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  Investigating the Relationship between Mammary Adipose Tissue Dysfunction and Breast Cancer Progression in Patients with Obesity and Insulin Resistance (Biomedical & Pharmaceutical Track)

   Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics

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  Prof Stephanie Annett  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

RCSI's Strategic Academic Recruitment (StAR) Programme is now recruiting for prestigious funded PhD scholarships. This programme aims to attract high-achieving students to a four-year structured PhD training programme at RCSI and Qatar University. Students will spend half of their time in Doha and half of their time in Dublin. They will receive their PhD from both Universities.

The RCSI-QU StAR PhD Programme aims to encourage scientists to develop innovative research projects in Health Sciences, with a focus on Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Research or Clinical and Population Health Research

3 research projects are available in the current intake:

  1. Polymeric nanomedicine formulations designed for pulmonary delivery as a strategy for the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) symptoms using medical nebulizers (Biomedical & Pharmaceutical Track)
  2. Designing and validating a generative artificial intelligence-friendly framework for health professions education (Clinical & Population Health Track)
  3. Investigating the Relationship between Mammary Adipose Tissue Dysfunction and Breast Cancer Progression in Patients with Obesity and Insulin Resistance (Biomedical & Pharmaceutical Track)

About this project

Obesity, recognised as a global pandemic, is widely acknowledged for its association with the development of various cancer types, including breast cancer. The mammary gland is predominantly comprised of adipose tissue (AT), predominantly housing lipid-storing adipocytes. In the context of obesity, these adipocytes undergo functional alterations, which can lead to the initiation and dissemination of breast cancer.

The mechanisms governing the interplay between dysfunctional adipose tissue and breast cancer remain incompletely elucidated. This proposed PhD project aims to comprehensively characterise the dysfunction of mammary adipose tissue in breast cancer patients in Qatar and correlate these findings with clinical features and the progression of the disease. Additionally, the research endeavours to identify novel biomarkers indicative of mammary adipose tissue dysfunction and these biomarkers hold the potential to serve as predictive indicators for the efficacy of emerging therapeutic interventions.


The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has been at the forefront of educating healthcare professionals since 1784. Today we are Ireland’s only focused health sciences institution, Ireland’s largest medical school and one of the leading health sciences institutions in the world. Based in Dublin, with students from over 80 countries and four overseas campuses, RCSI has a global reach through our network of Alumni in 97 countries. As such it is the most internationally focused HEI in Ireland and was ranked in the top 50 in the world (THE rankings 2023) for international Outlook. RCSI is ranked number 1 in the world for SDG3 ‘Good Health and Well-being’ in THE University Impact Rankings 2023; Is among the top 2% of universities worldwide in the 2023 Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings and joint second out of the nine institutions in the Republic of Ireland.

Qatar University:

Qatar University (QU), located in the outskirts of the capital Doha, and currently ranked as the 4th best University in the Middle East and in the top 2% globally (QS rankings 2023). It was also ranked 21st globally in the top 50 under 50. (QS 2021). QU has grown and progressed significantly since its founding in 1979, gaining a wealth of academic, research and institutional accomplishments that have served to position it as an effective partner in Qatari society. QU also boasts a large portfolio of internationally-accredited colleges and programs that attest to a high level of excellence and quality, facilitated by a range of MoUs and collaborative agreements.


  • Opportunity for an international research training experience at world class institutions and to attain a PhD from both universities
  • Four-year structured PhD training programme
  • Funded four-year PhD Scholarship:
  • - While at RCSI: Students will receive a full scholarship covering all tuition fees; a tax-free stipend (€22,000 per annum); a relocation package to cover costs of moving to Ireland and a housing subsidy; an annual return home travel allowance; research costs; health insurance costs for non-EU candidates; visa costs for non-EU candidates
  • - While at Qatar University: students will receive a 50% reduction in tuition fees (cost QAR 16,500, approximately €4,200 per annum) as well as an annual stipend of QAR 120,000 (approximately €31,200 per annum, net annual stipend approximately €27,000); research costs.


The RCSI-QU StAR PhD Programme aims to encourage scientists to develop innovative research projects in the field of Health Sciences, with a focus on Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Research (2 positions) as well as Clinical and Population Health Research (1 position). This structured training programme will include compulsory core modules in ethics, science communication, biostatistics and intellectual property. Core modules are complemented by many additional optional modules delivering skill sets including innovation and entrepreneurship, data management, coding. The structured training is designed to suit bench scientists, informatics based research, clinical researchers, translational researchers, population health researchers among others. 


The PhD Programme is designed for high achieving students with a strong profile and a background in Biomedical/Pharmaceutical Research or Clinical/Population Health Research.

Research coming from primary degree courses focusing on (for example):

Cell and Molecular Biology; Clinical and Translational Sciences; Medical Sciences; Bioengineering; Pharmacy; Pharmaceutical Sciences; Genetics and Neurosciences; Chemistry; Nursing; Public Health; Population Health; Health Professions Education; Biostatistics (list not exhaustive).

Students will have obtained or be about to obtain a 1st Class Honours degree or equivalent (i.e. top 10 % of primary degree - or equivalent) and should provide a grade point average (GPA) for each completed year of undergraduate degree.

English requirements: IETLS ≥6.5 or must have completed primary degree through the medium of English

Students can be from any country in the world, there are no restrictions on nationality.

Application process

Students must submit a completed application containing: a cover letter detailing academic progress to date and indicating preference of research project, CV/Resume, supporting tutor letter from degree awarding institution and a brief motivational statement describing your career plans to [Email Address Removed] by March 15th 2024

Applications Close: 15th March 2024 (17:00 GMT)

Interviews (remote): End March/Early April 2024

4 year PhD Position begins: September 2024

Biological Sciences (4)

 About the Project