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Risk factors and gene-environment interactions for Parkinson’s disease

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, January 02, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Applications are invited from graduates with a BSc (First or Upper Second) or MSc (Distinction), or equivalent, to work within the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine. This 3 year studentship will commence in Spring 2020 and will be based at the Charterhouse Square Campus. This is an exciting opportunity for a graduate from disciplines related to epidemiology, statistics, and behavioural sciences.

Project description

1. Background to the project

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common degenerative disease of the brain. The number of people diagnosed is growing faster than any other neurological condition and is expected to affect 14 million people worldwide by 2040. Several inverse associations have been observed between traditional causes of ill-health (such as smoking, alcohol, high body mass index and type 2 diabetes mellitus) and a decreased risk of PD. On the other hand, there are an expanding number of genetic risk factors for PD and several recognized environmental risk factors such as exposure to pesticides and head injury. The interaction between environmental and genetic factors has never been systematically explored.

2. Proposed research and techniques

The project will start with training and development of skills related to traditional epidemiology with a focus on the role of certain factors, both genetic and environmental, on the risk of Parkinson’s disease (PD). The student will be required to develop skills in studying gene-environment interactions relevant to PD, building on the work above, before further training in genetic epidemiology (including methods such as Mendelian randomization and LD score regression). By the end of the PhD, the student will have a firm grounding in traditional and genetic epidemiology. There are several datasets available for the successful candidate to use for this project, including a large primary care dataset, UK Biobank data, and summary statistics from genome wide association studies made available through international collaborations. The successful student should be willing to travel because it is expected that a proportion of the project will be undertaken at the National Institutes of Health near Washington DC, USA, working with collaborators to advance their knowledge and bioinformatics skills.

3. Anticipated project timeline

Months 0-3 – Literature review on risk factors for PD.
Months 3-12 – Development of traditional epidemiology methods and statistical analysis.
Months 12-18 – Systematic study of gene-environment interactions relevant to PD.
Months 18-30 – Development of skills in genetic epidemiology – Mendelian randomization and LD score regression.
Months 30-36 – Thesis write-up.

4. Eligibility

This project requires a highly skilled student with excellent communication skills, and preferably with a qualification in medical statistics or significant research experience.

Informal enquiries can be made to via email: Dr Alastair Noyce

How to apply
Your application should consist of a CV and contact details of two academic referees. You must also include a personal statement (1,000 words maximum) describing your suitability for the selected project including how your research experience and interests relate to the project.

Please submit your application to: Patrick Mullan ().

Funding Notes

This 3 year PhD studentship is funded by the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and comes with a tax-free stipend of £21,000. It is open to UK Nationals, EEA/Swiss migrant workers and non-UK nationals with indefinite leave to remain in the UK who will have three years ordinary residence in the EU prior to the start of the studentship. University tuition fees (at UK/EU levels) will be met by the Institute.

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