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MSc by Research: Mechanisms controlling cell ingression through the primitive streak during gastrulation in chick embryos

   School of Life Sciences

  Prof C J Weijer  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

We investigate the how the key cell behaviours that mediate gastrulation in the early chick embryo. The chick embryo is a model for amniote development including humans. Gastrulation is an essential process in the early development all higher animals, where the ectoderm mesoderm and endoderm take up their correct positions in the embryo. This process involves a precise coordination of cell division, cell differentiation, ingression and cell movement [1]. We study how these key cell behaviours are controlled by mechanical and chemical cell-cell signalling. To study these cell behaviours in-vivo we have developed a specialised lightsheet microscope that allows us to see all cells in embryos of novel transgenic chick lines where specific cellular structures and cell types have labelled with different fluorescent proteins. We can locally or globally perturb chemical and mechanical signalling pathways to study the effects on the integration of cell behaviours on gastrulation [2, 3]. In this project we are particularly interested understanding detailed the signals and mechanisms that control the ingression of cells through the primitive streak.

Our work is highly interdisciplinary, besides state of the art cell and molecular biology approaches we need to analyse the large image datasets and therefore make extensive use of advanced large scale (including AI) image processing techniques, we perform extended mathematical modelling and computer simulation studies of gastrulation and keep on developing novel microscopy methods with a variety of collaborators [4]. Therefore this project will offer the opportunity to perform research in a highly interdisciplinary environment.   

Please see our website for further details on the programme:

Life Sciences MSc by Research MSc by Research (Postgraduate) : Study : University of Dundee

Please note before submitting your application that you must list your top three project choices in the Research Proposal section of the application form.

You apply for this course using our Direct Application System. Once you've signed up for an account you'll be asked to search for a course.

To find Life Science MSc by Research you should select the following options:

·   Course type: Research Postgraduate

·   Keyword: Life

When you complete your form, you should include your top 3 project choices, 2 letters of reference, uploaded under "Other Information" > "Supporting documents" and a personal statement. Failure to do so will delay your application.

Please note when submitting an application that we have the following deadline dates throughout the year:

September Starts - Application Deadline 1st May, Interview Date - Late June

January Starts - Application Deadline 1st Sep, Interview Date - Late October

May Starts - Application Deadline 1st Feb, Interview Date Late March


1. Serrano Najera, G. and C.J. Weijer, Cellular processes driving gastrulation in the avian embryo. Mech Dev, 2020. 163: p. 103624.
2. Rozbicki, E., et al., Myosin-II-mediated cell shape changes and cell intercalation contribute to primitive streak formation. Nat Cell Biol, 2015. 17(4): p. 397-408.
3. Ferro, V., et al., Measurement of junctional tension in epithelial cells at the onset of primitive streak formation in the chick embryo via non-destructive optical manipulation. Development, 2020. 147(3).
4. Serra, M., et al., Dynamic morphoskeletons in development. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2020. 117(21): p. 11444-11449.
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