our models of the female reproductive tract using advanced biochemical and transcriptomic analyses. Once completed, you will assess how the delivery of key nutrients by female reproductive tract is modified by conditions carefully designed to mimic poor diets. Finally, you will measure the impact of these modifications on early embryo physiology, using established biochemical and cell-based assays.

By the end of your PhD, you will have made significant discoveries in the field of periconceptual physiology and embryo development whilst advancing a critical new resource that will reduce the reliance on animals for such research. You will graduate with extremely strong laboratory skills and have established skill sets in analysis of transcriptomic ‘big data’ sets. Furthermore, you will develop a number of transferrable skills and clear understanding of how these can be applied to advance our understanding of early development.

Closing Date: 26 April 2024

Find out more and apply on findaPhD.com

Fully-funded MSc by Thesis in Biomedical Research

BEAT - A feasibility study to identify a biomarker of treatment frequency in neovascular age-related macular degeneration

Are you curious about research? Are you interested in ophthalmology, vascular biology, and precision medicine? Do you want to pursue a fully-funded MSc by Thesis in an environment supported by an excellent supervisory team?

If yes, this is the perfect opportunity for you. A fully funded MSc by Thesis funded by the Burgess Family and Friends. The funding covers fees at Home student rates, a UKRI-level stipend, and research costs. 

This is a research project on the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the UK , age-related macular degeneration (AMD). There are two types of AMD: dry-AMD and neovascular-AMD; also known as wet-AMD. Dry-AMD typically precedes wet-AMD and is associated with an increasing risk of conversion to wet-AMD over time. Approximately 40,000 people develop wet-AMD in the UK each year, with 25% developing wet-AMD in their second eye within 3 years.

As neovascularisation is the pathological driver of wet-AMD, inhibitors of VEGF are used as the standard treatment to slow disease progression. However, response to treatment and treatment intervals over time are variable amongst patients, which leads to increased burden to both patients and hospital eye services. The ability to predict a patient’s response to anti-VEGF treatment upon diagnosis of wet-AMD would help to manage patients’ expectations of their condition and help hospital eye services better manage patient care. For example, predicting those individuals who might require a high treatment frequency compared to those with a low treatment frequency to stabilise the disease.

This is exactly the challenge this project will aim to address. Under the supervision of Professor Gale, you will help with recruitment of a cohort including patients that require high or low frequency treatment and collect blood plasma. You will then analyse the collected samples for candidate vascular biomarkers in blood in the lab, under the supervision of Prof Lagos. By being a member of an interdisciplinary research team within the HYMS Experimental Medicine and Biomedicine group, you will gain experience in both designing and delivering a biomedical research study with tangible clinical benefits.

Closing Date: 14 April 2024

To find out more and apply, visit our MSc in Medical or Human Sciences (by thesis) page

Endogenous immune modulators in the pathophysiology of blood cancer

This fully-funded PhD project is ideal for candidates who have interest in immunology and blood malignancies. The focus will be on B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL), the most common subtype of ALL in adults.

Using advanced cell co-culture models, organoids, cutting-edge real time imaging, immunological techniques and by analysing clinical samples, you will first explore how endogenous immune modulators shape multicellular interactions between stromal cells, immune cells, and cancer cells in order to harness malignancy development. Training will also be provided in mouse disease models including in vivo imaging. Importantly, the mechanisms explored here may be relevant to blood malignancies beyond the context of B-ALL. This project builds on and extends the existing critical mass in immunology and haematology in the York Biomedical Research Institute and Centre of Blood Research.

Closing Date: 28 March 2024

Find out more and apply on findaphd.com

Mapping Drug-Parasite-Host Interactions to Overcome Leishmaniasis Treatment Failures

Applications are invited for a 4-year PhD to join an innovative research program aiming to revolutionize drug treatment paradigms for the neglected tropical disease leishmaniasis. 

Current leishmaniasis chemotherapies frequently fail due to suboptimal drug exposures at the infection site, allowing parasite subpopulations to survive and spread. The overarching goal is to investigate the role of drug distribution dynamics and Leishmania parasite dissemination in the emergence of clearance, persistence, and recurrent infection. This project will apply animal models and cutting-edge 3D liver and skin organotypic models mimicking visceral and cutaneous leishmaniasis microenvironments to map the spatiotemporal interplay between drug biodistribution, parasite burden, and host immune responses.

Closing Date: 28 March 2024

Find out more and apply on findaphd.com

Understanding immunological memory to malaria

An essential feature of the immune response to infectious pathogens is that it is enhanced by a second exposure. This outstanding mechanism of “remembering” previous exposures to a given pathogen, termed immunological memory, forms the basis for vaccination. Better understanding of the signals that regulate memory of B cells, white blood cells that produce antibodies, is key to develop improved vaccination regimes. However, studying the development of B cell memory is challenging as it requires identification and isolation of rare pathogen-specific B cells that exist often at very low frequencies. To circumvent this problem, we have generated novel genetic tools which allow tracking and isolating B cells specific to Plasmodium parasites (Perez-Mazliah et al., eLIFE, 2018), the pathogen that causes malaria. The successful candidate will combine this novel tool with cutting-edge transcriptomics, proteomics and transgenic mouse models to dissect novel mechanisms involved in the development of B cell memory.

Closing Date: 28 March 2024

Find out more and apply on findaphd.com

Understanding the interplay between acne treatment and the inflammasome

Acne is a very common, under researched area of high unmet clinical need and has a major impact on the patient’s quality of life. Isotretinoin remains the gold standard therapeutic for severe acne and while highly effective has important, potential physiological and psychological side effects and a mechanism of action that is poorly understood. This exciting fully-funded PhD project will explore the interplay between isotretinoin and innate immunity in acne as part of a fully funded, ongoing NIHR clinical trial running from 2023-2028, which aims to study a diverse patient cohort of acne patients receiving high and low doses of isotretinoin. The project will be supported by a supervisory team with expertise in skin biology, innate immunity and acne (Robinson, Boucher, Layton).

Closing Date: 28 March 2024

Find out more and apply on findaphd.com

Self-funded projects

If you would like to propose your own research project, we would be delighted to hear from you.

Supervisors will be happy to work with you to devise a project that can encompass your own research interest whilst still supporting the strategic research priorities of their own research group/centre and that of the Medical School.

Prior to submitting an application, please contact a potential supervisor directly to discuss possible supervision of a self-funded project leading to one of our postgraduate research degrees, including MSc by thesis.

Explore the areas of research in the and find the contact details for the academic members of staff.

Contact us

If you have any questions about any of our advertised projects, please contact the named supervisor in the first instance.

If you have any queries on how to apply or any other queries, please email: postgraduate@hyms.ac.uk