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Functional exploration of a parasitic nematode non-coding RNA secretome

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Dr P McVeigh, Dr L Atkinson  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

This fully-funded three-year PhD project will provide training in state-of-the-art molecular and bioinformatics methods, and aims to yield fundamental insights into the dynamics of molecular interactions between nematode parasites and their mammalian hosts during infection.

Parasitic nematodes are a diverse group of pathogens that infect humans, animals, and plants worldwide. These include parasites that cause human Neglected Tropical Diseases, constraining human health and sustainable development in economically developing countries, and veterinary pathogens that impact welfare in companion and production animals globally. This PhD project will exploit a powerful model nematode-host system (Strongyloides ratti, maintained in rats) to characterise and improve our understanding of host-parasite molecular interactions. Data generated by the project will have real world impact by facilitating new approaches to detecting and controlling parasitic nematode infections in humans and animals. Non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) are best known as intracellular regulators of gene expression, but recent research has shown that ncRNAs are also secreted into extracellular spaces, mediating intercellular communication between remote cells. Parasitic nematodes secrete several types of ncRNA into their hosts; while these are generally hypothesised to mediate suppression of host immunity, we do not yet understand their specific functions or molecular targets.

This gap in our understanding of host-parasite interactions will be addressed by this project, which will exploit existing QUB expertise in extracellular ncRNA biology and Strongyloides functional genomics platforms. Specifically, the project will focus on: (i) in-depth transcriptional profiling of the ncRNA secretome of S. ratti during murine infection, and (ii) CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing to define the function(s) of ncRNAs secreted by S. ratti. The successful student will join a multidisciplinary research team in the McVeigh and Atkinson laboratories and will work alongside an industrially funded postdoctoral scientist. Training will be provided in fundamental molecular methods, advanced functional genomics, and computational biology.

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Duration: 3 years

How to apply: Applications must be submitted via:

Skills/experience required: Demonstrable molecular biology laboratory experience, and/or training in bioinformatics or computational biology would be desirable, but is not essential. Training will be provided in all necessary methods.

Note: This project is in competition for DfE funding with a number of other projects. A selection process will determine the strongest candidates across the range of projects, who may then be offered funding for their chosen project.

Funding Notes

Candidates must hold a UK 2.1 Bachelor's degree or qualifications considered to be equivalent by the University.
Candidates must also be normally resident in the UK for the three year period prior to 1 October 2022. For non-EU nationals, the main purpose of residence must not have been to receive full-time education. Non-UK or Irish nationals must also have pre-settled or settled status (EU nationals) or settled status (non-EU nationals).
Full eligibility criteria:
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