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

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 funded for four years and is supported by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the UK National Measurement Institute, jointly supervised by Mike Shaw ( from NPL’s Biometrology group, and spend 12 months at NPL’s main site in Teddington, South West 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- macrophages 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 studentship is part of the White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology. It is funded by BBSRC and covers: (i) a tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate (around £15,000 per year) (ii) research costs, (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate, and (iv) an attractive additional top-up stipend from the National Physical Laboratory. The studentship is available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirement (to have been residing in the UK for at least 3 years continuously prior to the start of the PhD).


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Students with, or expecting to gain, at least an upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, are invited to apply. The interdisciplinary nature of this programme means that we welcome applications from students with backgrounds in any biological, chemical, and/or physical science, or students with mathematical backgrounds who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions.

Candidates invited for interview will be asked to give a 10-minute presentation on a piece of research they have carried out.

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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