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EASTBIO: Unravelling the development of anterior eye structures relevant to glaucoma.

   School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition

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  Prof L Erskine, Dr Joe Rainger  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.

This project will use state-of-the-art approaches in cell, developmental and molecular biology to provide fundamental new information on the cellular mechanisms driving the development of anterior eye structures and will determine the functional requirement for glaucoma-associated genes in anterior eye development.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. Increased intraocular pressure (IOP) due to an imbalance between aqueous production and resorption is one of the most important risk factors for glaucoma. The aqueous is produced by the ciliary body and drains from the eye primarily via the trabecular meshwork and Schlemm’s canal. These structures are all found in the anterior part of the eye.

Many genes have been associated with predisposition to common, adult-onset forms of glaucoma, but in most cases the mechanistic link between gene mutation and disease is unclear. Although glaucoma is generally associated with aging, many of the candidates are developmental genes. Using a screen to identify genes that regulate the developmental progression of anterior eye structures, we identified recently multiple known glaucoma-associated genes as having potential roles in this process. This suggests that glaucoma genes are important in early eye development and that disruption to these processes and the anterior eye may predispose to disease progression in later life. To test this hypothesis, it is first essential to establish the precise roles of these genes in normal anterior eye development.

The specific aims are to:

1. Determine the spatial-temporal dynamics of anterior eye structure development.

2. Determine the expression patterns of glaucoma-associated genes in the anterior eye at key developmental stages.

3. Determine the functional importance of glaucoma-associated genes for normal eye development.

The project will provide training for the appointed student at both the University of Aberdeen and The Roslin Institute in a wide range of experimental approaches, including fate-mapping using novel transgenic fluorescent-reporter chicken lines, confocal and live-cell imaging, molecular biology (e.g. PCR, gene cloning, gene editing), analyses of gene and protein expression in situ, and in vivo manipulation of genes and signalling pathways. In addition to training in lab specific skills, extensive training in generic and transferrable skills is offered through the EastBIO Programme and University of Aberdeen Graduate School.



  • 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.


1.Smith, JN, Walker HM, Thompson H, Collinson JM, Vargesson N and Erskine L. (2018). Lens-regualted retinoic acid signalling controls expansion of the developing eye. Development, 145, dev167171.
2.Trejo-Reveles V, McTeir L, Summers K and Rainger J (2018). An analysis of anterior segment development in the chicken eye. Mech Dev 150, 42-49.
3.Davey MG, Balic A, Rainger J, Sang HM, McGrew MJ. Illuminating the chicken model through genetic modification (2018) International Journal of Developmental Biology 62, 85-92
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