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Neural circuit plasticity in the adult mouse brain

   Institute of Ophthalmology

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  Dr Jennifer Sun  No more applications being accepted  Awaiting Funding Decision/Possible External Funding

About the Project

PhD Studentship: Systems Neuroscience

UCL Department / Division: UCL Institute of Ophthalmology

Duration of Studentship: 3 years, available to start from late 2021/ early 2022

PhD Title: Neuro-modulation of Cortical Plasticity

Supervisor(s): Dr Jennifer Sun

A 3-year, full-time PhD studentship in systems neuroscience is available at the Visual Cortical Plasticity Lab, led by Dr Jennifer Sun at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.

The focus of this studentship is to apply advanced systems approaches to study the circuit basis of visual cortical plasticity in the adult mouse brain. Recent works have uncovered that running effectively enhances visual representation and promotes visual cortical plasticity, however, the circuit mechanisms by which running, a non-sensory information, regulates cortical plasticity remains unclear, making it difficult for developing therapeutic treatment.

This project will apply multidisciplinary, systems approaches to reveal the role of subcortical neuromodulation in cortical processing and plasticity. The PhD student will work closely with the lab technician and the PI to design data acquisition tools with in vivo electrophyiology, 2-photon imaging, miniscope, etc, in awake head-fixed mouse, to collect neural responses when the animal is perceiving a close-loop visual stimulation. In addition, the PhD studentship also offers training in an integrated all-optical image/optogenetic stimulation system to directly manipulate neuromodulatory pathways that send running signals to visual cortex.

Applications of self-driven candidates with a strong interest in systems neuroscience are welcomed to apply. The applicant should hold, or expect to receive, a minimum upper-second degree or equivalent in an associated subject such as Optics, Biomedical engineering, Biophysics, Neuroscience, or other related fields. A quantitative background with analytical skills in systems neuroscience, and/or experimental skills in electrophysiology or optical imaging are desirable.

Duties and Responsibilities

The successful candidate is expected to:

• Design and optimise control softwares for data aqusition using in vivo electrophysiology and 2-photon imaging

• Develop experimental/ analytical methods for neural data analysis using MATLAB and Python.

• Develop an expertise in systems neuroscience, neural circuit, and visual cortical plasticity in general

• Carry out experimental and computational assessment to study cortical processing and plasticity, including in vivo electrophysiology, multi-photon imaging, optogenetics, and circuit modelling

• Prepare progress reports and other meetings or conferences

• Prepare manuscripts for submission to international peer-reviewed journals

• Work in collaboration with other researchers

• Contribute to the overall activities of the research team, department and be aware of UCL policies

Person Specification

• A good degree (2.1 or above; or equivalent EU/overseas degree) and/or MSc Optics, Biomedical Engineering, Physiology, or Neuroscience.

• Demonstrable interest in scientific research, systems neuroscience, learning and plasticity, and computational and analytic research

• Experienced with neural data acquisition, device control, data analysis / modelling using MATLAB and Python

• Comfortable with rodent handling, and willing to learn stereotactic surgeries,

• Excellent methodological skills, particularly in project planning

• High proficiency in written and spoken English is required

• Very strong work ethic, with the ability to think creatively and work both individually and within a team

How to apply

Applicants should submit an application to PGR office via email [Email Address Removed] (also cc [Email Address Removed] ) by 24 Sep 2021 with the title "PhD studentship at Visual Plasticity Lab". You will be required to submit Bs and Msc transcripts, a Personal Statement outlining motivation and suitability for this project, and a CV including the contact details for at least 2 academic referees.

Informal enquiries are enouraged by writing to Dr Jennifer Sun ([Email Address Removed]). Enquiries relating to the actuall application process can be sent to Kristina Labanauskaite, Research Degrees Administrator ([Email Address Removed]).

Shortlisted candidates will be contacted directly for interview. The successful candidate is expected to start late 2021/ early 2022, but with a possibility to delay the start date if neccessary.

Funding Notes

This studentship can be self-funded, or supported with a UCL funding up to 3 years with an annual salary stipend and the waive of tuition fee at UK home fee level.


The studentship is open to all, with the possiblity to cover the stipend (£20,000/year) and/or UK home tuition.

Application deadline:         24 Sep 2021

Proposed interview date: 30 Sep 2021

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