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  Comparing toxicological response in fish and human cells in vitro: A step towards enhanced understanding of stress biology across vertebrates

   The School of Biological and Marine Sciences

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  Prof Awadhesh N. Jha  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a four-year PhD studentship under Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Collaborative Training Partnership (CTP) scheme between Unilever Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) and University of Plymouth (UoP). The studentship will start on 1st October 2024.

Project Description

Both animal and human cells express toxicological responses through highly conserved biological pathways when under stress. Elucidating common cellular response pathways in phylogenetically different cell types employing in vitro approaches is needed with an overall goal to harmonise the hazard and risk assessments. This inevitably requires adoption of New Approach Methodologies (NAM). Precise comparison of cascades of responses in established cell lines of different origins are however scarce. Whilst for human cells a range of ‘biomarker’ responses is employed to elucidate both non-specific and specific toxicity of chemicals, there has been limited progress for cells of fish origin. The necessity to adopt a common approach is being emphasized, despite inherent differences in these cell lines. Adopting integrated and interdisciplinary approaches, this stimulating project aims to make a step change by comparing the relative sensitivity of cell lines of humans and fish origin. The overall aims are to: (a) enhance our ability of using human cell line-based assays as proxy to inform potential effects in fish; (b) adopt basic biology and molecular approaches to compare the (biomarker) responses for environmentally relevant chemicals; (c) elucidate how these cell types respond under different exposure scenarios and (d) identify and explicate how various confounding factors influence the observed biological responses in cell line specific manner.

The project will generate much needed evidence for the identification of most sensitive cell lines facilitating better in vitro systems for comparison of human and environmental health to increase the robustness of Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA).



Applicants should have a first or upper second-class honours degree in an appropriate subject (Biological Sciences, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology) or a relevant master’s qualification. Candidates having experience in cell culture methodologies, cellular / molecular techniques related to toxicological evaluation of chemicals, bioinformatics and statistical procedures will be given preference.

If your first language is not English, you will need to meet the minimum English requirements for the programme, IELTS Academic score of 6.5 (with no less than 5.5 in each component test area) or equivalent.

The studentship is supported and fully funded for 4-year registration period including last 6 months used for thesis writing-up phase. It includes full Home tuition fees plus a stipend of £23,637 per annum (October 2024).  Applicants normally required to cover International fees will have to cover the difference between the Home and the International tuition fee rates. However, the University of Plymouth will cover the tuition fee difference for well qualified international student.

The student will be based at the University of Plymouth (UoP) but will also spend some time at Unilever Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC), Colworth Science Park, Bedfordshire, UK for training, mentoring and meetings within a multi-disciplinary team, including biology, toxicology, computer science among others.

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Professor Awadhesh Jha (email: [Email Address Removed]).

To apply for this position please visit our website.

Please clearly state the name of the studentship that you are applying for on the top of your personal statement.

Please see here for a list of supporting documents to upload with your application.

For more information on the admissions process generally, please visit our How to Apply for a Research Degree webpage or contact the Doctoral College.

The closing date for applications on Thursday, 4th July 2024 at 15.00. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview in first week of August. We regret that we may not be able to respond to all applications. Applicants who have not received a response within six weeks of the closing date should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.

Biological Sciences (4)

 About the Project