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EASTBIO: TORC-ing cell growth and quality control: How does the Pib2/Phafin1 protein operate?

   School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition

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  Dr Riko Hatakeyama, Dr Ian Ganley, Prof Anne Donaldson  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This fully funded, 4-year PhD project is part of a competition funded by the BBSRC EASTBIO Doctoral Training Partnership.

Project in brief:

This project aims to elucidate how the Pib2/Phafin1 protein, a novel key molecule in TORC1 pathway, works within a cell.

What question will you address?

The essential Target of Rapamycin Complex 1 (TORC1) kinase pathway regulates cell growth and metabolism by fine-tuning many processes including autophagy, a cellular quality control mechanism. Recently, the yeast protein Pib2 was found to be critical for TORC1 regulation. However, mechanistically how Pib2 works is unclear. Another question is whether Phafin1, the mammalian counterpart of Pib2, regulates TORC1 and autophagy in a similar way. This project tackles these questions by applying multiple techniques in cell biology and biochemistry to both yeast and mammalian cell models [Reference: Hatakeyama 2021; PMID: 34680122].

Why is it important?

The TORC1-autophagy pathway attracts huge attention (e.g., the 2016 Nobel prize) because it is closely linked to numerous diseases including cancer, and also to aging processes. By understanding how Pib2/Phafin1 regulates TORC1, we might be able to extend our lifespan by designing novel drugs targeting Pib2/Phafin1.

Tell me about the research environment?

The two labs are both situated at world-class institutes with distinct strengths: the Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS) at the University of Aberdeen, which accommodates research groups across broad biomedical disciplines offering rich collaboration opportunities; and the MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitination Unit at the University of Dundee, one of the world’s leading centres for protein science. The main supervisor, Dr Hatakeyama, recently established his laboratory in 2020, meaning the student will benefit from close supervision by a freshly appointed group leader. Dr Hatakeyama’s expertise in yeast Pib2 and TORC1 will be complemented by that of Dr Ganley in mammalian autophagy, allowing us to tackle Pib2/Phafin1 from multiple angles. The student will moreover become part of the vibrant community of cell/molecular biology-focused labs including Prof Donaldson’s, attending weekly and monthly joint meetings.

How will this studentship help my future career?

Through this project, the student will acquire versatile experimental skills in cell biology, biochemistry and genetics. Notably, this is an interdisciplinary project involving two experimental systems, mammalian cultured cells and baker’s yeast. The ability to work on two different systems will significantly widen future career options such as in medical/pharmacological research (with mammalian cells) and the food/biotechnology field (with yeast). Moreover, the training involves strong support for professional networking, both within academia (via weekly and monthly joint lab meetings at the IMS) and more broadly (via a compulsory 3-month internship outside academic research).



  • Applicants should hold a minimum of a 2:1 UK Honours degree (or international equivalent) in a relevant subject. Those with a 2:2 UK Honours degree (or international equivalent) may be considered, provided they have (or are expected to achieve) a Distinction or Commendation at master’s level.
  • All students must meet the eligibility criteria as outlined in the UKRI guidance on UK, EU and international candidates. This guidance should be read in conjunction with the UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions, esp. TGC 5.2 & Annex B.



  • Please visit this page for full application information: How to apply | eastbio (
  • Please send your completed EASTBIO application form, along with academic transcripts to Alison Innes at: [Email Address Removed]
  • Two references should be provided by the deadline using the EASTBIO reference form. References should be sent to [Email Address Removed]
  • Unfortunately, due to workload constraints, we cannot consider incomplete applications.
  • CV's submitted directly through a FindAPhD enquiry WILL NOT be considered.

Funding Notes

This fully funded, 4-year PhD project is part of a competition funded by the EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership.
This opportunity is open to UK and International students (The proportion of international students appointed through the EASTBIO DTP is capped at 30% by UKRI BBSRC).
EASTBIO studentships includes a UKRI doctoral stipend (estimated at £17,668 for the 2023/2024 academic year), plus a training grant of £5,000 per annum (year 1-3; £1,500 year 4) and a travel/conference grant of £230 per annum.
EASTBIO does not provide funding to cover visa and associated healthcare surcharges for international students.
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