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How do human cells ensure the accurate segregation of chromosomes?

School of Biological & Chemical Sciences

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Prof Viji Draviam Applications accepted all year round Awaiting Funding Decision/Possible External Funding

About the Project

Research Environment
The School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary is one of the UK’s elite research centres, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). We offer a multi-disciplinary research environment and have approximately 160 PhD students working on projects in the biological, chemical and psychological sciences. Our students have access to a variety of research facilities supported by experienced staff, as well as a range of student support services.
Training and Development
Our PhD students become part of Queen Mary’s Doctoral College which provides training and development opportunities, advice on funding, and financial support for research. Our students also have access to a Researcher Development Programme designed to help recognise and develop key skills and attributes needed to effectively manage research, and to prepare and plan for the next stages of their career.
Project Details
Aneuploidy (incorrect number of chromosomes) is a hallmark of aggressive cancers, but the underlying molecular cause is unclear. The PhD student will aim to discover molecular mechanisms that prevent aneuploidy in human cells.

When a cell divides into two, its microtubules must properly capture each chromosome at specialised multi-protein structures called kinetochores. Therefore, to understand how aneuploidy arises, we should understand how kinetochores are captured by microtubules. Recent high-resolution microscopy work in the Draviam group showed that kinetochores are first captured along microtubule walls and then brought to microtubule-ends. This is an important cellular event because when the kinetochore is not tethered to microtubule-ends, the growth and shrinkage of microtubule-ends can not push or pull chromosomes.

The PhD student will investigate:
a) how microtubules capture and move kinetochores and;
b) how microtubules impart adequate forces to pull apart chromosomes into two equal sets.

The student will be trained in state-of-art high-resolution live-cell microscopy, biochemistry and molecular biology techniques.

A brief work plan is listed below:

1-15 months: The student will generate mutants of outer-kinetochore proteins that interact with microtubules. By expressing these mutants in human cells, the student will determine whether the mutant causes defective segregation of chromosomes.
15-30 months: The student will choose mutant phenotypes from year-1 for live-cell analysis for analysing changes in microtubule-mediated pulling of kinetochore and chromosome-microtubule attachment status.
30-36 months: The student will generate a written thesis of all successful experiments that help understand kinetochore structure and function.
This multi-disciplinary project is ideal for students interested in working at the interface of cancer and basic biology research.
Applications are invited from candidates with at least an upper-second class honours degree in an area relevant to the project (e.g. Biochemistry, Molecular/Cellular Biology, Biomedical Sciences).

Applicants from outside of the UK are required to provide evidence of their English language ability. Please see our English language requirements page for details:
Interested candidates are invited to contact Professor Draviam at [Email Address Removed]. To find out more about the application process, please visit:

The School of Biological and Chemical Sciences is committed to promoting diversity in science; we have been awarded an Athena Swan Bronze Award. We positively welcome applications from underrepresented groups.

Funding Notes

This project is open to applicants who have obtained or intend to apply for external funding. Please see our website for examples:


Ochi T et al PAXX, a paralog of XRCC4 and XLF, interacts with Ku to promote DNA double-strand break repair Science 2015 347 (6218): 185-188. Tamura et al., Mitosis phase-specific interactions of EB1 reveal two pools of SKAP associated with distinct mitotic outcomes. (Biology Open 2015 (4): 155-169).

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