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EASTBIO: Metabolic challenges across species: Flies, fish, humans and "Hippos"

   College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

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  Dr C G Hansen, Dr James Minchin, Dr Neha Agrawal  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

When do organs and cells know that they have reached their optimal size? Organ size control is a fundamental aspect of biology. Should a cell grow larger, differentiate, or proliferate? In order for organs to reach their appropriate size, cells incorporate mechanical force sensing and metabolic demands, a process that must be adaptive and tightly controlled to allow for robust cellular decision makings during development. Metabolism underlies most cellular adaptations necessary for homeostasis and responds to challenges such as regeneration. The regulation of metabolism is curtailed in ageing and in most disease processes, including diabetes and cancer. New fundamental findings will therefore have clinical importance.

By using a range of model organisms and advanced imaging techniques, omics approaches and comparative analysis, this project seeks to identify conserved regulatory metabolic processes. The project will include research from in vivo systems (fruit flies and zebrafish) to mammalian cellular systems. The research will focus on the mechanotransductive signalling pathway called the Hippo pathway and its effector proteins YAP and TAZ (Yki in flies). The pathway was discovered in the fruit fly and is conserved across species. It has recently been discovered to dictate organ and cellular size, while also linking metabolic sensing to cellular stemness and proliferation.

The Hippo pathway currently attracts much interest because of its fundamental and clinical importance. The project takes advantage of the wide range of experimental tools, model systems and assays available within the host laboratories. These allow for cross comparisons of specific metabolic mechanisms, which will identify conserved as well as distinct cellular metabolic mechanisms.

The project includes extended stays in the three laboratories to ensure training in diverse techniques, including metabolic profiling, genome editing, high content imaging, fish and fly genetics, advanced imaging techniques, cell biology and genome editing of mammalian cellular systems. The PhD candidate will work with leading researchers in several different laboratories, all with an emphasis on discovery-based sciences conducted in a supportive environment. You will be trained in the use of multiple model systems and in a range of cutting-edge techniques that will equip you well for your future career.

This interdisciplinary project suits a motivated team player, who is scientifically curious, driven and most importantly excited about making fundamental discoveries.

Funding information and Application Process:

This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP)

This opportunity is open to UK and international students and provides funding to cover stipend and UK level tuition fees. The University of Edinburgh will cover the difference between home and international fees meaning that the EASTBIO DTP will offer fully-funded studentships to all appointees. However there is a cap on the number of international students the DTP can recruit. It is therefore important for us to know from the outset which fees status category applicants will fall under when formally applying for entry to our university.

Please refer to UKRI and Annex B of the UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions for full eligibility criteria.

Informal enquiries should be addressed to Dr Hansen. To apply, please send a cover letter outlining your previous research experience and reasons for applying, alongside an up-to-date CV to [Email Address Removed]

Download and complete our Equality,Diversity and Inclusion survey and then fill in the EASTBIO Application Form and submit it to [Email Address Removed]

Send the EASTBIOReference Form to your two academic/professional referees, and ask them to submit it to [Email Address Removed] before the application deadline.

 We anticipate that our first set of interviews will be held 7th – 11th February 2022 with awards made in the following week.

If you have further queries about the application/recruitment process please contact [Email Address Removed]

The research group is located in the University of Edinburgh Centre for Inflammation Research; a world-class research environment at the interface between biological and medical science, with multidisciplinary groupings focused on inflammation, infection, disease and repair. The Centre is based within the Edinburgh Medical School in the outstanding facilities of the Queen’s Medical Research Institute at the site of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh hospital, maximising future translational opportunities. 


1: Hansen et al., The Hippo pathway effectors YAP and TAZ promote cell growth by modulating amino acid signaling to mTORC1. Cell Research (2015).
2: Rausch, V…. Hansen, C.G. The Hippo Pathway Regulates Caveolae Expression and Mediates Flow Response via Caveolae. Current biology: CB 29, 242-255 e246 (2019).
3: Interplay between YAP/TAZ and Metabolism Koo JH and Guan KL. Cell Metabolism doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2018.07.010.

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