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  Investigating the carcinogenic and epigenetic modulating effects of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances on breast cancer development

   Hull York Medical School

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  Dr Mark Wade  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Applications are invited for this Breast Cancer UK (BCUK) funded full time PhD studentship.

As well as genetic predisposition and lifestyle factors, exposure to environmental contaminants are known to increase breast cancer risk. However, in many cases, how these contaminants influence breast cancer development is less well understood.

Microplastics (MPs) are small plastic materials that have entered the environment via industrial practices or have been degraded from plastics used in consumer products. We know MPs are present in our gut, blood, and can be breathed into the lungs. MPs are a potential source of harmful chemicals in our body as these chemicals can stick to MPs and then leach off into the surrounding environment. A group of synthetic toxic chemicals, called per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), are known to stick to, and leach from, MPs; however the role of PFASs in health and disease is not well understood. PFASs are of particular concern as they are heavily used in consumer goods, are widely found in the environment, and have been detected in humans. 

This PhD studentship will therefore:

i.           Investigate how PFASs play a role in breast cancer development.

ii.          Determine whether MPs that can leach PFASs are found in breast tissue.

For Aim i), you will characterise to an unprecedented level the effect exposure to PFASs has on breast cells. You will use non-transformed breast epithelial cells to determine what effect long and short term exposures have on cell phenotype (cell growth and morphology, mitochondrial function, DNA damage response). In addition you will use cutting edge proteomic and epigenetic analyses to understand the effect PFASs have on chemical modification of histones and global chromatin structure.

For Aim ii), you will link with world-leading expertise in MP detection at the University of Hull (Prof Jeanette Rochelle) and NHS clinical partners to begin a first-in-the-world investigation for the presence of MPs in breast tissue using state-of-the art microscopy techniques.

This studentship will appeal to a candidate with a strong interest in cancer biology, cancer prevention, epigenetics and environmental toxicology.

For informal inquiries, please contact Mark Wade ([Email Address Removed]).

Location and Research Culture

The successful candidate will join the internationally renowned Hull York Medical School, embedded in a £28 million state-of-the-art Health Campus at the University of Hull. The student will join a dynamic and vibrant research team within the Centre for Biomedicine where they will be supervised by experts in the field of cancer biology, epigenetics and environmental molecular toxicology.

Hull York Medical School’s unique partnership brings together the expertise of both the Universities of Hull and York and offers a thriving environment in which to conduct world-leading research. The School’s academic and clinical researchers have a strong reputation for their work, 85% of which is classed as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.

Named Academic

Dr Mark Wade, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Genetics, Centre for Biomedicine, Hull York Medical School. Email: [Email Address Removed].


This is a fully funded full-time PhD studentship. The studentship will cover tuition fees at the home student rate and provide an annual stipend at current UKRI rates for 3 years, dependent on satisfactory progress. This studentship is only available to home-fee paying students. 

Start Date

1st October 2023 preferable; January 2024 start possible for the right candidate.

Qualification Required

In order to qualify for this scholarship you will require an undergraduate degree with at least a 2.1, or MSc/MRes, in a relevant subject. If English is not your first language you will require a valid English Language IELTS 6.5+ with a minimum of 6.0 in each component.

How to Apply

All applications MUST BE submitted to Hull York Medical School via the online application method choosing option PhD in Medical Sciences 2023 October, full time or part time:

In order for the Panel to get a sense of your academic background, commitment and interest, you are required to complete the application form in full and provide a research proposal/outline of academic interest. Research proposals and personal statements may be used in selecting applicants for interview. If you have any queries on how to apply please email [Email Address Removed].

Please note that this is a student scholarship. If you will be employed by HYMS (e.g. on a fixed or short term contract) for the duration of your study, you will not be eligible to receive the student scholarship as a member of HYMS staff. 


Applicants who are shortlisted for interview will be contacted via email. If you are not invited for the interview, it means that your application has not been successful. Please note that we do not offer feedback to applicants who are not invited to the interview.

Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26)

 About the Project