Fully-funded White Rose BBSRC DTP Biology project: Understanding the mechanisms of stress responses in eukaryotic cells

   White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology

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  Dr C MacDonald  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Lead supervisor: Dr Chris MacDonald (Department of Biology)

Co-supervisors: Prof Paul Genever (Department of Biology) and Dr Peter O'Toole (Department of Biology)

The student will be registered with the Department of Biology

The surface of biological cells serves as a barrier to the outside world and is comprised of a complex mixture of proteins and lipids. Cell surface proteins perform critical physiological processes and constitute the largest class of molecular therapeutic targets. The trafficking of most surface proteins is modulated in response to cellular stress, and defects in surface protein activity results in many diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and cancer.

This project aims to understand how the surface proteome responds to cellular stress, using yeast to rapidly acquire data and define models. These experimental models will then be tested in a physiological context, using cultured mesenchymal stem cells. Uncovering the mechanisms behind fundamental cell survival processes will inform on various aspects of eukaryotic cell biology and we can apply this knowledge to treat human disease conditions.

The project is built on a series of recently published models relating to cellular starvation, in addition to many unpublished techniques and observations. We are in a strong position ahead of the field to mechanistically follow up on these discoveries. To achieve these project aims across eukaryotic model systems, we will take advantage of expertise from 3 labs at the University of York and its world leading bioscience technology facility. Our recent technological developments uniquely position us to perform this research. These include microfluidics, super resolution microscopy, generation of clonal stem cells, customised assays, high throughput robotics, genetic screening, and label-free holotomographic microscopy (for more information see www.tomocube.com/). Downstream data analysis, incorporating Artificial Intelligence, will also be used.

The project has been tailored for diverse training opportunities, with high potential for impactful publications and development of independent projects. As such, the project is suitable for applicants from a wide range of backgrounds with a variety of skills and expertise. Any additional training requirements will be customized for the successful applicant. The student will be physically located in the Department of Biology at the University of York and will be exposed to a range of researchers at different levels and across different areas expertise. All labs promote a positive research culture, valuing an inclusive and respectful environment for a fun and engaging learning experience during the studentship. Funding from the BBSRC provides a competitive stipend and includes various additional training opportunities, in addition to a 3-month professional placement with an external host organisation. 

To find out more about the research programmes run by each supervisor, see the lab websites below:




The Department of Biology holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award. We are committed to supporting equality and diversity and strive to provide a positive working environment for all staff and students. 

The WR DTP and the University of York are committed to recruiting future scientists regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways and we have built our recruitment process to reflect this. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in science, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

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 any biological, chemical, and/or physical science backgrounds, or students with mathematical background who are interested in using their skills in addressing biological questions. 

Programme: PhD in Mechanistic Biology (4 years)

Start Date: 1st October 2023

Interviews: Friday 10 February 2023 or Monday 13 February 2023. Please keep these dates free.

Biological Sciences (4) Mathematics (25)

Funding Notes

This project is part of the BBSRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership in Mechanistic Biology. Appointed candidates will be fully-funded for 4 years. The funding includes:
Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£17,668 for 2022/23 academic year)
UK tuition fees
Research support and training charges (RSTC)
International students will need to have sufficient funds to cover the costs of their student visa, NHS health surcharge, travel insurance and transport to the UK as these are excluded from UKRI funding.

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