Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Featured PhD Programmes
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre Featured PhD Programmes

Generation of precise neural circuits from stem cells.

Department of Biomedical Science

About the Project

Exciting opportunity is open for self-funded students in Nikolaev lab at the University of Sheffield. You will use modern imaging techniques and state-of-the-art analysis methods to find ways to turn stem cells into neurons and build neural circuits from these neurons.
A critical component of understanding how brains and the central nervous system receive, process and act on information is deciphering how neuronal circuits work. A traditional approach to this problem is to try to decipher circuit functionality from examining the complex connections present in mature brains. Whilst this approach has yielded some success it is limited by the brain complexity even in simple organisms. We are proposing an alternative approach in which simple neuronal circuits are built from individual differentiated neurons. The aims of the projects are:

1. To turn human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) into neurons
2. To make these neurons grow axons in a controlled way
3. To learn how to make individual neurons form synapses with other neurons

Upon completion of this project we will be able to generate simple neural circuits consisting of several neurons forming excitatory and inhibitory synapses with each other. The ultimate goal is to use the developed techniques to generate more complex circuits, such as circuits resembling primary cortex or the retina.

During your study, you will not only learn the basics of cell biology but will also develop skills in modern data analysis techniques, machine learning and building robots for automation of biological experiments (see Katunin et al. preprint for more information). Students in background in Engineering, Mathematics and Physics are also encouraged to apply.

Interested students should email Dr. Anton Nikolaev at

Science Graduate School
As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you’ll be part of the Science Graduate School. You’ll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You’ll be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience the breadth of technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit to learn more.

Funding Notes

This position is for self-funded and externally funded students only.

First class or upper second 2(i) in a relevant subject. To formally apply for a PhD, you must complete the University's application form using the following link: View Website

All applicants should ensure that both references are uploaded onto their application as a decision will be unable to be made without this information.


Nikolaev lab:

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