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SWBio DTP PhD project: Differentiated normal cell identity and epigenetic barriers to trans-differentiation and reprogramming

Department of Biology & Biochemistry

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Prof Adele Murrell No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project is a CASE Studentship with BitBio in Cambridge and is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP)

The DTP offers an interdisciplinary research training programme delivered by a consortium comprising the Universities of Bath, Bristol and Exeter, Cardiff University and Rothamsted Research, alongside six regional associate partners: Marine Biological Association, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Swansea University, UCB Pharma, University of the West of England and SETsquared Bristol. The partnership has a strong track record in advancing knowledge through high quality research and teaching, in collaboration with industry and government.

All SWBio DTP projects will follow a structured 4-year PhD model, combining traditional project-focussed studies with a taught first year which includes directed rotation projects. For CASE studentships, this also includes time spent at the industry partner.

+++ Studentships are available for entry in October 2021 - please see the ’Funding Notes’ below and for information on eligibility +++


Lead supervisor: Prof Adele Murrell, University of Bath, Department of Biology & Biochemistry, (email [Email Address Removed])
Co-supervisors: Dr Karim Malik (University of Bristol), Prof David Tosh (University of Bath), Dr Lucia Marucci (University of Bristol),Mark Kotter and Tuzer Kalkan at BitBio ( in Cambridge


How does a cell maintain its differentiated identity and carry out its specific functions? What prevents a normal cell from losing its identity and transforming into a less differentiated cell or even another cell type? Understanding these fundamental questions about cell identity will advance the diverse applications of stem cell research, and the utility of stem cells in improving health across the lifecourse.

In this PhD project, we will investigate how epigenetic mechanisms come together to constitute cell identity and provide the cell with a memory of its developmental origins. We will use induced pluripotent stem cell and hepatocyte differentiation models to investigate how these epigenetic marks are established and maintained during differentiation and reprogramming.

During this PhD, you will gain the following skills and experience:
1) Cell biology skills using high content quantitative microscopy, iPSC culture and in vitro differentiation.
2) Epigenetic biochemistry, detection of DNA methylation, 5hmC, histone modifications, making sequencing libraries, bioinformatics and computational analysis of data
3) Mathematical probabilistic modelling to describe the interplay between gene expression, chromatin modifications and DNA methylation and derive gene regulatory networks
4) Industrial collaboration to apply epigenetic profiling to invitro differentiation. This cross disciplinary project will co-supervised at Universities of Bath and Bristol and includes an industrial placement at BitBio, a Cambridge-based Biotech company.


Applicants must 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.

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be addressed to the lead supervisor.

Enquiries about the application process should be addressed to [Email Address Removed].

Formal applications should be submitted on the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Biosciences:

Please ensure that you quote the supervisor’s name and project title in the ‘Your research interests’ section. You may apply for more than one project if you wish but you should submit a separate personal statement relevant to each one.

If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss national with settled or pre-settled status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme, please upload documentary evidence with your application.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found on our website

Funding Notes

Studentships cover tuition fees at the ‘Home’ level, research/training costs and a stipend (£15,285 p.a., 2020/21 rate) for 3.5 years.

The main categories of candidates normally eligible for 'Home' fees are:
UK nationals*
Irish nationals living in the UK/Ireland
Applicants with settled or pre-settled* status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme
Applicants with indefinite leave to enter/remain in the UK

* must have lived in the UK/EEA/Switzerland continuously since September 2018.

Those not meeting the nationality and residency requirements to be treated as a ‘Home’ student may apply for a limited number of full studentships for international students.
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