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MHC class I antigen presentation in autoimmune diabetes mellitus

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Malgorzata Garstka
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

A Ph.D. program starting in September 2020 is now open for the applications. The Ph.D. student will work with Prof. Malgorzata Garstka at the Medical School of Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an, China.

The Project
Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is a chronic autoimmune disease, in which auto-reactive CD8+ T cells destroy pancreatic β cells. These auto-reactive CD8+ T cells recognize a self-antigen presented in the context of the certain major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules.

In this project, we aim to obtain novel molecular and mechanistic insights about the involvement of the MHC antigen presentation pathway in T1DM. These aspects may include the molecular details of peptide binding to MHC class I molecules, the earliest transport steps and quality control of MHC class I molecules or the interference in MHC class I antigen presentation by viruses. Next, we will test various strategies targeting this pathway to prevent auto-reactive T cell responses ex vivo.

In this interdisciplinary research, we closely collaborate with structural biologists at the Frontier Institute of Science and Technology of Xi’an Jiaotong University, China and computational molecular biologists at the Institute for Mathematics of Free University Berlin, Germany. In the long term, this work may establish a novel mode of treatment for the autoimmunity.

We seek highly motivated individuals who are responsible, creative, hard-working, collaborative, detail-oriented, and committed to research excellence. The successful candidate (m/f) should have (or obtain soon) an MSc degree or equivalent in Biomedical Sciences or similar education, with a broad interest in immunology, biochemistry and molecular biology or cell biology, and excellent communication skills in spoken and written English.

Xi’an Jiaotong University (XJTU) is a Chinese C9 League university included in the state-level Project 211 and Project 985, and the hub of the University Alliance of the Silk Road. The School of Medicine of XJTU has over 4,000 excellent and experienced employees in 28 departments (including affiliated hospitals). The Second Affiliated Hospital is a modern hospital with comprehensive care facilities that integrates medical teaching, scientific research and preventive health care, and ranks in China’s top 100 hospitals. With roughly 2,200 beds, more than 80,000 patients in part-time and full-time inpatient treatment, as well as 1,900,000 patients in ambulant treatment, are medicated each year.

The main focus of the Garstka lab is to define how MHC class I antigen presentation contributes to autoimmunity in type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) and develop diagnostic and therapeutic methods for the treatment of T1DM. The research is embedded in the Department of Core Research Laboratory that has a strong background in immunology and clinical research. Locally, we collaborate with medical doctors at the Endocrinology Departments of the First and Second Affiliated Hospitals of Xi’an Jiaotong University and the Fourth Military Hospital in Xi’an, and experts of the Frontier Institute of Science and Technology of Xi’an Jiaotong University. Internationally, we collaborate with the research groups in Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and the UK.

Further Information
Additional information can be obtained from Dr. Malgorzata Garstka at [Email Address Removed]

Interested applicants are advised to email [Email Address Removed] (XJTU principal supervisor’s email address) the following documents before February 29th 2019 for the initial review and assessment (please put the project title in the subject line).

- Two recommendation letters from professors or associate professors with company/university letterhead
- Personal statement outlining your interests in the position
- Proof of English language proficiency (e.g., an IELTS score of 5.5 or above,TOEFL 80 and above, certificate from the university if your major was in English)
- Academic transcripts in both Chinese and English (for international students, only the English version is required)
- Verified certificates of education qualifications in both Chinese and English (for international students, only the English version is required) Prospective diploma winners must submit official proof of student status by their current school
- Copies of research achievements: published research papers, award certificates or other documents to prove applicant’s achievement and ability in academic research

Informal enquiries may be addressed to Prof. Malgorzata A. Garstka at [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

The candidate will apply together with Prof. Garstka for the Chinese Government Scholarship Program

The successful PhD candidates will be awarded the scholarship that covers tuition fees for three years and provides a monthly stipend of 3,000-4,500 RMB as a contribution to living expenses. It also provides up to 15,000 RMB to allow participation in the international conferences during the period of the award.

The next deadline for application is March 15th 2020.


1. Luimstra J.J., Franken K.L.M.C., Garstka M.A., Drijfhout J.W., Neefjes J.,Ovaa H. (2019). Production and Thermal Exchange of Conditional Peptide-MHC I Multimers. Curr Protoc Immunol 126 (1), e85, in press.

2. Luimstra J.J*, Garstka M.A.*^, Roex M.C.J., Redeker A., Janssen G.M.C, van Veelen P.A., Arens R., Falkenburg J.H.F, Jacques Neefjes^, Huib Ovaa^ (2018). A rapid and flexible MHC class I multimer loading system for large-scale detection of antigen-specific T cell responses. J Exp Med 215(5): 1493-1504.

3. Garstka M., Fish A., Celie P.H.N., Joosetn R.P., Janssen G.M.C., Berlin I., Hoppes R., Stadnik M., Janssen L., Ovaa H., van Veelen P.A., Perrakis A., and Neefjes J. (2015) The first step of peptide selection in antigen presentation by MHC class I molecules. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A., 112:1505-10.

4. Garstka M.A., Fritzsche S., Lenart I., Hein Z., Jankevicius G., Boyle L.H., Elliott T., Trowsdale J., Antoniou A.N., Zacharias M., and Springer S. (2011). Tapasin dependence of major histocompatibility complex class I molecules correlates with their conformational flexibility. FASEB J., 25: 3989-98.

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