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Developing next generation bioimaging/biophotonics tools to dissect the immunological synapse in single cells, one molecule at a time

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  • Full or part time
    Prof M Leake
    Dr N Signoret
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

We seek an ambitious PhD student to develop/apply new bioimaging/biophotonics tools to gain insight into complex biological processes across multiple length/timescales, from single molecules through to subcellular structures, cells and cellular populations. You will be highly motivated, eager to embrace interdisciplinary science from biophysics through to cell/molecular biology, and will learn from world-class teams in these areas. You will work in the Department of Biology, University of York, in the team of Prof Mark Leake (, co-supervised by Dr Nathalie Signoret ( This project is supported by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the UK National Measurement Institute, jointly supervised by Mike Shaw ( from NPL’s Biometrology group; you will spend 12 months at NPL’s main site in Teddington, SW London. The project focuses on understanding how the Immunological Synapse (IS) forms and is regulated. The IS defines contact processes of immune cells communication, which in the case of T cell-macrophage interactions is crucial for a host response to infection. However, key mechanistic details concerning IS formation/regulation are unknown due to focusing on too narrowly defined length/timescale regimes. You will develop cross lengthscale imaging/photonics tools to enable insight into the dynamic complexities of IS formation/regulation in cells, involving rapid single-molecule detection and quantification in vivo combined with nanoscale spatial precision (see Miller et al 2018 PMID 29872430; Wollman et al 2017 PMID:28841133; Kasprowicz et al PMID:29789661; Shaw et al PMID 25839410).

Your project aims to add new understanding in how chemokine stimulation is used for regulation of IS formation, focusing on chemokine receptor CCR5, with initial investigations on model cell-lines to address basal CCR5-ligand behaviour before moving to more challenging primary macrophages and IS formation with T cells, probing dynamics of chemokine receptor-ligand interactions, chemokine binding to cell-surface proteoglycan, and local membrane lipids and proteins interactions during IS formation.

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year fully-funded industrial CASE studentship part of the BBSRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology. The studentship covers: (i) a tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate (around £15,000 per year), (ii) tuition fees at UK/EU rate, (iii) research consumables and training necessary for the project. The industry partner (National Physical Laboratory - NPL) will provide an annual supplement to the studentship stipend of around £2,650 per year.


Eligibility: The studentships are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award. Further information about eligibility for Research Council UK funding

Entry requirements: At least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science. Students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions are also welcome to apply.

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of York in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.37

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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