Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now

  Studying early human embryo development using stem cell models. BBSRC SWBio DTP PhD studentship 2023 Entry. PhD in Biosciences

   Department of Biosciences

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

Click here to search for PhD studentship opportunities
  Dr Ge Guo, Dr F Gielen, Prof Austin Smith  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The BBSRC-funded South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP) involves a partnership of world-renown universities, research institutes and industry across the South West and Wales.

This partnership represents a distinctive group of bioscientists, with established international, national and regional networks, and widely recognised research excellence.

We aim to provide students with outstanding interdisciplinary research training within the following themes, underpinned by transformative technologies:

These are growth areas of the biosciences and for which there will be considerable future demand.

The award:

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP). 

Programme Overview

You will be recruited to a broad, interdisciplinary project, supported by a multidisciplinary supervisory team, with many cross-institutional projects available. There are also opportunities to:

• apply your research in an industrial setting (DTP CASE studentships).

• undertake research jointly with our core and associate partners (Standard DTP studentships with an   


• work with other national/international researchers.

• undertake fieldwork.

Our structured training programme will ensure you are well equipped as a bioscience researcher, supporting careers into academia, industry and beyond. 

How a complex structure, an embryo, forms from a single cell is a fascinating fundamental biology question. Understanding early human embryo development will also have applications in reproductive medicine. However, research is limited by availability of human embryos and ethical considerations. Therefore, our concept of human early embryo development draws heavily on mouse studies. However human embryos differ in many respects including timescale and formation of a bilaminar embryonic disc as the substrate for gastrulation.

We recently established a stem cell based human blastocyst model (the “blastoid”), that recapitulates the morphology and cellular composition of natural human blastocysts.This blastocyst model provides a unique experimental platform to investigate human developmental dynamics using genetic, molecular and bioengineering approaches.

In this project the PhD student will implement a microfluidic system to mimic the in utero biophysical environment and empower further development of the blastoid. You will then undertake high resolution 3D time-lapse imaging using a cutting edge advanced light sheet microscope. You will map the developmental dynamics at cellular resolution by live cell tracking using fluorescent lineage reporters that you will create using CRISPR/Cas 9 technology. Building on this technical platform you will explore the molecular regulatory mechanism of human hypoblast differentiation and bilaminar disc formation, involving single cell transcriptomic analyses.

The project integrates embryology, stem cell biology, molecular biology, transcriptomics, biophysics and bioimaging.

Part Time and Flexible Study Options

Part time study options maybe available please discuss with the supervisor. For further information please see -

Due to complexities and restrictions associated with visas for part-time studies, we are currently unable to accept part-time international students to the programme.

Entry Requirements

Applicants should have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have Masters degree or have significant relevant non-academic experience.

In addition, due to the strong mathematical component of the taught course in the first year and the quantitative emphasis in our projects, quantitative/mathematical experience is needed. This can be demonstrated through one or more of the following:

  • Undertaking units as part of your degree that have a significant quantitative/mathematical component*
  • Maths or Physics A-level (grade B and above)

*Significant mathematical component examples include; maths, statistics, bioinformatics.

Applicants must ensure they highlight their quantitative/mathematical background within their application and to upload any supporting evidence.

To support accessibility to PhD training opportunities, these studentships are only available to applicants that have not previously obtained or about to obtain a PhD degree (or equivalent).

How to apply

The closing date for applications is midnight on Monday, 5 December 2022. Interviews will be held between 1st and 15th February 2023.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email [Email Address Removed].

Project-specific queries should be directed to the primary supervisor.

For further information and to submit an application please visit -

Selection Process:

Please note, the studentship selection process will take place in two stages:

1.    The project supervisors will consider your application and may invite you to visit for an informal interview. You can apply for more than one BBSRC SWBio DTP project, although supervisors may take into account your interest and commitment to their particular project. If you apply for multiple projects, please indicate your preferred project choice in your letter of application. Each application for an individual project will be considered separately by the project supervisors.

2.    After closure of applications, each supervisory team will then nominate their preferred applicant. A shortlist will be selected from these nominations and shortlisted applicants will be invited for interview on a selection day at the University of Bristol.  Please note that nomination by a project supervisor therefore does not guarantee the award of a studentship.

For further information please go to -

Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

A fully-funded four year SWBio DTP studentship will cover
• a stipend* (at the standard Research Council UK rate; currently £17.668 per annum for 2022-23)
• research and training costs
• tuition fees (at the standard Research Councils UK rate)
• additional funds to support fieldwork, conferences and a 3-month internship
*An enhanced stipend is available for students with a recognised veterinary degree qualification (£24,789 per annum for 2022-2023). There may also be enhanced stipends associated with projects that have a CASE partner (CASE projects are highlighted as *CASE in the project lists).


Yanagida A. et al, Naive stem cell blastocyst model captures human embryo lineage segregation. Cell Stem Cell 28, 1016-102. Guo G. etal, Human naive epiblast cells possess unrestricted lineage potential. Cell Stem Cell 28, 1040-1056 e1046.