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3 Year PhD studentship to study the molecular mechanisms of visceral pain

   Department of Pharmacology

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  Prof Ewan St John Smith  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Sensory neurones detect touch, temperature, itch and pain, all of which are key to our ability to sense our external, as well as internal environment. Of all chronic pain syndromes, bowel pain conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), are some of the most difficult to treat. Consequently, there is great urgency to further understanding of the pain mechanisms in IBD and IBS to answer a significant unmet clinical need.

Based in the labs of Dr Ewan St. John Smith and Prof. Geoff Woods at the University of Cambridge, this project will use a combination of in vitro and in vivo techniques to further characterise the properties of sensory neurones innervating the bowel and the roles of key receptors they express.

This project funded by AstraZeneca is part of the MRC/Versus Arthritis “Advanced Pain Discovery Platform” ADVANTAGE consortium ADVANTAGE is a multi-centre consortium which brings together patients, clinicians and basic scientists, to focus on mechanisms of visceral pain and improving therapeutic outcomes for visceral pain sufferers.

The successful candidate will be provided with comprehensive training in molecular neuroscience, including:

-            In vivo models, retrograde tracing and behavioural experiments

-            Ca2+-imaging, ex vivo and patch-clamp electrophysiology

-            Cell culture of primary neurones

-            Molecular biology techniques, such as qPCR

-            Research placement at the AstraZeneca Discovery Centre (DISC) – Cambridge


The student will join a vibrant and engaging research group focused on understanding the molecular basis of pain in conditions such as arthritis and colitis within the Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge. A key component of the studentship are two placements: with industrial collaborator AstraZeneca who will provide a research placement, allowing access to cutting edge equipment and techniques to support the project; and in Prof. Woods's laboratory that focuses on discovering Mendelian effects controlling human pain sensing


-            A willingness to learn new techniques and leverage those skills to solve research challenges.

-            Demonstrable self-motivation and independent initiative.

-            Excellent team working and communication skills (oral and written).

-            Obtained or expect to obtain a minimum 2.1 degree (or equivalent) in Biomedical Sciences, Pharmacology, Neuroscience, Cellular or Molecular Biology and Biochemistry or an equivalent course.

We welcome applications from all qualified candidates, especially those from under-represented minorities in neuroscience. The expected start date is October 1st 2022, although an earlier start date might be possible. Funding covers tuition fees at the UK rate and a student stipend for 3-years.

All applications for this project should be made through the University’s online Postgraduate Applicant Portal. In the application form, please state in the Prospective Supervisor section, “Professor Ewan St John Smith (ADVANTAGE PhD Studentship)” and also mention “ADVANTAGE PhD Studentship” in the funding section. The deadline for applications is 16:00 on Monday 28th of February.

For further information about the project, please feel free to contact Ewan: [Email Address Removed].

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