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MRC DiMeN Doctoral Training Partnership: Understanding asymmetric cell divisions at the onset of life

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Rodriguez
    Prof M Herbert
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

To generate a complex organism from a single-cell embryo, cells divide asymmetrically acquiring structural and functional differences. This polarisation of cells is essential for tissue and organ development and depends on the localisation of conserved effectors, notably PAR proteins, to discrete cell membrane domains. A wide-range of developmental problems are associated with impaired PAR function (e.g. cardiovascular, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer). Consequently, understanding how PARs act is of great biological importance (J. Cell Sci. 2017 vol. 130 (7): 1201-1207).

Recently, we have shown that the activity of the PAR-signalling component, aPKC-kinase, is not only critical to signal the polarisation programme but also creates the asymmetric domain of active PARs needed for the development of the early embryo (Nat. Cell. Biol. 2013 vol. 15(1): 103-112; Dev. Cell 2017 vol. 42 (4): 400-415). We are seeking an enthusiastic and highly motivated student keen to reveal the molecular mechanisms underlying this novel aPKC function. We will use a multi-disciplinary approach, including genetic screens, proteomics, biochemical assays, genome editing, mathematical modelling and cutting-edge microscopy analyses (super-resolution). Studies will be performed in nematode C. elegans and mammalian model systems (cell culture and mice).

The student will scientifically grow in a great research environment. Our lab ( enjoys state of the art equipment and is situated in the supportive and ambitious research Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences (, within the Medical School at Newcastle University (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK). We are part of a vibrant scientific community studying cell division from different angles (

UK/EU students only are eligible for funding. Candidates should have or expect to achieve a First Class or 2:1 Honours degree in a relevant science subject (having an MRes or MSci would be considered an advantage). Students interested in developmental biology, molecular biology, cell polarity and in microscopy techniques are encouraged to apply.
Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr Josana Rodriguez ([Email Address Removed]). It would be great if you could provide: 1) cover letter expressing your interest to join us and to develop the proposed research project, 2) a full CV and 3) two reference letters including referee contact details.

Benefits of being in the DiMeN DTP:
This project is part of the Discovery Medicine North Doctoral Training Partnership (DiMeN DTP), a diverse community of PhD students across the North of England researching the major health problems facing the world today. Our partner institutions (Universities of Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield) are internationally recognised as centres of research excellence and can offer you access to state-of the-art facilities to deliver high impact research.
We are very proud of our student-centred ethos and committed to supporting you throughout your PhD. As part of the DTP, we offer bespoke training in key skills sought after in early career researchers, as well as opportunities to broaden your career horizons in a range of non-academic sectors.
Being funded by the MRC means you can access additional funding for research placements, international training opportunities or internships in science policy, science communication and beyond. See how our current DiMeN students have benefited from this funding here:
Further information on the programme can be found on our website:

Funding Notes

Studentships are fully funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) for 3.5yrs
Stipend at national UKRI standard rate
Tuition fees
Research training and support grant (RTSG)
Travel allowance
Studentships commence: 1st October 2019.

To qualify, you must be a UK or EU citizen who has been resident in the UK/EU for 3 years prior to commencement. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least a 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. All applications are scored blindly based on merit. Please read additional guidance here:
Good luck.


Campanale, JP., Sun TY., Montell, DT. (2017) Development and dynamics of cell polarity at a glance. J. Cell Sci. 130 (7): 1201-1207.

Rodriguez, J., Peglion, F., Martin, J., Reich, J., Roffey, J., Ribeiro Fernandes, A., Gascon Gubieda, A., St Johnston, D., Ahringer, J., Goehring, N. (2017) aPKC cycles between functionally distinct PAR protein assemblies to drive cell polarity. Dev. Cell 42 (4): 400-415.

Fievet, B., Rodriguez, J., Naganathan, S., Lee, C., Zeiser, E., Ishidate, T., Shirayama, M., Grill, S., Ahringer, J. (2013) Systematic Genetic Interaction Screening Uncovers Cell Polarity Regulators and Functional Redundancy. Nat. Cell. Biol. 15 (1): 103-112.

How good is research at Newcastle University in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 30.60

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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